Excalibur makes around 6x from Piramed stake sale

The firm set up by Sir Christopher Evans is returning cash to investors ahead of fundraising.

Trade buyer Roche has bought pharmaceutical company Piramed for $160 million (€101 million).

Piramed’s sellers will also receive $15 million when second phase clinical trials for the company’s oncology programme begin. Excalibur, one of the owners, declined to disclose the size of its stake or its return. A source close to the deal said Excalibur had made a six to seven times return on its 40 percent investment, alongside Piramed’s co-founder JPMorgan in 2003.

Excalibur, a medical venture firm, was recently set up by Christopher Evans, the founder of UK venture firm Merlin Biosciences, to formalise his shift away from early-stage venture investing in biosciences to a more general medical focus.

The exit will return more than £30 million ($59 million; €37 million) to investors in the third fund raised by Merlin Biosciences, which has now become part of Excalibur. The source said this exit after five years would enable the third fund to return half the circa £100 million fund to investors this year. 

Evans plans to raise a UK medical fund of less than €100 million (€158 million) and a larger European medical fund. He is also considering a larger medical buyout fund for next year.

The entrepreneur was arrested in 2006 in relation to the UK cash for honours inquiry, which accused the Labour government selling titles to businessman. Evans was not formally charged. Separately his firm Merlin is involved in an inquiry by the Serious Fraud Office. Evans denies allegations by a former employee of irregularities in an investment in one of his three funds.