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Wales launches £100m life sciences fund and plans biotech hub

Fund aims to secure matched funding from private investors to support promising biotech businesses

A £100m fund to boost the life sciences industry in Wales was unveiled yesterday by the country's business minister Edwina Hart with the backing of biotech entrepreneur Sir Chris Evans.

Speaking at the launch of Bio Wales 2012 conference in Cardiff, Hart confirmed that the Welsh government is putting up an immediate tranche of £25m into the investment fund, with another £25m promised for next year.

The aim is to secure matched funding from private investors to support promising biotech businesses and help create a biotech hub which will make Wales "an even more attractive location for life sciences R&D, and an even better place in which to start and grow a life sciences business", said Hart.

Sir Chris, who was born in Wales and is the founder of the Merlin Biosciences fund, told the meeting he believes additional private investment of up to £200m could also be added to the pot and that it would create up to £1bn of value in the next decade.

The initial funding round will be used to invest between £500,000 and £10m in companies, with larger amounts expected to be matched by private money, according to a WalesOnline report. It is hoped that money raised from the sale of new technologies or companies will be reinvested into the fund.

Ultimately the objective will be to have several hundred companies around a central hub in the Cardiff area, which would run trials within the Welsh National Health Service (NHS) and have strong links to local academic centres, as has been set up around Cambridge in England, said Sir Chris.

There are currently around 330 life science companies in Wales contributing more than £1.3bn to the Welsh economy, according to government figures.

A dedicated Investment Panel and Fund Management Team will be recruited shortly, according to Hart, who said these will be "experienced life sciences investors with a proven track record of success at a UK and global level".

Sir Chris, who is also chairman of the Welsh government's life sciences advisory panel, said ahead of the funding announcement that work is underway on a project to map Wales' life sciences 'ecosystem' in order to develop a coherent plan for advancing the sector.

15th March 2012

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