Esquire Capital Holdings on the biotech hunt

The Luxembourg-based investment house is looking to raise $40m to invest in international life science companies.

Esquire Capital Holdings, the Luxembourg-based venture capital firm, has launched a $40m life science fund to invest in international biotechnology and life science companies.

The group will invest around 50 per cent of the money raised in Europe, with the remainder going as co-investments to North America and Asia.

Gerard Iwema, chairman and executive director at Esquire, is confident the money will be raised – around $30m from institutional investors and the remainder from private investors – because “there are a lot of institutions willing to listen at the moment.”

“There are also a number of promising new companies we are negotiating with, and many valuations, that from an investor point of view, are low and attractive,” he said.

Esquire will focus on biotechnology ventures operating in emerging scientific fields such as genomics and proteomics, platforms for drug discovery and delivery, bioinformatics and new medical devices. To date the company has invested in several companies quoted on Nasdaq as well as four privately biotechnology companies including Rebirth, a company searching for cures at the genetic level for male pattern baldness.

“We think that financial markets worldwide are bottoming out and that some excellent investment opportunities lie ahead, partly because today it is much more acceptable for scientists to be entrepreneurs. We believe that when we look back at this period two to three years from now, we will realise what a great opportunity this period represented,” said Iwema.

Esquire will provide investee companies with up to $2m funding, and offer scientific and managerial support. The group has scientific advisors from a number of public research organisations such as the French National Medical Research Institute and the National Centre for Scientific Research, and a business board comprising European, American and Asian experts.

“If history repeats itself, the biotechnology sector will be back in fashion and I hope by 2005 there will be enormous opportunities in this field and higher valuations,” he said.