Israel Biotech Fund to raise $50-100m

Shmuel Cabilly

Investors in the new fund include Dr. Yuval Cabilly and Nasdaq-traded Biogen.

Dr. Yuval Cabilly is founding a new venture capital fund, the Israel Biotech Fund, which will attempt to raise $50-100 million. The fund is intended to focus on biotech companies, sources inform "Globes."

One of the investors in the new fund is Dr. Shmuel Cabilly, Yuval Cabilly's father. Cabilly Senior invented technology used by hundreds of companies around the world to develop more than 500 drugs. Another investor expected to put money into the fund, Biogen, is listed on Nasdaq at a $65 billion market cap.

Shmuel Cabilly's invention is considered one of the most profitable in the history of Israeli science. According to various estimates, Cabilly has received at least tens of millions of dollars from his invention. Another beneficiary from the invention is Genentech, where Shmuel Cabilly worked when he developed his invention. Estimates are that the invention created a market with an annual turnover in the tens of millions of dollars. The list of drugs developed as a result of this invention includes, among others, Avastin and Erbitux for treating various types of cancer, Humira and Rituxan for rheumatoid arthritis, Herceptin for treatment of breast cancer, etc.

In 2007, Cabilly's patent became the subject of a lawsuit when British company Celltech claimed its patent had been registered first, and therefore sued Genentech. During the court hearings, Cabilly found the first draft of the patent prepared by the company's lawyer. Since under US law, the patent belongs to the person who invented it first, not the first to announce it, Genentech was awarded the right to all the British company's patents.

Cabilly was one of the founders of Ethrog Biotechnologies. According to the IVC database, the company was founded in 1993 and sold in 2000 for $15 million to the Life Technologies corporation. Cabilly later became an angel investor in biotechnology startups.

The Cabilly invention makes it possible to manufacture a new family of drugs, called monoclonal antibodies. Since each antibody has the structure of a tail and two chains, one of the chains contains an element able to identify an intruder, and the tail is able to destroy it. The technology developed by Cabilly makes it possible to produce all parts of the antibody in the same cell, even if they were programmed and developed in separate cells. As a result of their ability to identify each cell in the body, monoclonal antibodies are also used as diagnostic tools and for research, and are expected to remain extremely important in the pharmaceutical industry in the coming years also.

Shmuel Cabilly generally avoids publicity, but in 2012, he appeared at a conference held by OrbiMed Advisors LLC. "The market for drugs based on monoclonal antibodies currently amounts to $44 billion," Cabilly said at the conference. "By 2018, it is expected to reach $80-90 billion. What happens after 2018 doesn't interest me, because that's when the patent expires."

Commenting on the creative process, Cabilly once said, "When I was first asked how such an antibody can be produced within a cell, I wasn't aware of the medical complexity. Sometimes ignorance is bliss; maybe I never would have started." He added that his success was "90% by accident."

Cabilly went on to say, "Random encounters, whether between molecules or people, play a decisive role. Our thinking is constructed patch by patch, like evolution." He remarked, "A year ago, my wife and I were in a market in Cambodia, and we saw a pretty girl, so pretty that I said, 'I'm going to become religiously observant, because design like this is a success, unlike mine.' Later, I saw someone so ugly that I said, 'Who designed her? I'm not going to become religiously observant!'

"I'm saying this because not long ago, my son's mathematics professor said that evolution was mathematically impossible. He said that out of ignorance. Evolution is constantly taking place in our body. Effective antibodies are possible only because they constantly change and create random structures in order to meet microbes whose speed of reproduction is 40 times ours. We all live and think every day because of evolution."

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on November 15, 2015

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2015

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