Lilly invests in UK research fund


A new UK venture fund has raised over £47.5 million to help early-stage life science and health technology firms get off the ground.

The fund, led by venture capital firm Epidarex Capital has attracted investment from a number of backers, including pharma company Lilly.

Spin-outs from leading research universities remains one of the main sources of new companies in the field. For that reason Epidarex has established close links with numerous UK universities, such as King's College London, from whom it has secured funding.

Epidarex also works closely with with the Universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen, as well as the European Investment Fund, Scottish Enterprise and Strathclyde Pension Fund.

The venture capital firm says these relationships provide it with access to some of the most innovative healthcare start-ups, including those specialising in novel drug development.

Another source of molecules

Investment in start-up companies and venture capital funds helps big pharma keep abreast of new trends and technology in early stage research, and puts them in pole position when promising molecules reach the proof-of-concept stage, when development and licensing deals can be struck.

Lilly's investment is its first in a UK venture fund, and mirrors moves by other large pharma companies. Many companies invest money in start-ups, while some have their own corporate venture capital arms – Lilly has one called Lilly Ventures, set up in 2009, while GSK's SR One has been around since 1985.

Elaine Sullivan, vice president of global external Research and Development at Lilly, said: "Lilly's commitment to this pioneering Epidarex fund will increase collaboration across industry and academia to help speed the delivery of new treatments for unmet medical needs."

Sullivan added that the investment reflected Lilly's strong belief in the excellence of life science R&D in the UK, and said it would complement the firm's own research and existing academic partnerships.

Chris Mottershead, vice-principal (Research and Innovation) at King's College London, said the fund recognised 'untapped potential' in life sciences research at King's College London and other UK universities, and would help carry translational research from the laboratory to the commercial market.

The UK and European early stage and biotech sectors have seen a revival in funding in 2014, with a handful of small companies also being able to launch IPOs, such as Circassia.


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29 May, 2014