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Kick-start for Canada's agbio

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John Hodgson, Nature Biotechnology 27, 970  - 2009

Bioenterprise Capital will be run by experienced entrepreneurs and investors rather than bankers, says Dave Smardon, president and CEO of BioEnterprise Corp of Guelph, Ontario, Canada, one of the entrepreneurs involved. "There were 173 venture capital and angel investor groups active in Canada in 2001," he says, "but there are now only 30."

Furthermore, virtually all the capital has migrated towards investment in late-stage, lower-risk companies, in information technology, telecommunications and medical applications. The fund managers will take an extremely hands-on approach to their investments, a form of "quasi-incubation" according to Smardon.

To date, over 40 industry and investment mentors have joined the cause. "The presence of people who know how to make companies succeed means that we're not picking winners, we are building winners," says Smardon. The fund is expected to close in September 2010, with money coming from private investors, government agencies and institutions.

Approximately half will come from within Canada, and half from international sources. Government participation is expected to be below 20% of the fund's total. One private investment group has already stepped up with a CAD$25 million ($24.3 million) cornerstone.