Aerial view of building housing Burroughs Wellcome laboratory
Burroughs Wellcome was an unusual company. Founded in England in 1880 by two American pharmacists, Silas Burroughs and Henry Wellcome, it was run according to Wellcome's founding philosophy: that the company dedicate itself to the discovery of drugs to treat serious diseases for which there was no cure. The company was owned by a foundation, the Wellcome Trust, rather than by stockholders; money made by selling pharmaceuticals went back into research or other medically-related activities, via the Trust. As Elion said, "We weren't trying to make another diuretic, another analgesic, things that are already doing pretty well.... On the whole, the idea was to do research, find new avenues to conquer, new mountains to climb."
In 1986, the Trust sold 25% of Burroughs Wellcome for stock, but retained its majority interest and original mission. In 1995, the company became Glaxo Wellcome, due to the merger of Glaxo plc and Wellcome plc; in December 2000, the merger of Glaxo Wellcome and SmithKline Beecham created GlaxoSmithKline.