Ireland backs biotech
20.03.2012 - While on a trip to strengthen economic ties between Ireland and California, Ireland's minister for jobs, enterprise and innovation, Richard Bruton, revealed on 15 March that two Irish government organisations have provided roughly one tenth of a life science-focused venture capital fund.
The Sofinnova Ventures Partners VIII from Sofinnova Ventures Menlo Park, California, is worth $440 million. One organisation, Enterprise Ireland, invested $25 million from its €250 million Innovation Fund Ireland. Enterprise Ireland's aim is to help Irish companies in international markets. In return for the investment, Sofinnova is expected to establish operations in Ireland. The first efforts by the Innovation Fund Ireland to attract VC firms stem back to 2010. Back then it solicited the first proposals from VC firms that promised to invest in Irish companies. The other organisation is the Irish National Pensions Reserve Fund (NPRF). It contributed half the amount, $12.5 million, to the Sofinnova fund. So far, three other investments by the NPRF are known: with Polaris Ventures, Draper Fisher Jurvetson Network Funds (DFJ) and DFJ Esprit. The 8th fund raised by Sofinnova has a life science focus only - with an emphasis on Phase 2 and 3 drug development and was closed on 17 October 2011. With $440 million, it again continues to grow (2007 Sofinnova Ventures VII: $375 million). Already included in Sofinnova's portfolio is one Irish biotech firm. Amarin is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company from Dublin. It focuses on improving the treatment of cardiovascular disease. Bruton stressed the importance of VC funds for mentoring young companies: "That is why the Programme for Government tries to support the development of a more dynamic venture capital industry in Ireland by seeking to attract top tier venture capitalists to invest in Ireland."