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Venture capital news: Fund increases stake in SA biotech market

By Arthur Goldstuck

Bioventures, South Africa’s first biotechnology venture capital fund, has made a R10 million investment into Electric Genetics, Africa’s only genome informatics company.  Electric Genetics develops and markets robust high-throughput bioinformatics tools and services that enhance the understanding of genomic information and accelerate the drug discovery process.

Bioinformatics is the meeting of biotechnology and information technology through the use of computers to store, retrieve, analyze or predict the composition or the structure of bio molecules. Bioinformatics aims to shorten the process of discovering new drugs, thereby reducing the costs and risks involved in new drug development.

Dr Heather Sherwin, CEO of Bioventures announced the investment saying, ” Electric Genetics has a quality management team with both scientific and business experience and expertise. They have world-class products and are an ideal investment vehicle for Bioventures. We believe that there is tremendous potential for other such spinouts from a number of South African universities.”

Dr Heather Sherwin, CEO of Bioventures announced the investment saying, ” Electric Genetics has a quality management team with both scientific and business experience and expertise. They have world-class products and are an ideal investment vehicle for Bioventures. We believe that there is tremendous potential for other such spinouts from a number of South African universities.”Says Tania Broveak Hide, Electric Genetics CEO, “Bioventures’ valuable financial resources, coupled with its business and scientific expertise and genuine concern about critical issues such as capacity development and the promotion of science and technology in the growing local economy, will allow us to realise significant growth on several fronts-initially by alleviating our staffing bottleneck, especially with respect to sales and R&D staff.”Moreover, the company is now afforded the stability we need to meet the narrow window of opportunity we are so often faced with, particularly when it comes to introducing new products into the rapidly-changing biotechnology marketplace.”

“Moreover, the company is now afforded the stability we need to meet the narrow window of opportunity we are so often faced with, particularly when it comes to introducing new products into the rapidly-changing biotechnology marketplace.”  “Bioventures’ funding places us squarely in the mix of the growing cluster of Western Cape biotechnology companies it supports.  By being part of this elite family we anticipate the sharing of experiences and expertise with other local biotechnology corporations.  In fact, we are already exploring potential synergies facilitated by Bioventures”, says Broveak Hide.Brian O’ Connell, the Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Western Cape (UWC), adds: “The recent successful investment by Bioventures into Electric Genetics vindicates the foresight and consistent support of the science and innovation funding agencies and their investment into UWC. Through insightful, directed, capacity development funding into the university from the National Research Foundation, and subsequent capacity development funding investment by the Medical Research Council and the Department of Science and Technology, UWC has been able to nurture hard core innovative science that has given birth to Electric Genetics, one of the country’s first campus biotech companies.”

Brian O’ Connell, the Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Western Cape (UWC), adds: “The recent successful investment by Bioventures into Electric Genetics vindicates the foresight and consistent support of the science and innovation funding agencies and their investment into UWC. Through insightful, directed, capacity development funding into the university from the National Research Foundation, and subsequent capacity development funding investment by the Medical Research Council and the Department of Science and Technology, UWC has been able to nurture hard core innovative science that has given birth to Electric Genetics, one of the country’s first campus biotech companies.”UWC, which has already accrued nearly R1.5 million through intellectual property payments from EG, stands to continue gaining financially through ongoing royalties and its shareholding in the company.Professor Winston Hide, co-founder of EG and Director of the South African National Bioinformatics Institute (SANBI) at UWC says that, “Electric Genetics is an excellent role model for other campus companies at UWC and across the country, with both the SANBI students and the Electric Genetics staff members benefiting from the close relationship.  It’s clear to me that the recent strategic growth of biotechnology that has been spearheaded by the Department of Science and Technology is already bearing fruit and it pleases me greatly that the results are appearing in a previously disadvantaged environment.”

Professor Winston Hide, co-founder of EG and Director of the South African National Bioinformatics Institute (SANBI) at UWC says that, “Electric Genetics is an excellent role model for other campus companies at UWC and across the country, with both the SANBI students and the Electric Genetics staff members benefiting from the close relationship.  It’s clear to me that the recent strategic growth of biotechnology that has been spearheaded by the Department of Science and Technology is already bearing fruit and it pleases me greatly that the results are appearing in a previously disadvantaged environment.”    Dr. Sherwin concurred, stating that, despite difficult market conditions experienced by many listed international biotech companies, Electric Genetics leads the way for what she believes is a very bright future for the local biotech industry.For more information, contact Dr Heather Sherwin, CEO of Bioventures, on 083 260 8307, and Tania Broveak Hide, CEO of Electric Genetics, on 082 377 3120

For more information, contact Dr Heather Sherwin, CEO of Bioventures, on 083 260 8307, and Tania Broveak Hide, CEO of Electric Genetics, on 082 377 3120

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The Big Change is a business strategy blog and newsletter published by Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx, a leading technology research organisation based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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