Pontifax Raises $88 Million

Pontifax Ltd. has raised $88 million for its third fund. The fund is the private investing arm of former Teva CEO Eli Hurvitz who  provided 10% of the funding.  Other investors included Moshe (Mori) Arkin, Prof. Ruth Arnon, Pujo Zabludowicz, and Israeli investment institutions.

 Pontifax, run by Ran Nussbaum and Tomer Kariv, invests in both biopharmaceuticals and  medical device companies. The fund has an impressive exit record, with many of its portfolio companies obtaining IPO’s in recent years.

The $30 million Pontifax I Fund invested in Protalix Biotherapeutics Inc.(AMEX:PLX; TASE: PLX), IBI Medical Systems Ltd. (formerly Endogun),CollPlant Holdings Ltd. (TASE: CLPT), NasVax Ltd. (TASE: NSVX), Allium Medical Ltd. (TASE: ALMD), Aposense Ltd. (TASE: APOS), Ovalum Vascular Ltd., and two companies that closed: Elutex and NVR. The Pontifax I Fund achieved an annual return on investment of 48% and returned 2.4 times the money, mostly from the fund’s early-stage investment in Protalix whose shares it distributed as dividends in kind when it reached a market cap of $800 million in 2009.

The $80 million Pontifax II Fund’s investments include CheckCap Ltd.,Macrocure Ltd., BioVent Ltd., Stimatix GI Ltd.Se-Cure Pharmaceuticals Ltd.The fund has an annual return of 31%.

Pontifax is in the process of selling its holding in Biomedix Incubator Ltd.(TASE:BMDX), the owner of Meytav Technological Enterprises Innovation Center Ltd. and Ashkelon Technological Industries (ATI), whose graduate companies include Collplant, IBI Medical Systems, and NasVax. Pontifax will directly acquire shares in the incubators’ portfolio companies in exchange for its stake in Biomedix.

Pontifax’s collaboration with Roche is a unique venture in which a multinational pharmaceutical company invests in Israeli start-ups with the support of the Office of the Chief Scientist. Six companies have been established through the joint venture, all of which are conducting preclinical trials of their products. Two of the companies are ATI portfolio company Quiet Therapeutics Ltd., which is developing SiRNA gene silencing-based therapeutics; and Meytav portfolio company cCAM Medical Ltd, which is developing a treatment for melanoma.

In addition to Pontifax, the other large biopharma fund active in Israel  is  Orbimed which has raised over $200 million with the support of the Chief Scientist to support fairly late-stage companies.

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