By Vinay Singh
AstraZeneca (AZN) has committed an additional $100 million to its MedImmune Ventures group, bringing the unit’s total funds under management to $400 million, an effort to expand its investing activity globally and broaden it across more therapeutic areas.
MedImmune plans to use the extra funding to continue to make investments in biotech startups as well as medical and healthcare technology outfits.
“We believe that in the current financial environment, there is a growing role for corporate venture capital funds such as MedImmune Ventures,” says Ron Laufer, senior managing director for MedImmune Ventures.
Corporate venture investing in biotechnology has risen steadily over the last few years. Just last quarter Merck (MRK) established the $500 million Merck Research Venture Fund. In the face of growing concerns about regulatory and reimbursement pressures and the difficulty in exiting investment in recent years, non-traditional venture investors are playing a bigger role in funding life sciences companies. Corporate venture capital today accounts for about 20 percent of life sciences venture funding.
“During a period where many of our venture brethren have focused on later-stage deals, [corporate venture capital] involvement has brought smart co-investors to our syndicates, deep pockets of capital, abundant advice & guidance from their R&D organizations, and market ‘validation’ of downstream Pharma interest,” wrote Bruce Booth, partner at Atlas Venture, in a September blog post.
Booth says that most, if not all, of Atlas’ recent early-stage deals have been in conjuncture with corporate venture funds, much like Starfish Ventures co-investment with MedImmune in NeuProtect. Such co-investment strategies can work to revitalize traditional venture capital firms’ investments in early-stage technology.
AstraZeneca’s support of MedImmune suggests that corporate venture capital is proving itself valuable in maintaining the health of the early-stage ecosystem that the life sciences industry so heavily relies on for future innovation.