Authored by Karl Simpson
The French venture capital company Kurma Life Science Partners (KLS Partners) announced the launch of a new fund specifically targeted at financing innovation in the field of rare disease research. The fund which has raised E44m to date is the first of its kind to be specifically targeted at rare diseases. The fund will be primarily targeted at European Research institutions working in the field of rare disease research. The fund is being led by Kurma with other investors including CDC Enterprise, Idinvest Partners and New Enterprise Associates.
With rare diseases now a growing focus for most global pharmaceutical companies it is little surprise that KLS Partners have also been joined in the fund by GSK, continuing the current trend of pharma partnering with VCs to fund early stage ventures, as highlighted in our article last month. GSK has committed E17.5m to the fund to date. GSK has a well established rare disease franchise and is most notable for its partnership in Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) with Dutch biotech Prosensa.
This is the second fund from KLS Partners and Kurma already have invested in rare disease companies, as well as having invested in other biotechs like BLiNK, an oncology monoclonal antibody platform company.
This deal comes shortly after GSK signed another deal with Avalon Ventures to fund a number of new start-ups over the next three years, a deal which could see GSK provide further capital to support later stage clinical trials of interesting assets, potentially raising the commitment to $495m. The trend of big pharma partnering with VCs is part of a wider change in the investing environment, as pharma companies look to get involved earlier in exciting research and development stage products, either through corporate venturing or collaborations of this type. These close ties with VCs enable pharma to externalise their R&D interests while ensuring close stewardship of the companies.
The announcement by KLS Partners is further evidence that the significant unmet medical needs represented by the rare disease markets offer good opportunities for investors and for pharma companies alike.