Israeli biotech royalty in talks with Biogen about $100M VC fund

Biogen ($BIIB) is in talks about contributing money to a $100 million (€93 million) Israeli biotech VC fund. The fund is being set up by Yuval Cabilly, the son of a scientist who invented technology used by a laundry list of blockbuster biologics during his time working with Genentech.

Details of Biogen's involvement with the Israeli VC fund first emerged in an article published in Globes, the accuracy of which was confirmed to FierceBiotech by a spokesperson for the big biotech. Work to get the fund up to full speed is ongoing. But the basic outline of who is involved and what they are trying to achieve is already in place. Cabilly has spent the past year putting together the organization, known simply as Israel Biotech Fund, during which time he has brought some big names from biopharma on board as advisers.

Sol Barer and Jeff Kindler, former CEOs of Celgene ($CELG) and Pfizer ($PFE), respectively, are listed as advisers. Robert Spiegel and Murray Goldberg, whose résumés respectively include stints as CMO of Schering-Plough and CFO of Regeneron, are also involved. In total, Israel Biotech Fund is claiming to have 25 venture advisers, a resource it is pitching as a key enabler of its ability to pick and develop the best drug development startups. The fund is specifically targeting Israeli biotechs that already have drugs in the clinic or on the cusp of advancing to that stage of development.

Exactly how much cash the fund has to pump into its portfolio is unclear. Israel Biotech Fund broke cover last month when it told the Securities and Exchange Commission of its plan to raise up to $100 million. Globes put the anticipated size of the fund at somewhere between $50 million and $100 million. The uncertainty reflects the ongoing nature of the fundraising. Israel Biotech Fund is working with "two top-tier international pharmaceuticals companies, institutional investors, family offices and high net worth individuals," but at this stage the identity of many of the financiers is unknown.

Biogen has confirmed it is involved with the fund, while Globes reports Cabilly is tapping his dad for investment. Shmuel Cabilly, the dad in question, is the man behind the "Cabilly patents," intellectual property that underpins the production of Herceptin, Rituxan and other blockbuster monoclonal antibodies. The patents were the subject of a long-running legal dispute between Genentech and MedImmune.

- read Globes' article