£50m injection for life science start-ups

The British Business Bank has announced it is committing £50 million to the life science venture firm Epidarex Capital III UK.

The Fund closed at £102.1 million and will build new life science companies from emerging hubs across the UK, including spin-outs from universities. Typical initial investments will range from £2 million to £5 million.

The Epidarex Fund has been cornerstoned by the British Business Bank via a £50 million commitment from its Enterprise Capital Funds (ECF) programme for early stage venture capital.

The programme combines private and public money to enable equity investments in high-growth businesses, and since its inception it has committed over £1.36 billion to help 540 smaller UK high growth businesses.

Ken Cooper
Cooper: early finance is crucial

The Bank’s investment in Epidarex Capital III UK makes it the largest ECF to date, and the first to specialise in life science. The Universities of Edinburgh, Manchester, Glasgow and Aberdeen, alongside Strathclyde Pension Fund and several global investors have committed capital. With its UK headquarters in Edinburgh, Epidarex partners at an early stage with top scientists and entrepreneurs here and the US to develop highly innovative products addressing major unmet needs in the global healthcare market.

Sinclair Dunlop, Managing Partner at Epidarex, said: “We are grateful for the tremendous support from the British Business Bank and from returning investors, which has allowed us to close this significant new UK fund.

“Epidarex can now significantly expand and support its portfolio of UK life science start-ups with the potential to both transform patient outcomes and generate competitive investor returns.”

The Fund’s first investment founded Lunac Therapeutics, a spin-out from the University of Leeds, which received £2.65 million in a Series A financing round. Lunac is developing next-generation anticoagulants to minimise bleeding risk and capitalises on a decade of academic research, which was supported by the University. The Fund expects to announce several further investments in the coming months.

Dunlop: potential

Ken Cooper, Managing Director, Venture Capital Solutions at the British Business Bank, said: “We know that equity finance is crucial for innovative life science and health technology businesses. The Bank’s Enterprise Capital Funds programme is a key tool in helping to develop and maintain an effective venture capital provision in the UK. “By supporting Epidarex Capital III UK, we are looking to ensure the successful financing of early stage, high-potential businesses that are built upon cutting-edge UK life science research. We are very pleased to be backing this new UK fund, which itself represents an important milestone as our largest ECF fund to date and the first dedicated to investment in life science.”

Minister for Business and Industry, Nadhim Zahawi, said: “It is our ambition to make the UK the best place in the world to start and grow a business, and that means backing innovation as we rebuild and revitalise the UK economy.

“The UK is already home to one of the strongest, most productive health and life science industries globally and today’s £50 million government investment will help to ensure this crucial sector continues to thrive, transforming people’s lives.”