SEP agrees $1bn venture exit

British venture capital firm Scottish Equity Partners will sell BioVex, a company developing cancer treatments, to US trade buyer Amgen.

Scottish Equity Partners, a London- and Glasgow-based venture capital firm, has agreed to sell portfolio company BioVex to a US trade buyer for a price tag of up to $1 billion.

In a statement Tuesday, the firm said the sale to NASDAQ-listed biotech company Amgen represented one of the “world’s largest ever exits for a venture-backed biotechnology company”.

SEP first invested in BioVex in 2003 and has since been involved in several follow-on finance rounds, SEP said in a statement. Details of the returns generated from the exit were not disclosed.

The $1 billion price tag comprises $425 million in cash and up to $575 million in additional payments upon the achievement of certain regulatory and sales milestones, said a statement from Amgen.

BioVex, which has bases in Oxfordshire in the UK and Woburn, Massachussetts in the US, is developing a vaccine which may represent a new approach to treating melanoma and head and neck cancer.

SEP’s successful exit of BioVex comes a year after Sofinnova Partners, a Paris-based venture capital firm, completed the third of a hat-trick of eye-catching exits in the biotech sector. The French firm sold three assets – all to trade buyers – for a combined price tag in excess of $1.7 billion.

These stellar exits buck the trend of recent European venture capital performance, which has generally been viewed as disappointing.

Concerns about the future of the European venture capital industry were reflected in a recent survey of limited partners around the world. One-third of European LPs saw the environment for venture capital deteriorating in the region, according to the survey conducted by Coller Capital. More than half of European LPs (57 percent) predicted a venture capital funding shortfall in Europe.