Merck and three partners start ExploreBio, a € 20 million pre-seed investment initiative in Israel

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Merck has announced ExploreBio, a pre-seed-investment vehicle by four investment funds targeted at early-stage companies in the biotechnology landscape in Israel. For this purpose the strategic corporate venture capital arm of Merck has partnered with Arkin Holdings, Pontifax and WuXi AppTec to create the € 20 million pre-seed investment vehicle.

“Israel’s start-up spirit is unique and so inspiring. We are proud to be an active part of this great success story. Now we are taking a next important investment step as we believe in the innovative potential of ExploreBio,” said Stefan Oschmann, Chairman of the Executive Board and CEO of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany.

ExploreBio is an initiative comprising pre-seed investments and management services for proof-of-concept-experiments in biotechnology. Additionally, companies benefiting from the ExploreBio initiative will be given the opportunity to work at the BioIncubator facilities of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, in Yavne, Israel. Interested parties should submit their investment proposal here.

The commitment involves a total volume of € 20 million for five years. ExploreBio aims to invest € 1 million to € 1.5 million per company across up to four investments per year over a period of five years. The early-stage companies would benefit from quick access to funding and easy access to follow-up capital.

The four investors have worked together on investments in different companies in the past, such as Metabomed (targeted cancer therapy) and Artsavit (using apoptosis-induction to treat cancer).

With the new ExploreBio initiative, Merck and its three partners aim to engage with start-up companies in which it would otherwise be too early to invest. A second advantage for the four partners is being able to leverage the consortium’s resources and their strong relationships to work with the investments more closely and effectively.

ExploreBio complements the activities of Merck in helping early-stage companies in Israel to mature. The company set up PMatX last year and has been running its BioIncubator in Yavne since 2011.

PMatX addresses the topic of next-generation electronics and is a joint endeavor with Flex, San Jose, California, USA, and also backed by additional industry partners including HP, Palo Alto, California, USA, and the U.S.- based global investment firm Battery Ventures. PMAtX is supported by the Technology Innovation Lab program of the Israel Innovation Authority (IIA). The overall investment volume of the program involving all parties is around € 20 million and the initial commitment is for three years.

The site of Merck in Yavne houses the company’s Healthcare and Life Science incubator called BioIncubator. This successful undertaking was started in 2011 and has committed to invest up to € 10 million until 2018 in biomedically focused start-up companies in Israel.

Merck employs more than 300 people in Israel, mainly scientists, and has sites in Yavne, Herziliya, Rehovot, and Jerusalem. All three of itsbusiness sectors, Healthcare, Life Science and Performance Materials, have R&D sites in Israel.

The company also announces today that the Israel Patent Office as well as the Korean Intellectual Property Office have each issued notices granting patent applications of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, for its CRISPR technology used in a genomic-integration method for eukaryotic cells. These decisions mark the fifth and sixth patent allowances for the unique CRISPR technology of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, following Singapore, Australia, the European Union, and Canada. Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, also has patent filings for its insertion CRISPR method in the United States, Brazil, China, India, and Japan.