Wisconsin Mulls Biotech Fund –

MADISON, Wis. – Signaling a possible shift toward more traditional early-stage venture capital investing, the Wisconsin State Investment Board at press time was readying a proposal to its board of trustees to create a $50 million health-care and biotechnology vehicle geared toward local deals.

Wisconsin at press time had committed only to later-stage private equity firms such as Golder, Thoma, Cressy, Rauner and Wind Point Partners. The proposed fund, however, likely will include a mix of early-, mid- and late-stage health-care, biotechnology and life science companies, said Jacqueline Doeler, Wisconsin’s biotech project consultant.

“We see that there’s lots of potential in Wisconsin and the Midwest for these types of investments,” she added, explaining that VC firms on both coasts traditionally have overlooked the region, concentrating instead on investments in their own backyards.

Ms. Doeler expected to bring the proposal to the board at an April meeting. If approved, the next step would be to search for a fund manager and possible co-investors in the vehicle. It remains unclear whether the fund would be structured as a traditional limited partnership or as a captive, state-sponsored vehicle, Ms. Doeler said, adding, however, “We’re not closing the door on anybody.”

Wisconsin has received positive preliminary responses to the proposed fund. Ms. Doeler, who has worked at the state investment board for 12 years in small-cap public equities, particularly in health-care-related industries, said the University of Wisconsin and the Medical College of Wisconsin are major factors in providing in-state deal flow.