ObsEva grabs $34.5M to launch out of Merck Serono rubble

Another biotech company is being assembled out of the wreckage left behind by Merck KGaA's restructuring in Europe. Sofinnova Ventures and Novo A/S led a $34.5 million Series A round for ObsEva, a Geneva-based biotech that is snatching up Merck Serono's preterm labor drug program and pushing ahead on the development front. And MS Ventures, the Big Pharma's VC arm, is taking an equity stake in the biotech company in exchange for the worldwide rights.

Ernest Loumaye--the former CEO of PregLem, acquired by Gedeon Richter in 2010--and André Chollet founded the company. Chollet was responsible for the preterm labor program at Serono before the company was acquired by Merck KGaA.

Last year Merck KGaA made waves in the European biotech industry when it decided to shut down its operations in Geneva, where it had inherited a major R&D effort with the Serono buyout. Following the buyout, Merck KGaA experienced a huge setback with the failure and eventual termination of its experimental MS drug cladribine.

Since then, though, there's been a big push to reorganize and launch new companies in the region. Two Swiss billionaires--Ernesto Bertarelli and Hansjörg Wyss--subsequently joined forces to buy out the former Serono HQ, with ambitious plans to create a collaboration on discovery work and translational research while offering a home for a new generation of biotech companies in the region.

"Preterm labor is a condition for which only products with limited efficacy or limiting safety are available. The cost of preterm births to the society is estimated at around 27 billion dollars every year in the USA," said ObsEva CEO Ernest Loumaye in a statement. "I am also very pleased to have the opportunity to work again with Sofinnova Partners and Sofinnova Ventures as well as to welcome Novo A/S, all three highly qualified investors."

- here's the press release