Biotech allures in Europe

European venture capitalists are showing an unprecedented level of interest in the biotechnology sector, according to a Wall Street Journal poll.

Biotech has shown itself to be one of the most sought after industry sectors among European venture capitalists, according to the latest round of The Wall Street Journal Europe’s colourfully named quarterly venture capital Portfolio Envy Poll.

The survey asked a panel of 10 prominent European venture capitalists to name some of the best investment opportunities they missed over the last few months. The respondents came up with a list of 24 companies, of which no fewer than six were bioscience and life science companies. This is significant in that it is the first time that more than one biotech stock has been mentioned in the quarterly Envy Portfolio since it began in September 2000.

Biotech companies named were: Atugen AG, a German biotechnology company which identifies targets for therapeutic intervention; Belgian pharmaceutical company Euroscreen; Gempdussee, a French genetic research firm; Dutch firm Katwijk Farma BV, which develops generic and over the counter drugs; NascaCell, a German biotech company; and Wilex Biotechnology, a German company which develops patient-focused cancer therapies.

The upsurge in popularity can be attributed to recent, significant developments in the sector such as the mapping of the human gene. A number of drugs and treatments in the pipeline are also showing promising trial results and more researchers have been prompted to branch out on their own because of the pace of restructuring in the pharmaceutical industry. The report continues: “And perhaps most important, stock market investors haven’t punished biotech the way they’ve pummelled high tech in the past few months”.

Earlier today, PEO reported that Swiss biopharmaceutical company Syntem has raised a total of E22m in its third round of venture capital financing. The company develops proprietary technologies for the discovery of novel therapeutics for neurological diseases. Investors in the financing round included Apax Partners & Cie, Banexi Ventures and Healthcap.

And at the beginning of the month, PEO reported on German venture capital company bmp AG and European investment group Durlacher announcing that they had set up a joint vehicle, Durlacher bmp Life Science Ltd. It will invest in British life science companies, especially in biotechnology and medical technology. Durlacher and bmp will each hold a 50 per cent stake.