Medical Device Daily Contributing Writers

Two Irish venture capital firms have joined forces to create an €75 million ($97 million) life sciences fund that will target opportunities in Ireland and the UK.

Seroba BioVentures (Dublin), which raised Ireland's first-ever specialist life sciences fund back in 2002, has joined forces with Kernel Capital (Cork) to form Seroba Kernel Life Sciences Fund II Limited Partnership, which will operate from Dublin.

The €75 million raised includes €20 million from Enterprise Ireland, an economic development agency focused on indigenous companies. The rest comes from private sector sources in Ireland.

"The fund size is fine, but if we get more we'll take it," Peter Sandys, managing partner at Seroba Kernel said. The decision to create a joint fund was a function of necessity in a difficult market. "They were in the market for funds and so were we," he said.

Seroba ran into a blockage in seeking to close its second fund. "The climate was running against us, and we had to think of innovative ways of getting over the line," he said.

The fund plans to focus on established companies that are either in or close to the clinic rather than start-ups. It aims to build a portfolio of about 10 to 15 companies, each of which will receive 15 million to 17 million over the life of the fund. The first investment has already been agreed upon, but not yet disclosed. It involves a biopharmaceutical firm based in Ireland.

"The money should be disappearing from our accounts in the next few days," Sandys said.

The fund has two UK-based partners, Graham Fagg and Jonathan Hepple, both of London-based Rosetta Capital Ltd. (formerly Bioscience Managers Ltd.). The focus on UK investments will be secondary to the fund's Irish activities, but it is a necessary part of Seroba Kernel's growth strategy, Sandys said.

"It wouldn't be sensible to be putting all your money into one geography," he said. The main investment focus will be on healthcare, although biotechnology-based opportunities in energy are also a possibility.

"We've left the door open for doing that, but the expertise of the team is in biopharmaceuticals and medical devices," Sandys said.

Seroba has raised about €20 million for its first fund. "It's fully invested but not exited at this point in time," Sandys said. Its portfolio includes the quoted specialty pharma firm AGI Therapeutics (Dublin) and Alimentary Pharmabiotics (Cork), a probiotics specialist that has a strategic alliance with Procter & Gamble (Cincinnati).

In addition to the new fund, Kernel has €100 million under management in a general fund. Its portfolio includes several life science firms, such as specialty pharma fund Merrion Pharmaceutical (Dublin) and microfluidics specialist Stokes Bio (Limerick).

Breastlight debuts at MD&M West

New life sciences company PWB Health (Dumbarton, Scotland) introduced at last week's MD&M West conference in Anaheim, California, the Breastlight, a home-use device that makes it easier to perform self-examinations by literally shining a light on breast tissue to illuminate internal changes.

To optimize the performance and durability of the Breastlight, SABIC Innovative Plastics' (Pittsfield, Massachusetts) Lexan and Cycoloy healthcare resins are used in the housing and lens of the device. These medical-grade materials, combined with technical and design services provided by SABIC Innovative Plastics, helped PWB Health bring the Breastlight to market quickly, thus giving women a new tool as part of their regular breast awareness routine.

The Breastlight was being exhibited for the first time in the U.S. at SABIC Innovative Plastics' booth at MD&M West.

To create the Breastlight, PWB Health had a number of application requirements, beginning with the device's housing. Because the product is typically used in the bathroom where it might drop onto a hard tile floor, the company wanted a tough, impact-resistant resin.

For ease of use, PWB Health wanted relatively thin walls (2 mm) to make the housing lightweight, which required a high-flow resin. For the Breastlight lens, the company wanted a crystal-clear material with excellent impact resistance and the ability to be ultrasonically welded.

Breastlight has been approved for sale in Europe and Canada and is currently under review by the FDA for sale in the U.S.

New chairman for Molecular Vision

Molecular Vision (London), a developer of quantitative point-of-care (POC) diagnostic devices, has reported the appointment of Peter Woodford as non-executive chairman, effective immediately.

The company said the appointment serves to strengthen the board as the company prepares to commercialize its novel detection technology, focusing on low-cost POC diagnostic tests in a miniaturized, easy-to-use, disposable format.

Woodford has more than 35 years' experience in the diagnostics industry. Most recently he spent 15 years with Roche Diagnostics/Boehringer Mannheim, where he was responsible for Roche Diabetes Care global strategic and commercial activities.

Molecular Vision's previous Chairman, Dr. Chris Wright, will continue to serve on the board as a non-executive director.

Molecular Vision is developing low-cost, microfluidic devices for medical testing that will greatly extend the range of in-house tools available to the general practitioner. The devices are being developed to allow near-patient quantitative diagnosis, currently focusing on key areas of high disease burden such as kidney function and cardiovascular disease.

The technology has additional potential applications outside the diagnostics market, including forensic science, homeland security and environmental monitoring.

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