Bristol-Myers, J&J sink cash into a new $95M European biotech fund

A venture capital firm in the Netherlands — backed by some big names in Big Pharma — has raised $95 million in a new fund to fuel European biotech startups.

The Dutch VC firm, called BioGeneration Ventures (BGV), plans to sink cash into seed-stage companies developing therapeutics, medical devices, and diagnostics. Managing partner Edward van Wezel said the fund has no particular area of focus, but will likely keep an eye out for immuno-oncology and heart disease drugs.

Edward van Wezel

BGV has already deployed some of that capital, with five investments made so far this year. The latest entrants to BGV’s portfolio include German immuno-oncology company CataLym, and Dutch companies Escalier Biosciences (autoimmune), Scenic Biotech (target discovery), VarmX (hematology), and Mellon Medical (vascular suturing).

BGV plans to expand the portfolio to include 15 startups total.

This is BGV’s third and largest fund since the company’s 2006 inception. The VCs already have a couple of wins under their belt, including a big exit for portfolio company Acerta Pharma, which sold to AstraZeneca in 2015 for $7 billion. That same year, BGV’s portfolio company Dezima Pharma sold to Amgen for $1.5 billion. BGV was a founding investor for both companies.

This latest fund was backed by a handful of new investors, including corporate money from Bristol-Myers Squibb and Johnson & Johnson Innovation. Getting corporate backers was a first for BGV, van Wezel said. Although corporate investments are on the rise in biotech, van Wezel said its still quite unusual to see companies like BMS and J&J chipping into European funds.

Paul Biondi

“I think everybody recognizes some very sound science is being produced in Europe,” van Wezel said. “That’s part of the reason these corporations have an interest in funds like ours. I think both are hoping to get some insight in the ongoing innovation in Europe, and to be privy to early things as they pop up.”

BMS’ head of business development Paul Biondi said BMS is increasingly investing in VC firms outside the US, and Europe is particularly interesting to them.

“The science in Europe is quite compelling, and there isn’t as much venture capital there yet,” Biondi said. BMS has already chipped in to a different European VC fund at Life Science Partners, but that group specializes in later-stage deals, Biondi said. “We wanted to find somebody that was starting a little earlier, and that’s the focus of BGV,” Biondi said.

It doesn’t hurt that BGV is also interested in some of BMS’ core focus areas, including immuno-oncology, autoimmune, and cardiovascular disease.

BGV has raised over $133 million total across three funds. It has achieved eight exits, and has eight active portfolio companies.

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