The Wellcome Trust has sold its stake in the payday lender Wonga, noting that the decision was taken "several months" before the recent furore concerning the controversial firm and the Church of England.

Wonga was in the headlines last month after the CoE said it would exit a £75,000 investment in the loans company, claiming it contravened the church's ethical policy. The situation was described as embarrassing by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who had criticised Wonga's high interest rates and said he would compete it "out of existence" through investing instead in credit unions.

In December 2010, the Wellcome Trust purchased a stake in Wonga "as a small part of our diverse portfolio". Quite some time ago, the decision was made to this stake "as it was no longer consistent with our investment criteria, and that sale is now complete".

Mark Henderson, head of communications at the Wellcome Trust, told Pharma Times that the investment was worth less than 0.05% of its £14.50 billion portfolio. The Trust does not have the specific figures as yet but it is thought that the stake amounted to around £5 million.

The charity spends £650 million a year on research and notes that its investment portfolio is regularly reviewed and has increased in value by 165% over the past decade. The Trust adds that this growth "has allowed us to release more than £1 billion in extra funding for biomedical research over the same period".