SCI Foundation is now Unlimit Health. Learn more about what the change means for our ongoing efforts to eliminate neglected tropical diseases

Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI) becomes an independent organisation

31 July 2019

31 July, 2019, LONDON: Having been founded, incubated and successfully scaled up within Imperial College London, the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI) will today become its own independent charity – SCI Foundation.

SCI was Founded in 2002 with a £20 million award from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Health Programme. The grant enabled SCI to provide a proof-of-concept for national-scale schistosomiasis control programmes. Since then, it has delivered over 200 million treatments against parasitic worm infections across Sub-Saharan Africa and has plans to deliver many millions more in the next three years alone within a broadening programme of work.

Dr Wendy E Harrison, Executive Director of SCI Foundation:

“We’re extremely proud to have reached this point of independence and excited to continue with our mission to improve the health of the poorest and most marginalised people in the world, enabling them to reach their full potential. We are proof that academic research projects, when incubated in the right way, can flourish and thrive into fully-fledged and independent organisations.”

The move sees the whole team relocate to new offices in South London, without any disruption or change to project delivery. The SCI Foundation will support national programmes in over 12 sub-Saharan countries. For the past seven years, it has been listed as one of Givewell’s top charities due to the efficiency and efficacy of its work.

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Why is the SCI becoming an independent organisation?. . .

In recent years there have been several developments globally regarding Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), including:

  • The elimination target for schistosomiasis set as part of the 2012 World Health Assembly resolution 65.21;
  • The Sustainable Development Goals (adopted in 2015) including a specific NTD target;
  • A need to increase transparency and compliance to remain competitive as a not-for-profit.

Throughout 2018, the SCI conducted a strategic review to identify what would enable it to work in the most effective and efficient way, in the context of these developments. The new 2025 strategic plan was developed & launched and the SCI Advisory Board then looked at the best ways to achieve the goals set out in the plan.

Working collaboratively to identify the benefits of becoming independent, the SCI Advisory Board concluded that having been successfully founded and incubated at Imperial College, it would be best set up for future growth and success as a standalone not-for-profit.

What are the benefits of becoming an independent organisation?. . .

The SCI’s Advisory Board and Imperial College carried out a thorough and rigorous exercise before concluding that the SCI would thrive as a standalone entity. The benefits identified are:

  • The SCI will have more transparent and efficient financial, project and risk management systems, designed for its specific needs (more than is possible in a UK university setting);
  • There will be potential for greater adaptability and flexibility in team recruitment, pay and conditions compared with what is possible as part of a UK academic institution. This will ensure that the SCI can attract and retain the best team and remain competitive in the global market it operates in;
  • The SCI will be able to make the most of its hard-earned international reputation and provide clarity to key donors and stakeholders as a standalone not-for-profit with its own clear goals.

Will becoming independent impact the work of the SCI?. . .

The SCI Advisory Board determined that the benefits of the SCI becoming a standalone entity outweigh the minor risks associated with Imperial College. They felt that it would be advantageous to build on its previous successes and implement its new strategic plan. The SCI senior management team have a robust risk-mitigation plan in place for the transition period, so that there’s no disruption to the day-to-day work of the non-profit and existing funding is unaffected.