Israel Biotech Fund begins investing $100m

Israel Biotech Fund Photo: PR

Robert Spiegel: We want to help create at least one major Israeli international biotech company.

Israel Biotech Fund (IBF), a $100 million fund founded to make investments in the Israeli biotech industry, today selected cancer drug developer Vidac for its first investment.

IBF is managed by three entrepreneurs: Prof. David Sidransky, one of the world's leading cancer researchers; former Wall Street banker Ido Zairi; and molecular biologist Dr. Yuval Cabilly, a private investor in biotech companies and son of Prof. Shmuel Cabilly, responsible for the Cabilly invention that led to a breakthrough in cancer treatment.

The major investors in the fund are US biotech giant Biogen, with a $49 billion market cap on Nasdaq; Israeli company Medison, a marketer of drugs in Israel; and a major pharmaceutical company that preferred to remain anonymous.

The fund was initiated by Mendham Investment Group (MIG), a group of senior figures in the global biotech industry who admire Israel and have been helping selected Israel biotech startups for years. This activity is now becoming more official following the founding of the fund, which is expected to invest in 8-10 companies and provide consultation to others.

The founder of MIG is Dr. Sol Barer, founder and former CEO of Celgene, another biotech giant with a $73 billion market cap. Other leading MIG officeholders include former Pfizer senior executive Jeff Kindler; Ed Saltzman, founder and president of Defined Health, a leading consultant firm; former Schering Plough chief medical officer and VP Dr. Robert Spiegel; and many others.

Spiegel told "Globes," "Sol Barer used to bring together a group of senior executives at his home to advise Israeli startups in an informal atmosphere. From that came the idea of of investing as a group in these companies. Most of the group members have themselves invested in the fund, in addition to strategic investments. The fund's management group in Israel has the backing of MIG and all of our connections with pharma companies, which are also calling us, because they are very interested in the Israeli market.

"We're not just aiming at exits. Our dream is that with the fund, we can help establish at least one independent company. Up until now, Israeli companies have been forced by budget considerations to make an exit at Phase II or III clinical trials at the latest, and we're trying to change that. Israeli companies sometimes choose to focus on orphan drugs or a small disease because they lack money, even if their product is suitable for bigger markets, and we're hoping that we can help them obtain a suitable budget, so that they don't have to limit themselves."

The focus on Israel is of course motivated by Israeli patriotism, but Spiegel says, "We're almost always stunned by the quality of science in the companies we meet. The constraint is usually money, which the companies haven't received at all, or have received in small doses that weren't enough to enable them to take off."

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on June 29, 2016

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2016

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Israel Biotech Fund Photo: PR
Israel Biotech Fund Photo: PR
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