Issue Date: March 30, 2009
Merck Launches Venture Fund
Joining its larger drug industry compatriots, Germany's Merck Serono has established a venture capital fund to invest in biotechnology start-up companies. Called Merck Serono Ventures, the $55 million corporate fund will look to support companies working in core Merck R&D areas such as oncology and autoimmune and neurodegenerative diseases. It also will look for technologies that could enable drug discovery and development in these areas. "Biotech start-up companies are an important element in scientific innovation," says Bernhard Kirschbaum, Merck Serono executive vice president for R&D. Merck is launching the fund in a buyer's market. Crimped by the credit crisis, small biotechnology companies have become starved for cash (C&EN, Jan. 19, page 32). According to the National Venture Capital Association, investments in the life sciences sector fell 33% to $1.6 billion in the fourth quarter of 2008, compared with the third quarter, while the number of deals dropped 22% to 185. GlaxoSmithKline, Roche, Pfizer, and Novartis all run such venture capital funds.
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