Richard Sharpe owns a multi-million pound healthcare company which was awarded almost £600,000 for Covid research while Sharpe worked at No 10, it has emerged.
Sharpe, the BBC chairman, is the second-largest shareholder in cancer detection company Oncimmune, which received funding in 2020 to help research a Covid-19 vaccine and treatment. He was previously a director in the company.
Sharpe, who has come under fire in recent days for allegedly arranging an £800,000 loan for Boris Johnson, was working as a financial adviser to Downing Street when the OnsiMune grant was approved by UK Research and Innovation. Department of Commerce.
Nicholas Wilson, anti-corruption campaigner who Shareholding disclosedSaid: “It’s no surprise that a medical diagnostics company should have received a deal, but a major shareholder for Sharp just stinks.”
A Sharp spokesman said: “Richard Sharp has been a keen supporter of innovative approaches to fighting cancer and invested in OnciMune, a leading cancer diagnostics company, when he came out of the University of Nottingham.
The spokesperson added: “He was not involved in any way with the company’s response to UKRI’s Medicines Catapult Covid Award tender. [the scheme through which the company was granted the money]And his work at the Treasury had nothing to do with UKRI or their medical and scientific research grants.”
A spokesman for UKRI said: “UKRI has rigorous decision-making processes, and funding decisions were made on a competitive basis, against openly published agreed criteria by expert assessors.”
Onsimune general counsel Ron Kirschner said: “Richard was not on board when the grant application was made, which was subject to scientific evaluation. We did not discuss our decision to apply with Richard Sharpe, nor did we seek his assistance at any point in the process.
The BBC chairman insisted this week that he had been given the job on merit, although the circumstances of that appointment are now being investigated by Public Appointments Commissioner William Shawcross.
Sharp previously advised Johnson when he was mayor of London and head of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s investment bank Goldman Sachs.
In May 2020, he left his job as a non-executive director at Onsimune, a Nottingham-based cancer detection company, to take up a role in Downing Street advising Sunak, who was then chancellor. While working for the government, he oversaw a program to help finance strategically important companies that needed help through the pandemic but were too large for other pandemic support schemes.
He kept his shareholding in Oncimmune, which currently stands at 6.6% according to the company’s website – although he transferred his shares into a blind trust. The shares would have been worth around £3.8m at the time he left the company, and are now worth around £3.4m.
Three months after Sharp left the company for the government, Oncimmune announced it had won government funding to help it adapt its technology to predict how people’s immune systems might respond to Covid-19 vaccines and treatments. UKRI said on Wednesday that the deal was worth £598,984 worth of the company’s shares, and was not linked to Treasury or the scheme Sharpe Overs.
At the time, Business Secretary Alok Sharma said of the agreement: “By supporting this pioneering project, we are ensuring that the best therapeutic approaches are delivered to the right patients at the right time.”