BioWorld International Correspondent

Tel Aviv, ISRAEL - Tel Aviv University (TAU) disclosed Monday the formation of a first-of-its-kind venture fund and partnership with a group of U.S. investors, financed by US$8 million.

Isaac Kohlberg, CEO of TAU's economic corporation and CEO of RAMOT, the dedicated technology transfer arm of the university, told BioWorld International, "This represents an entirely new strategy and approach. It's the first time that a university has attracted private investment capital for a partnership fund structured specifically on the basis of portfolio technologies preselected solely by their upside commercial and economic potential."

Kohlberg focused on biotechnology transfer from academia to industry previously at New York University. In Rehovot, Israel, at the Weizmann Institute of Science, through YEDA, the tech transfer arm, he oversaw the commercialization of Copaxone. The net combined royalty yield from the technology transfer deals at YEDA and NYU are estimated to exceed $1 billion.

Kohlberg came up with the idea for the partnership fund, which he said "has not yet been tried anywhere in the world. It will enable the portfolio technologies to be developed to the point where they can be commercialized for maximum returns." They will be shared by the investors and TAU partners.

Michael Steinhardt, a New York-based financier, will serve as chairman of the partnership's board of directors. Other investors include Jack Nash (former head of Odyssey Partners LP and Oppenheimer Holdings) and Joseph Steinberg, head of Leucadia National Corp. in New York.

The first round of financing at US$8 million was completed late in April with the aim to accelerate the commercialization of new technologies being developed at TAU in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, medical device and other high-tech sectors.

RAMOT will manage the fund's activities with an outside advisory committee of entrepreneurs, industrialists and venture capitalists, including David Haselkorn, general manager of Clal Biotechnology Industries Ltd., and Hemi Peres, general partner in Pitango Venture Capital, both in Tel Aviv.

The fund administrators were clearly pleased that the financing was completed during the current investment drought.

Dov Lautman, chairman of Delta Galil Industries Ltd. in Tel Aviv and chairman of the executive committee of TAU, said, "It is good to see such strong investor confidence in Israeli technology, and that Tel Aviv University is spearheading academic leadership in the development of new technology developed in Israel."

Itamar Rabinovich, TAU president, said that the many prominent U.S. financiers investing in the fund confirm the excellence of TAU's research enterprise as a global leader in developing new technologies and innovative approaches to technology transfer.