Valencia | Madrid. October 2020 – Columbus Venture Partners, a Spanish-owned venture capital firm in the biotechnology sector, has announced the sale of its holdings Asklepios BioPharmaceutical (AskBio), a world leader in gene therapy, and Viralgen Vector Core, a manufacturer of adeno-associated vectors (AAVs), to the pharmaceutical company Bayer.
The three companies, Bayer, Askbio and Viralgen, have the common goal of developing and manufacturing new treatments for gene therapy, a revolutionary medical technique that provides hope to patients suffering from previously incurable diseases. With AskBio and Viralgen’s unique technology Pro10™ for the development and manufacture of new AAV-based therapies, Bayer will be able to make progress in establishing a gene and cell therapy platform. This unique technology is at the forefront of the most breakthrough science and will fuel the company’s growth
Javier García and Damià Tormo, the founders of Columbus VP, believe that the economic benefits are furthered by this Spanish innovation ecosystem that is currently unprecedented in Europe and being strengthened by Bayer’s support. Javier García, also CEO of Viralgen, highlights “that these therapies facilitate the treatment of previously incurable diseases and also make it possible for the Columbus Foundation to continue its mission and search for a cure for extremely rare diseases.”
According to Damià Tormo, “it is a major agreement and great news in terms of the benefits generated for the country’s innovation economy and for our investors. The operation supports our investment strategy by opting for very efficient funds to invest 50% in the development of breakthrough therapies and 50% in innovative industrial manufacturing.”
These four divestments from the Columbus INNVIERTE Life Science I Fund, established at the end of 2016, accumulate an internal rate of return (IRR) of 130%. Less than two years after its launch, the Columbus Life Science II Fund has already begun to give its first returns with the sale of its stake in Askbio and the purchase option of Viralgen Commercial.
According to the agreement terms announced, Bayer will make a first payment of $2 billion through AskBio, which is owned by Columbus Funds I and II, and will assume potential payments of up to another $2 billion, in accordance with the fulfillment of established milestones. In the same transaction, Bayer has committed to acquiring the 50% stake held by Columbus in Viralgen within 30 days of closing the AskBio acquisition. Columbus VP has also closed a purchase option with Bayer for Viralgen Commercial, the new industrial production plant that will begin to operate at the end of 2021 and which corresponds to its second Fund.
The agreement also guarantees administrative autonomy, expansion plans and the continuity of corporate identities and the companies’ management and professional teams.