BioWorld International Correspondent

LONDON - Abingworth Management closed Europe's largest ever life sciences venture fund, Abingworth Bioventures V, capping the oversubscribed fund at £300 million (US$586.9 million).

The money will be invested in biotech and medical companies in Europe and the U.S., with the first deal, in a U.S. company, due to be announced soon. In total, the firm expects to make more than 20 investments, with the size ranging from £7.5 million to £20 million.

"While it is not unprecedented to be oversubscribed, this fund is way ahead of the pack in terms of the size of previous European life sciences funds," Stephen Bunting, managing director of Abingworth, told BioWorld International.

Bunting said he believes that Abingworth's track record - going back to the first fund in 1973 - and its geographical spread from Menlo Park, Calif., to Boston, London and Cambridge, UK, were key factors in attracting investors to the new fund.

"We are of sufficient critical mass, and continued to invest in staff at a time [the post-genomics bust] when other people were cutting back. That's paying off now."

This is London-based Abingworth's eighth life sciences fund, and it has more than $1.25 billion under management currently.

The firm has achieved some high value exits of late, most notably PowderMed Ltd, the UK DNA vaccine specialist acquired by Pfizer Inc. for an unspecified cash sum, and Solexa Inc. Abingworth was founding investor in the U.S./UK genotyping specialist, which was acquired by Illumina Inc., of San Diego, in an all-share deal that closed earlier this month valuing Solexa at $600 million.

While Abingworth Bioventures V is the biggest venture capital fund to be raised by a European-based firm, Bunting said he expects half the deals to be in the U.S. "We will go where the deals are," he said. But he added that from Abingworth's perspective the perception is that there are more interesting opportunities in Europe currently. "There's no question there is less competition [for deals] in Europe than the U.S. Historically, Europe is less trawled."

Abingworth will make investments across the development cycle from university spinouts to quoted companies.