Gates Foundation readies a round of tempting biotech investments

A little more than a year ago the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation made waves when it invested $10 million in Liquidia Technologies. After seeding a host of research efforts with billions of dollars in grant money contributed by the software mogul, the foundation opted for an equity stake in place of one of its usual contributions. And its executives indicated that more biotech investments might follow.

Now the foundation's new head of global health, Trevor Mundel, is signaling to the Financial Times that the nonprofit group plans to make investments in up to a dozen biotech companies this year. The shift in strategy marks a slight turn away from the endowment's long-entrenched strategy of building its financial reserves in favor of selectively investing in new technologies that can advance its goal of easy access to vaccines in developing nations.

Mundel's terms are likely to be highly attractive to any biotech companies good enough and lucky enough to earn its endorsement and cash. Rather than look for a payback like a traditional VC, the foundation is angling for the right to use the technology freely in developing countries, leaving the biotechs and its investors to commercialize their products in wealthy nations.

"We will make the investment and not ask for a return but for global access," Mundel told the Financial Times. "We will specify the countries and the diseases."  And Mundel added that the first new deal is likely to be an investment with a diagnostics group working on disease identification.

- here's the article from the Financial Times