Venture Associates, a new venture capital house in Zurich founded by Jean-Philippe Tripet, the former principal of the Lombard Odier Immunology Fund, has disclosed a first investment by its emerging SFr200 million Aravis Venture fund.
The first investment is in Kalypsys, a San Diego-based biopharmaceutical company that spun out of the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation in 2001.
Venture Associates is one of a number of investors in Kalypsys, including Sprout Group, Lombard Odier & Cie, Novartis BioVenture Fund, and the Singapore Economic Development Board, who put up $43 million in venture financing this week.
Venture Associates is still raising the proposed SFr200 million sum and plans to close the Aravis Venture fund this year. It reached a "successful" first closing in February.
Swiss Venture Update was unable to confirm with Venture Associates how its fundraising was progressing as the company did not respond to email contact or a telephone message.
The fund's name - Aravis is a range of mountains near Mont Blanc - reflects the French-Swiss origins of its founder, Jean-Philippe Tripet, the former CFA of the Lombard Odier Immunology Fund, a successful Swiss open-ended mutual fund managed by Lombard Odier & Cie.
The assets of the fund grew to SFr3 billion in the last quarter of 2001, with about ten per cent of the fund invested in privately-held biotech companies.
Focus on start-ups
Insiders blame the fund's "too narrow focus" on start-ups for prompting Tripet to leave.
With private equity only a minority percentage of the total invested by the Immunology Fund, the financier was reportedly not allowed to tap his skills and network to enter the investment stage much earlier.
Earlier stage entry into a high tech investment offers shareholders a chance to share greater gains as the companies grow to maturity.
Some of the firms that Tripet participated in through the fund include, Modex (now publicly traded on SWX), Novimmune, Cytos, Genedata, Esbatech and Novalon (acquired by Karo Bio), all fast growing, privately-owned firms in the biotech market.
Given the current caution of traditional venture capital fund investors, it is clear that only those with a track record like Tripet's are likely to attract limited partner and institutional investors' money.
Venture Associates has worked with Bay City Capital in San Francisco since last
September. The idea is that the two will be able to syndicate transatlantic deals.
by Valerie Thompson