Following a first close in early March at EURO112.5 million (see EVCJ April 2000, p15), Merlin Biosciences Fund has exceeded its original target of EURO150 million and closed on EURO247 million. Merlin director Peter Keen said that the company was over the moon’ with the fund raising and added that, while Merlin had been optimistic from the outset that it would beat its target, the firm had anticipated a close in the region of EURO200 million.
The fund has been set up with a view to investing in unquoted bioscience companies in Europe. Pension and life funds from the UK, Germany, Benelux and Scandinavia are the primary sources of capital for the fund, in addition to cornerstone investors West Deutsche Landesbank Girozentrale, which invested EURO37.5 million, and the European Investment Bank, which committed EURO50 million. The average investment size will be between EURO7 million and EURO10 million per company; because the fund is investing in life sciences, Keen anticipates that there will normally be more than one round of financing per company, and so the fund will be investing in smaller chunks where appropriate.
He adds that in early-stage companies, the average investment size will be a minimum of around EURO3 million. The fund will focus on European investments, although Keen added that Merlin is not contractually prevented from making the occasional investment outside Europe. The majority of the fund will be invested in the UK with a significant number of investments in Germany; it will also focus on Scandinavia, France and Israel.
The Merlin Biosciences Fund has already made five investments: EURO6.6 million in XTL, a German antibody technology company; EURO7 million in the German biopharmaceutical company, Morphochem; EURO3.3 million in LiDCO, a UK-based company developing cardiovascular haemodynamic monitoring systems; EURO3.3 million in Arakis, the UK-based medicines company; and EURO5 million in Microscience, a vaccine and antimicrobial company.
Merlin Biosciences boasts an experienced team of 16 multidisciplinary professionals. Members of the Merlin team have founded 14 bioscience companies and floated two Chiroscience and Celsis International on the London Stock Exchange.