Kate Bingham

WGL 2021-Kate Bingham
Courtesy of Francesca Jones/Telegraph Media Group
  • Title
    Former Head; Managing Partner
  • Affiliation
    U.K. Vaccine Taskforce; SV Health Investors

Bingham, a longtime venture capitalist focused on biotech and health care startups, was considered a controversial choice to head the U.K.’s Vaccine Taskforce, the group charged with ensuring Britain obtained a sufficient supply of COVID-19 vaccines. Critics said her appointment was evidence of cronyism: By her own admission she knew nothing about vaccines; her husband is a minister in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government; and she is related to Johnson’s sister by marriage.

But in the end, Bingham’s VC experience proved invaluable: From an initial list of 240 possible candidates, she assembled a “portfolio” of seven vaccines that used four different underlying technologies. The U.K. government spent money to help fund development of these seven and committed to buying hundreds of millions of doses, knowing full well that not all of them might be successful. Bingham was also comfortable making big bets on new technologies with only partial data. It was an approach few government bureaucrats would dare even imagine. It wasn’t cheap: In the end, the U.K. government spent nearly $8.6 billion to help procure doses. But it worked: While many European countries struggled to obtain enough vaccine supplies, the U.K. quickly emerged as a leader in vaccinating its population (with more than 60% of its adult population having received at least one dose by early May). That success is largely down to Bingham’s leadership.