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GSK and J&J back €150m European life sciences fund

Pharma companies' announcement follows recent flurry of investment activity in the biopharma sector

GlaxoSmithKline and Johnson & Johnson have said they will contribute to a €150m investment fund designed to support early-stage drug discovery projects, adding to a recent flurry of investment activity in the European biopharma sector.

The two multinationals are each putting up 25 per cent of the start-up capital in the life sciences fund, which will be managed by venture capital group Index Ventures and is described as "a unique pharma/venture partnership model … intended to stimulate promising, early-stage R&D innovation".

The primary focus of the fund will be on European ventures, but it will also consider opportunities in the US, according to Index.

Overall, the strategy is to use an "asset centric" model - geared towards companies with just one or two projects rather than multiple programmes - with an emphasis on "first-in-class or best-in-class mechanisms of action and target areas of unmet medical need".

Index will tap into GSK and J&J's drug development expertise by forming a scientific advisory board that will help Index decide which ventures to back.

For start-up and small drug developers this will also give a great opportunity to run their ideas past senior pharma executives, while GSK and J&J will be well-positioned to partner projects of interest.

GSK's head of R&D Moncef Slaoui will serve on the board, along with Paul-Peter Tak, who heads up the company's immunoinflammation research group. J&J will be represented by Paul Stoffels, chairman of the company's global pharmaceutical group, and Bill Hait, R&D director of pharmaceutical subsidiary Janssen.

Index will appoint five members to the board, namely: Francesco De Rubertis, Kevin Johnson, Michele Ollier, Roman Fleck and Remy Luthringer. 

The new fund is further good news for Europe's early-stage biopharmaceutical sector, coming on the heels of the announcements of a £200m investment fund from the Wellcome Trust, and a £100m life sciences fund in Wales.

23rd March 2012

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