Lilly backs $150M Montreal biotech fund for single-project startups

TVM has created a $150 million life sciences fund with major backing from Eli Lilly ($LLY) and a plan to ramp up a slate of virtual, single-project biotechs in Montreal designed to push experimental medications through proof-of-concept studies. The fund, which is intended to expand as more investors pile in, drew a $40 million check from Lilly, $65 million from Teralys Capital and additional funds from BDC Venture Capital, Fondaction and Advantus Capital Management.

Lilly isn't just restricting its support to cash. The pharma giant says it will set up a subsidiary of Chorus in Montreal to mentor start-ups on its lean-and-mean style of early-stage development work. The new Chorus development unit will ally itself with service providers in the region to offer its support of new drug projects.

Canada has been getting some significant support for its struggling biotech community. Just two months ago, Merck ($MRK) teamed up with Lumira Capital to back biopharma companies in Quebec. And other Big Pharma companies have been stepping up their venture backing as well, including a recently announced plan by J&J ($JNJ) and GSK ($GSK) to partner with Index Ventures on a fund for early-stage companies.

"It took three years of grueling work to put it all together at a time when venture-capital firms had virtually closed the window," Teralys managing partner Jacques Bernier told The Montreal Gazette. "The new fund, based in Montreal, meets our criteria by having an optimal size, the proven international network and participation by strategic partners."

"Establishing a Chorus division in Montreal illustrates Lilly's commitment to 'research without walls' and to investing in research and development in Canada," said Michael Mason, president and general manager, Eli Lilly Canada. "We are proud that Chorus Canada will employ scientific experts in Montreal, and contribute to job creation and ongoing employment within this industry in the province and Canada."

- here's the press release
- here's the story from the Montreal Gazette