BioWorld International Correspondent

LONDON The technology management company MMI Group raised £1.6 million (US$2.3 million) in a placing of 4 million new shares with three new institutional investors, to finance further development of its biotechnology start-ups and incubators.

David Best, chairman, told BioWorld International, “This will do two things: It will allow us to accelerate the rollout of the incubators, and with more and more science coming into our own baby bios we will be able to grow them faster.”

MMI runs an incubator in Cambridge, which is fully occupied, and recently announced two further projects in Edinburgh, Scotland, and Welwyn Garden City. “The whole concept of incubation is taking off and this is reflected by the [unnamed] institutional support we have attracted,” Best said.

In February MMI Group, based in Cambridge, announced a deal with Roche Products Ltd., the UK arm of Hoffmann-La Roche, to take over Roche’s research site in Welwyn and turn it into a biotechnology business incubator. Roche closed the site in 2001 as part of a worldwide restructuring, cutting 300 staff members and leaving 100,000 square feet of fully equipped laboratories.

Best said the feasibility stage of the project, to assess if the site is suitable, is almost complete. “We have already had a high level of interest. There are more and more young companies that need a fantastic amount of sophisticated equipment, and that is already in place in Welwyn. The interest is high and the equipment is good.”

Once a decision is made to go ahead, MMI will move its own biotech start-ups to Welwyn and will start to recruit other tenants in earnest. “We will work with an international property firm because there is considerable interest from companies overseas wanting to come to the UK because they like the environment for biotech,” he said. After 18 months MMI has the option to acquire the freehold from Roche, and would be able to defer payment for three years.

In December 2001 MMI agreed to a partnership with Scottish Enterprise, the industrial development agency for Scotland, to create an incubator in Edinburgh to specialize in incubating companies developing biological and medical applications of nanotechnology. Best said that project is going well, and he expects some announcements on the first companies to take space on the site soon.

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