Pierre Fabre has entered the world of biotech investing with a vehicle for equity funding and R&D co-financing deals. But, while an open-ended sum of cash is theoretically available, the French firm is placing as much emphasis on the support it can provide fledgling biotechs at a critical stage of drug development.
|Laurent Audoly, director of pharma R&D at Pierre Fabre|
Castres, France-based Pierre Fabre is targeting the fund at programs that are within two years, either way, of first-in-human trials. Pierre Fabre thinks it can address two of the problems that face biotechs at this stage, namely insufficient funding and a shortfall of experience in transitioning from the discovery to proof-of-concept stages of development. The initiative is aiming to tackle the latter of these two issues by making Pierre Fabre's abilities in pharmacology, translational medicine, preclinical and clinical development, trial material production and other areas available.
The second component of the initiative is cash, in the form of equity investments, co-financing deals or licensing agreements tied to certain milestones. Pierre Fabre sees the two-pronged approach to supporting biotechs as a way to differentiate itself from other funds. "Numerous traditional investment funds already exist," Laurent Audoly, director of pharma R&D at Pierre Fabre, said in a statement. "We were not convinced that creating just another fund would have been relevant and useful."
Pitching expertise alongside money could also enable Pierre Fabre to muscle in on opportunities that its wallet alone would struggle to realize. The plan is to take "minority" equity stakes, although exactly how much cash is available will depend on the potential of the opportunities that are put to Pierre Fabre. "Rather than defining an annual amount, we will respond to all project opportunities presented to us with one single imperative: We must be convinced by the true innovation potential of the project and by the total commitment of the project owners to make it happen," Audoly said.
Responsibility for deciding how much to funnel into a particular project will fall on those at the very top of Pierre Fabre. Audoly will handle operational management of the fund and sit alongside the group CEO, pharma CEO, CFO and business development director on a steering committee. Putting together a small, very senior team to oversee the fund is intended to cut the time it takes to make decisions, both about which biotechs to back and how much cash to commit. "We have understood that a direct and quick communication would make a difference," Audoly said.