Johnson & Johnson (J&J), Takeda Pharmaceutical and venture capital firm OrbiMed have helped Israel break life science fundraising records through key investments such as establishing a biotech incubator. The biotech incubator, FutuRx, is the fruit of many months of work by Johnson & Johnson Innovation (the research development arm of J&J) along with Takeda and OrbiMed.
J&J and its partners have pledged more than $28 million to fund companies with the emphasis on early-stage biopharma companies that might not have been able to obtain financing through regular channels. This continues the trend of foreign investment in Israel. Data from IVC Research Center show Israeli life science companies pulled in $801 million last year, a 55 percent increase from the previous high. J&J has had a lengthy presence in Israel dating back to 1997 when the company bought Haifa-based Biosense, which has about 100 employees in Israel.
The first two members of FutuRx are Hepy Biosciences Ltd. and XNovo Ltd. FutuRx CEO, Dr. Einat Zisman, explained that these two companies are integral to the vision of the biotech revolution that will “develop potentially transformative new medicines.” Hepy Biosciences Ltd. is developing a candidate drug that inhibits a specific enzyme activity to stop tumor growth and metastasis. The drug will be considered for pancreatic and lung cancers as well as other potential indications. XoNovo is developing a candidate drug targeting a protein implicated in several neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease and Batten Disease (a rare, fatal disorder of the nervous system that typically begins in childhood).
“A key aim of Johnson & Johnson Innovation is to find novel ways of advancing the most promising early stage science,” said Patrick Verheyen, Head of Johnson & Johnson Innovation, London. “The formation of the new biotechnology incubator in Israel is the product of an important collaboration between government, industry and venture capital that demonstrates a multi-partner approach in practice. The collaboration provides a unique platform to support and advance new companies with not only funding, but also strategic advice from both venture capital and industry pharmaceutical development experts.”
(Photo: Pipette, Flickr)