PARIS ¿ Biobank is not just another venture capital fund, said its CEO, Pascal Brandys, the former CEO of Genset and co-founder of this biotechnology investment company along with another former Genset executive, Agnhs Le Saux-Narjoz.

He described it as an ¿industrial holding company,¿ whose aim is to ¿contribute management know-how as well as capital.¿ In short, Biobank sees itself ¿as a sort of business angel,¿ only more hands-on.

The company has a bipolar structure at present, comprising Biobank SAS in Paris and Biobank Corp. in San Diego. In addition, it is in the process of setting up an Asian subsidiary, Biobank Asia-Pacific, based in Singapore, as well as an institutional investment arm, Biobank Technology Ventures LLC.

Biobank¿s strategy is to make an initial investment of EUR$500,000 to EUR2 million (US$450,000 to US$1.8 million) in a new business, with which it would expect to have majority control, or at least be the lead shareholder. It would retain its investment for up to five years, cashing it in after the firm is managerially autonomous, ideally on the occasion of an IPO.

Biobank has ample funds at its disposal, Brandys told BioWorld International. ¿Our own funds are more than sufficient for us to invest in up to 10 projects, so money is not the limiting factor. But it is hard for us to handle more than two projects at once.¿ He added, ¿We could increase our capital later, but it is not our aim to become big.¿

There are currently five shareholders in Biobank, and Brandys did not rule out the possibility that institutions and even industrial companies might one day join the ranks of its shareholders. He explained that Biobank was ¿an open fund; we will increase our capital when needed for new projects.¿

Through its hands-on approach to the creation and management of new ventures, Biobank said it hopes to ensure their development from start-ups to viable businesses. It also intends to have a say in the formulation of the firm¿s business strategy, and one of its basic principles is that start-ups should concentrate on their core scientific activity and contract out managerial and administrative tasks.

One of Biobank¿s objectives is to foster networking among the various companies in which it invests, so they benefit from potential synergies and each other¿s expertise and experience. Similarly, it encourages firms to enter into alliances and collaborations at an early stage of their development.

Although Biobank was established only in May, it already has participated in the creation of five start-ups: Endocube, of Toulouse (genomics): Genteon, of San Diego, (instrumentation); Iguazu Biosciences, of San Francisco (vaccines); Stell, of San Diego (cell therapy); and E-LifeScience, of Paris (E-commerce). Its initial investments in these companies ranged from US$250,000 to US$1.37 million.