China's WuXi raises a $290M VC fund with eyes on 'cross-border' biotech bets

WuXi PharmaTech, China's largest CRO, closed an oversubscribed $290 million venture fund, turning its attention to biopharma startups at home and in the U.S.

Wuxi PharmaTech CEO Ge Li

The fund, which the company said exceeded its $200 million target, will bankroll investments in early-stage biotech and healthcare companies. WuXi's first foray into VC, a $63 million fund debuted in 2011, bought the CRO stakes in 18 companies including U.S. biotechs Juno Therapeutics ($JUNO) and Agios Pharmaceuticals ($AGIO), plus Chinese upstarts Hua Medicine and Adagene.

Now WuXi wants to broaden its venture arm and deepen its presence in the growing biotech VC scene on two continents. The company plans to place its bets through deal-scouting offices in Shanghai and Boston, leaning on its fast-growing U.S. operation and decades of work in its native country.

"China and the United States are the two largest and most dynamic healthcare markets in the world and countries where our firm has deep investment expertise and experience," WuXi Chief Financial Officer Edward Hu said in a statement. "The cross-border nature of our investment strategy and our appetite for early-stage innovation and entrepreneurship have aligned us well with the macro-trends in both countries."

The move comes a week after WuXi abandoned its public listing and went private in a $3.3 billion deal led by founder and CEO Ge Li. The CRO, on pace for about $800 million in revenue this year, has been broadening its business model beyond traditional outsourced clinical trials, buying big into genomics and signing risk-sharing R&D deals with its pharma partners. And Li, joined by a syndicate of investors, believes its brightest future lies away from the public markets.

- read the statement