Abingworth proves biotech popularity

Abingworth Management has closed its fourth life science fund $75 million over target at $225 million. Abingworth Bioventures III will invest in early stage UK, European and US life science companies in the biotech and medical sectors.

Since the fund’s first closing at $165 million in April it has invested in nine companies, two in the US and seven in Europe. UK investments include companies developing drug discovery technologies (Akubio and Astex Technology), drug development companies (Chroma Therapeutics, Inpharmatica and Phoqus) and a DNA analysis company (Solexa). Other areas of interest for the fund are medical devices and instrumentation.

Abingworth’s last fund, which raised $100 million in 1997, was invested 50:50 in Europe and the US, but the new fund is likely to see an increase in European investments. The fund, raised in the US and Europe, will invest between $0.5 million and $10 million per company.

Dr. Stephen Bunting, appointed managing director of Abingworth this summer, said: “As a strongly science-driven organisation, we take very substantial technical risks. We specialise in early-stage deals that are often still based in a university environment and have no management team. Abingworth provides interim management from its own staff, who have many years of operating experience, to help scientific entrepreneurs develop their projects into successful companies.”

This is the fourth dedicated life science fund raised by Abingworth, which was formed in 1973 and now has close to $400 million under management. The fund is based in London with an office in Palo Alto. In September the firm expanded its UK-based management team with the appointment of John Berriman (formerly with Celltech) as partner and Dr. John Shields (previously senior vice-president of research at Cantab Pharmaceuticals) as assistant director.

December was also a good month for Swiss life science fund, HBM BioVentures, which increased its funds via a share placing, by CHF248 million (€168 million) to CHF766 million (€519 million). The fund, set-up by former CFO of the Roche Group, Dr. Henri B. Meier, invests in late stage private equity rounds and public companies in sectors such as biotechnology, emerging pharmaceuticals and medical technology. The fund began investing in US and Western European companies this summer and will also be making commitments to specialised, regional early-stage funds.