Volume 90 Issue 23 | p. 6 | News of The Week
Issue Date: June 4, 2012

Lilly Helps Boost Biotech In Canada

Venture Funds: Drug firm joins others in supporting the country’s life sciences sector
Department: Business | Collection: Life Sciences, Economy
News Channels: Biological SCENE
Keywords: biotechnology, life sciences, venture capital, Canada
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A researcher at GlaxoSmithKline’s Laval, Quebec, R&D site.
Credit: GlaxoSmithKline
Researcher at GSK’s Laval, Quebec, Canada, R&D facility.
 
A researcher at GlaxoSmithKline’s Laval, Quebec, R&D site.
Credit: GlaxoSmithKline

Eli Lilly & Co. is the latest global pharmaceutical maker to back early-stage life sciences firms in Canada. Last week, the drug company, Teralys Capital, and other partners invested in a $150 million venture fund managed by TVM Capital in Montreal. The fund intends to support small firms focused on single therapeutic projects.

To provide further assistance, Lilly will also establish a Canadian division of Chorus, the early-phase drug development network it started in 2002. Drawing on Lilly and outside service providers, Chorus will help small Quebec-based companies advance drug candidates to the clinical proof-of-concept stage.

A majority of Canada’s life sciences firms are in Quebec, according to the economic development group Investissement Québec. Thanks to tax incentives and a skilled workforce, Montreal ranks eighth among cities in North America for pharma jobs, the group says.

Merck & Co. targeted Quebec in March when it invested $35 million in the Merck Lumira Biosciences Fund. The $50 million investment fund includes partners Lumira Capital and Teralys and focuses on life sciences innovation in the province. In addition, Teralys and Merck contributed to a $100 million Lumira fund supporting later-stage efforts in Canada and the U.S. For its part, Merck was fulfilling investment promises made in 2010 when it decided to close its Montreal site.

GlaxoSmithKline is also investing in Canada through the GSK Canada Life Sciences Innovation Fund, which it created late last year. Besides supporting start-up companies, the $50 million fund looks to invest in academia, health institutions, and translational research centers.

Last week, GSK and the nonprofit Centre for Drug Research & Development in Vancouver, British Columbia, set up the GSK-CDRD Innovation Fund to support early-stage CDRD projects. And with CDRD’s for-profit venture arm, GSK has established a second fund to help move projects toward commercialization.

The big pharma money will be welcome across Canada, where life sciences investment has yet to recover fully from the recession. In 2011, venture capital spending on life sciences totaled $333 million, which was 63% above the 2009 low but still down 45% from the record 2007 level, according to Canada’s Venture Capital & Private Equity Association.

 
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