Wisconsin Approves Biotech Fund –

MADISON, Wis. – In an effort to spur in-state biotechnology investing, trustees of the Wisconsin State Investment Board in mid-April approved a proposed $50 million venture fund to invest in biotechnology, life sciences and possibly other high-tech entrepreneurial efforts developed in and around the state.

The pension is launching the fund to provide support for local companies that historically have been overlooked by Silicon Valley and East Coast firms, which tend to favor deals closer to home (VCJ, April, page 5).

Following its trustees’ approval, the pension at press time was readying a request-for-proposals for candidates to manage the effort, said biotech project consultant Jaqueline Doeler, adding that a manager, or managers, is expected to be named by the end of this year.

The fund’s industry focus ultimately will reflect the areas of expertise of its managers, Ms. Doeler said. For example, if the manager specializes in biotech and information technology, the fund will make investments in both industries.

The pension hopes to attract outside investors to the effort. Wisconsin has slated as much as $50 million for the vehicle, but the size might be larger, depending on outside interest.

Wisconsin has invested in venture firms in the past, including Boston Millennia Partners, El Dorado Ventures and Davis Venture Partners. The latest biotech effort is completely independent from its alternative asset allocation mix and will back companies directly through the pension’s new fund.

“As I understand it, the trustees are interested in having the board invest locally and in biotechnology,” said Jon Vanderploeg, the pension’s chief investment officer.