Merck launches €40m venture fund

The drug conglomerate’s division for pioneering prescription drugs has established Merck Serono Ventures to back emerging biotech companies.

Global pharmaceutical and chemicals group Merck has expanded its corporate venture activities with the creation of Geneva-headquartered Merck Serono Ventures. The company has had a New Jersey-based venture arm, Merck Capital Ventures, since 2000.

Under the umbrella of Merck Serono, the company’s division for innovative prescription drugs, Merck Serono Ventures will back emerging biotechnology companies related to the parent division’s core areas of focus. These therapeutic areas include neurodegenerative diseases, oncology and autoimmune and inflammatory diseases.

Merck Serono Ventures has an initial commitment to invest up to €40 million over the next five years, the company said.

“This activity complements our toolkit of collaborative approaches to build a high-quality portfolio with our partners,” Vincent Aurentz, Merck Serono executive vice president of portfolio development, said in a statement. Merck Serono currently spends about €1 billion annually on research and development.

Merck’s US subsidiary established a venture arm, Merck Capital Ventures, nine years ago to back businesses and technology related to the commercialisation, distribution and delivery of pharmaceutical and related healthcare services. It typically invests between $3 million and $8 million per deal and has backed companies including Acurian, a patient recruitment and informatics provider for clinical trials.