Sir Christopher Evans and his biotech venture fund, Merlin Biosciences Fund III, work as something of a barometer for the U.K.'s biotech sector. So when Finland's government-owned investment fund opted to write down the bulk of its $11 million investment in the fund, financial analysts quickly took note as the needle pointed to rain and chilly winds.
Finnish Industry Investment says its $11 million stake is worth just $4 million, according to The Telegraph. That's a tad embarrassing for Evans, who is reportedly teamed up with former Prime Minister Tony Blair in beating the financial bushes in the Middle East for billions of pounds in sovereign wealth fund money to back a startup that is working on in-licensing dozens of programs from Big Pharma companies like Merck. The basic idea would be to more efficiently advance pharma's pipeline assets--something many companies haven't been very good at--and then sell them back to the pharma companies. That's going to require lots of money, and lots of trust.
"It doesn't reflect the value of the fund," Evans responded, according to a report from The Telegraph. "This will be a profitable fund. It is invested in some really good companies, with good revenues, good margins and good positions." Investors like the Finnish Industry Investment, he insists, will profit from the experience.
Evans is credited with playing a pioneering role in the U.K.'s biotech industry, founding and profiting from some of the first biotech ventures created in the 1980s. He's also been an outspoken advocate of greater government support for the industry as it weathers a particularly tough stretch.
- here's the story from The Telegraph