DUBLIN, Ireland - A newly established venture development company aims to attract U.S. investors to Irish biotechnology projects. Irish BioVentures International (IBI) Ltd. plans to act as a bridge between researchers with good ideas and the investment community, and will target pharmaceutical companies in search of ideas that have already been “pre-screened“ for their commercial potential, said Mary Skelly, co-founder of IBI.

The company will offer a range of fee-based consultancy, management and administration services. It is willing to accept an equity position in start-up companies as partial payment for its business development services, Skelly said. The company will operate from Dublin and New York, where it will shortly establish a base.

IBI aims to “put a shape around“ projects at an early stage of development to maximize their investment potential, Skelly said, adding, “There are opportunities here that haven't been harvested.“ The company plans to interact with the local investment community as well as with U.S. funds. But Skelly said she feels that U.S. investors are probably less risk-averse than their Irish counterparts.

Skelly said the “creativity factor among Irish scientists is much higher than in many other places in the world.“ One of IBI's co-founders, Harsh Batra, added that the Irish biotechnology sector must be realistic in its expectations and focus on niche opportunities. “That's where you can really score,“ he said.

Ireland's advantages, according to IBI, include its business-friendly environment - royalty income from patents based on research carried out in the country is tax free, for example - and its close links with the U.S.

“It's a small-enough country to be flexible,“ Batra said.

Two of IBI's founders worked previously with Unimed, an early-stage, Dublin-based pharmaceutical research company. Skelly, an American of Irish extraction, was the founding CEO and subsequently chief operating officer of that company. She has more than 15 years' experience in the U.S. pharmaceutical industry and worked previously in several business development and scientific roles with Procter & Gamble Healthcare, of Cincinnati.

Batra is a medical doctor with clinical and industry experience. He worked for seven years for the former Upjohn Pharmaceutical Co. in the U.K. and for almost three years as medical director with Ares-Serono, in Geneva, Switzerland. Batra was also a co-founder of a health-care recruitment company, which he sold to Goldsborough plc just before that company's acquisition by the London-based health-care insurer Bupa. The third member of the IBI team is Kieran Pierce.

Although IBI's initial focus is exclusive to Ireland, the company may explore possibilities in other countries later. “Obviously, if we can prove the principle here, there will be other opportunities open to us,“ Skelly said. *