Flagship Ventures in Cambridge, Massachusetts says Merck’s venture arm has joined in a recent investment fund backing start-up life sciences companies. The amount of the investment, which was not disclosed, was made by Merck’s Research Ventures Fund in Flagship Ventures Fund IV that closed in January.
Flagship says its Ventures Fund IV will be devoted primarily to early-stage investments. The company says the fund raised $270 million, exceeding its goal of $250 million, with participation from pension funds, foundations, fund-of-funds, corporations, and individuals.
Merck has increased its venture activity in recent months, with its Global Health Innovation Fund established in late 2010, and more recently, the Merck Research Ventures Fund in September 2011. The industry Web site Xconomy quoted a Merck spokesperson in September that the Merck Research Ventures Fund would make investments “in a small number of geographically diverse life-science venture firms,” with direct investments in biotech companies possible later on.
In March, Merck revealed plans to establish the California Institute for Biomedical Research (Calibr), an independent, not-for-profit organization to speed the translation of basic biomedical research into new medicines to treat disease. Merck is expected to provide up to $90 million financing for Calibr over seven years.
In addition to its venture capital funding, Flagship also acts as a founder of start-up companies through its Venture Labs division. The company says it has started some 20 companies working in protein therapeutics, systems biology, synthetic biology, renewable fuels, DNA sequencing, and nanotechnology.
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