Hunting for cutting-edge biotech, Fujifilm sets up early-stage VC fund

Fujifilm is pushing deeper into early-stage biotech venture capital, providing fresh funding for a new VC unit and rolling its existing investments in areas such as regenerative medicine and cell therapies up into the group.

Tokyo-based Fujifilm is starting small by the recent standards of biotech VC. Initially, Fujifilm is investing around $60 million, money that its newly established Life Sciences Corporate Venture Capital (LS-CVC) group will use to target “cutting-edge biotechnology primarily through partnerships with early-stage companies around the world.” 

The creation of LS-CVC and the associated life sciences strategic investment fund are the latest in a series of steps intended to support Fujifilm’s growth. Fujifilm set up a life sciences strategy headquarters last year to accelerate its growth in areas such as cell-derived products for drug and discovery research and has also placed bets on early-stage biotechs.

LS-CVC represents the continuation and formalization of Fujifilm’s life science investment plan. The new group will take over the management of Fujifilm’s existing investments and hunt out new opportunities. 

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“In many cases, early-stage companies are the first to develop cutting-edge technologies and innovative business models. I believe LS-CVC activities will enable us to speedily develop new partnerships with such promising companies, and to deliver value to society through innovative products,” Takatoshi Ishikawa, general manager of Fujifilm’s life sciences strategy headquarters, said in a statement.

Ishikawa’s operation will receive support from Fujifilm’s existing life science strategic business offices in Massachusetts and Germany. The plan is for the teams in Cambridge and Dusseldorf to play a significant role in approaching early-stage biotechs, setting the stage for the subsequent formation of funding deals that support the development of biotechnologies of interest to Fujifilm.  

There is potential for the deals to diverge from the standard VC playbook, with Fujifilm saying it “is considering a wide range of new and innovative business constructs in order to cultivate and foster relationships with emerging biotechs to create new, and strengthen existing, businesses.”