Irish Venture Capital: Sowing the Seeds

December 15, 2005
BioPharm International, BioPharm International-12-15-2005, Volume 2005 Supplement, Issue 4

Venture capital activity in Ireland grew 25.7% in the first half of 2005 compared with the same period in 2004. New life-sciences venture capital funds have been established and existing firms have ramped up their activity in the sector.

The latest available figures for venture capital activity in Ireland show that for the first half of 2005 there was an increase of 25.7% in comparison with the same period in 2004, despite a decrease of 11.5% in the total amount invested across Europe.

The European Venture Capital Report, recently released by Dow Jones VentureOne and Ernst & Young, reveals that Ireland has continued to buck the European trend of declining venture capital investment. According to Garry O'Rourke, Senior Manager, Ernst & Young Corporate Services Department, "Ireland continues to perform well against a backdrop of overall decline across Europe. Also, in terms of overall investment into businesses in Ireland, venture capital is only one source, with many companies also receiving corporate and private equity investment. "

Enterprise Ireland, through its "Seed and Venture Capital" program, has been instrumental in stimulating the development of seed funds to address gaps in the financing of business start-ups. A number of new life-sciences venture capital funds have been established and a number of existing firms have ramped up their activity in that sector. The funds active in life sciences investment are Seroba Bioventures, Growcorp, Kernel Capital Partners, 4th Level Ventures, Delta Partners, and ACT Venture Capital. There is also another large fund being mooted for 2006. Listed below is a sampling of the types of companies that are attracting investment. More information also is available at the Irish Venture Capital Association's website at www.ivca.ie.

AGI THERAPEUTICS LIMITED

AGI Therapeutics Limited, based in Dublin and Athlone, is a specialty pharmaceutical company engaged in the development of innovative therapeutic products to treat a variety of gastrointestinal diseases and disorders including irritable bowel syndrome, non-ulcer dyspepsia, functional diarrhea, gastroparesis, acid disorders, and inflammatory bowel disorders.

Investment: €9.5 million ($11 million)

Source: Seroba BioVentures and a syndicate of Irish and US investors.

Web site: www.agitherapeutics.com

ALIMENTARY HEALTH LIMITED

Alimentary Health Limited, based in Cork, is a biotechnology company focused on the discovery, development, and commercialization of therapeutics derived from human probiotics for gastrointestinal disorders including irritable bowel syndrome and C. difficile diarrhea.

Investment: €1.3 million ($1.5 million)

Source: Seroba BioVentures and Enterprise Ireland

Web site: www.alimentaryhealth.ie

CELTIC CATALYST

Celtic Catalysts' focus is on the niche area of chiral chemistry. The company works with chemical catalysts and processes of significant commercial potential to the fine chemical, agrochemical, and pharmaceutical industries to produce products of enhanced therapeutic activity while at the same time allowing innovator companies to extend product life cycles and stave off generic competition.

Investment: €650,000 ($760,500)

Source: 4th Level Ventures and Enterprise Ireland.

Web site: www.celticcatalysts.com

DEERAC FLUIDICS LIMITED

Deerac Fluidics is a bioinstrumentation company providing low-volume dispensing solutions for the life sciences industry. The company's first product, a bench-top liquid dispensing device, has been launched in Europe and the United States.

Investment: €1.8 million ($2.1 million)

Source: Seroba BioVentures, 4th Level Ventures, Enterprise Ireland, and a syndicate of Irish investors.

Web site: www.deerac.com

ECLIPSE CLINICAL TECHNOLOGIES

Eclipse Clinical Technologies is a clinical informatics company headquartered in Dublin with offices in the US and continental Europe. Eclipse provides multilingual clinical data collection, management, and statistical analysis services to the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical device sectors.

Investment: €2.5m ($2.9 million)

Source: Seroba BioVentures, Enterprise Ireland and a syndicate of Irish investors.

Web site: www.eclipsephase4.com

FLUOROCAP LIMITED

Fluorocap is commercializing a new and more-efficient biochip for use by the biotech and life sciences industries. A basic prototype has been developed that provides a 20-fold improvement on current biochip technology. A review of potential customers for the completed product has indicated strong interest in commercial exploitation of the next prototype.

Web site: http://www.growcorp.net/site/portfolioa_flour.html

GAS SENSOR SOLUTIONS LIMITED

This company has a strong portfolio of innovative gas sensor technologies to solve unmet needs across a wide range of valuable applications, including packaging permeability testing, food quality, oxygen sensitive package integrity, as well as medical and environmental analysis.

Web site: www.sensorsols.com.

GENABLE TECHNOLOGIES LTD.

Genable has developed an innovative technology for the suppression and replacement of genes. It is potentially applicable to a broad range of dominant-negative genetic diseases, all of which are incurable today. Its lead program has recently completed a proof-of-principle study in retinitis pigmentosa, an eye disease that causes blindness.

Investment: Raised €1.1 million ($1.3 million) in an investment round led by Delta Partners.

Web site:www.genable.ie.

MERRION BIOPHARM LIMITED

Merrion is a specialty pharmaceutical company based on proprietary technologies for oral drug delivery acquired from the Elan Corporation in 2003. Merrion has multiple market-ready, advanced oral drug delivery technologies with several significant products already proven in human clinical trials.

Web site: www.merrionpharma.com

NEUTEKBIO LIMITED

NEUtekBio commercializes novel diagnostic and prognostic assays aimed at increasing the efficacy of critical drug treatments involving interferons and other cytokines. The company leverages its research programs through its collaboration agreement with the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris.

Investment: More than €4 million ($4.7 million) over the last two years.

Source: Growcorp led a €1.8 million ($2.1 million) round; Enterprise Equity has also invested.

Web site: www.neutekbio.com/index.html

OPSONA THERAPEUTICS

This drug-development company focuses on regulation of the human immune system. The company has identified a novel approach for eliciting antigen-specific immune-suppression. Two lead products are in advanced pre-clinical studies. Opsona also has an active interest in toll-like receptors.

Investment: €6.25 million ($7.3 million)

Source: Seroba BioVentures and a syndicate of international investors including Inventages of Switzerland and the Genen Fund (the corporate venture arm of Genentech).

Web site: www.opsona.com

PHARMATRIN LIMITED

Based in Trinity College Dublin, Pharmatrin is developing a novel class of therapeutics known as indane dimers. The target therapeutic areas are organ transplant rejection and autoimmune diseases.

Investment: €1.5 million ($1.8 million)

Source: A consortium of investors that includes Growcorp, the Campus Companies Venture Capital Fund, and the Wellcome Trust. Other investors include Catalyst Biomedica, Trinity Venture Capital, Enterprise Ireland, and Trinity College Dublin.

STOKES BIO LIMITED

Stokes Bio develops microfluidics-based diagnostic systems for the genetic diagnosis of cancer. Childhood leukemia is the initial target disease, around which the microfluidics-based platform technology is developed. The Company is working in close collaboration with the Childhood Cancer Center of St Bartholomew's Hospital London, and the oncology department of the Regional Hospital Limerick.

Investment: €1 million ($1.17 million)

Source: The Cork-based venture capital firm, Kernel Capital Partners.

TriMed RESEARCH INC.

TriMed Research Ltd is an Irish-American biotechnology company based on technology spun out of the University of Nebraska Medical Center. TriMed is focused on therapeutic anti-infective products applied to the prevention of life-threatening infections of low birth weight infants and in immunosuppressed and oncology patients. The technology also has applications in the functional food and veterinary fields.

Investment: €5.0 million ($5.85 million)

Source: Seroba BioVentures and Inventages (Switzerland).

Web site: www.trimedres.com