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Celtic Pharma Sees a Role for Private Equity in Biotech

This article was originally published in Start Up

Executive Summary

The recently launched private equity firm Celtic Pharma aims to bridge the gap between biotech companies that have trouble financing R&D for mid- to late-stage projects and the Big Pharma firms desperate to rebuild their pipelines. The group's first fund, at around $1 billion, aims to bring together approximately 20 late-stage projects, take each through to regulatory approval, and license them out to the highest bidder.

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Celtic Therapeutics will put as much as $50 million into ADC Therapeutics to develop next-generation cancer drugs based on assets from Spirogen, another of its other portfolio companies.

With Pharma Ready to Pare Portfolios, Project Financing Funds Make Their Pitches

Drug firms need to find good homes for hundreds of early-stage experimental compounds that ideally they could claw back once new developers demonstrate proof-of-concept. New project financing funds are clamoring for those assets, but first they must convince LPs to invest in unproven financing models, deal with pharma's accounting demands, and negotiate deals with asset-holders that will provide a decent return.

Busy Times and Divergent Strategies for Celtic Pharma's Follow-On Funds

The various Celtic funds (there are three, with two sprouting from the original Celtic Pharma I Holdings established in 2004) posted a very busy January, closing deals involving Kolltan Pharmaceuticals Inc., Cantab Pharmaceuticals PLC, Inspiration Biopharmaceuticals Inc. and PolyTherics Ltd. But the details of these transactions help illustrate how the two actively investing successor funds have established fundamentally different investment strategies, even if those strategies can overlap at times.

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