Google VC unit angles for further life sciences investments

Google Ventures aims to invest in entrepreneurs who want to change the world, not only those working in Google's ($GOOG) main business areas, but also pioneers in biotech. And the web giant's VC group plans to make life sciences a prominent area of its $1 billion in planned investments over the next 5 years, reported. The venture group has been making bets on startups in bioinformatics and clinical trials software as well as therapeutics and diagnostics.

In his recent appearance on CNBC, Google Ventures Managing Partner William Maris told a crew at the news channel that he is willing to take gambles on highly risky biotech operations in cryogenics (yes, like freezing bodies) and nanotechnology. But the VC group also wants to keep funding companies like Foundation Medicine (a 2012 Fierce 15 company), which uses genomic tests to match patients with cancer drugs. "This is the way medicine is going to go," he said. 

Google Ventures, which has funded more than 100 companies, has been an active biotech investor for years. The group has backed the antibody-discovery outfit Adimab (a 2010 Fierce 15 company), Foundation Medicine, a personalized cancer diagnostics group, and the life sciences software companies DNAnexus and Wingu, to name several. It's been a positive development in biotech because a number of other VC groups have reduced their bets in the sector or pulled out altogether. Backing a biotech often requires long commitments from VC groups and plenty of capital--both of which Google Ventures can deliver.

"There's a whole world of innovation out there outside of social media. It's a huge growth area, but we're investing a lot of money in life sciences," Maris said, as quoted by He also noted that his group seeks to fund entrepreneurs with "a healthy disregard for the impossible."

Aside from providing capital to life sciences software startups, Google Ventures and the parent company have proven to be capable collaborators with those companies. Take DNAnexus, which provides cloud-based software for genomics research. Google Ventures co-led DNAnexus' $15 million venture round last year, but the startup also gained Google as a partner to provide scientists with access to Sequence Read Archive (SRA) data.

- see Maris' CNBC appearance here