12:00 AM
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May 19, 2016
 |  BC Innovations  |  Finance

Found in translation

Venture backing and infrastructure give Europe's biotech sector a chance to grow

With almost $1 billion in new venture funds in the last year and a half aimed at academic research, Europe is showing signs of a dedicated effort among investors and universities alike to tap into the translational science stemming from its research organizations.

The bulk of that sum comes from U.K.-based funds, reflecting a recent push by the U.K. government, investors and academics to advance the country's biotech ecosystem by promoting the commercialization of its breakthrough research (see Cover Story).

In 2015, more than $500 million in new seed money for academic science was announced, the majority of which was accounted for by the £320 million ($459 million) put into Oxford Sciences Innovation plc, representing the highest amount raised for an academic fund in the last five years. With the exception of 2013, venture funds dedicated to academic science have continued to rise since 2011 (see "<div>Figure: Academic enthusiasm</div>").

The U.K. has dominated the scene, accounting for 8 of the 14 new funds closed since 2011 totaling £782.5 million ($1.1 billion). That included the previous leader of the pack, the £200 million ($287 million) Syncona Partners LLP investment company set up in 2012 by the Wellcome Trust.

However, other European countries are also seeking to invest in their academic research, with €63 million ($71 million) for the first closing of Flanders Institute of Biotechnology (VIB)'s V-Bio Ventures Fund in November 2015, and €150 million ($170 million) for the Institut Mérieux's Mérieux Développement Fund in November 2014. But so far the trend is confined to northern Europe, with four other funds, totaling €355.9 million ($402.7 million), raised in France, the Netherlands and Luxembourg since 2011 (see "<div>Table: Venturing into European academia</div>").

In addition to funding newcos, European investors and governments are putting new money into organizations dedicated to training academics with the skill sets needed to translate and commercialize their work (see "<div>Table: Accelerating translation</div>").

Late last year, Sofinnova Partners established Italy's first biotech accelerator, BiovelocITA, in partnership with tech transfer company TTFactor s.r.l. And this year, the U.K.'s Francis Crick Institute is slated to open, backed by a £650 million ($933 million) investment from six research organizations.

However, unlike earlier translational organizations founded in Europe which focused on licensing or collaborations with industry, the new accelerators include company...

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