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Corporate VC Adds a Business Development Flavor

This article was originally published in Start Up

Executive Summary

Nearly all the meters on pharma's pipeline are reading critical. With licensing and M&A increasingly a series of high-priced auctions, Big Pharma is casting about, often desperately, for new business-development strategies. And one place they're beginning to look is corporate venture capital, traditionally a way to provide drug companies with a window on new technologies. But that means finding a way to break through the seemingly impenetrable wall between corporate venture investing and other corporate and research activities. Thus, companies have embarked on a number of different strategies, ranging from the traditional to the radically new and aggressive. Getting the equity investor and the asset-hungry pharma partner to co-exist peacefully has aroused plenty of both skepticism and confusion Nevertheless, there's still a promising way for drug companies to get value from start-ups beyond mere equity appreciation--investing de-prioritized drug candidates, not merely capital.

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IN an effort to forge earlier and stronger ties to venture-backed biotechs, the new Merck Research Venture Fund illustrates the lure -- and the limitations -- of strategic pharma-VC relationships. Merck has endowed the MRVF with $250 million and the fund will make a series of investments in life science venture capital firms around the globe. Simultaneously it has also staked a second fund, the Global Health Innovation Fund, with an additional $250 million to invest in later-stage companies outside of the drug area.

Merck's Capital Idea: Industry's Latest Push to Strengthen VC Ties

IN an effort to forge earlier and stronger ties to venture-backed biotechs, the new Merck Research Venture Fund illustrates the lure -- and the limitations -- of strategic pharma-VC relationships. Merck has endowed the MRVF with $250 million and the fund will make a series of investments in life science venture capital firms around the globe. Simultaneously it has also staked a second fund, the Global Health Innovation Fund, with an additional $250 million to invest in later-stage companies outside of the drug area.

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