Irish government sponsors biotech fund

Irelandia, Enterprise Ireland and PwC are co-investors in a E25m European venture capital fund launched by Mary Harney, the Irish finance minister.

Mary Harney, the Irish minister of finance (Tánaiste) who also runs the ministry of enterprise, trade and employment, has formed an alliance with three investment firms to launch Bioscience Fund 1, a E25m seed and venture capital fund targeting investment opportunities in the bioscience sector in Ireland and the rest of Europe. Dublin-based Growcorp will be managing the fund.

The Tánaiste has teamed up with Ireland's enterprise development agency Enterprise Ireland, investment firm Irelandia Investments and accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. The parties have made equal commitments of E6.25m to the fund.

Harney said the fund’s target is to increase employment in biotech companies by 1400 in over five years. 'Biotechnology is predicted to be a major basis for economic growth in the 21st century. The State has a pivotal role to play in bringing forward such companies, but the long-term source of funding must lie with private sector markets.'

According to Michael Donnelly, chief executive of Growcorp, the fund will be looking to invest primarily in diagnostic, medical devices and certain therapeutic businesses. The minimum individual investment is expected to be around E2.5m.

The current initiative is Growcorp's second investment fund targeting the biotechnology sector. The first fund, The Growcorp Fund, was fully committed by August last year with a total of eight investments.

Growcorp has assembled a five-strong management team, with expertise in technology, life sciences, investment, marketing and business to manage the fund. The team will initially be headed by Michael Donnelly.

News of the fund comes a month after Trinity Venture Capital, an Irish early stage technology investor completed Ireland’s largest venture capital fund, raising E140m. The fund is one of the largest to be raised specifically for technology investments in Europe this year.

Growcorp invests in and develops high-technology companies, with particular focus on platform and enabling technologies. The firm specialises in two high technology areas, biosciences and bioinformation technologies and in companies that are developing platform technologies, rather than applications of existing technology.