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Lilly invests in NY life sciences venture capital initiative

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Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly and Co. has joined two other companies to contribute $40 million to an early-stage life sciences venture capital initiative in New York City.

New York economic development officials announced the effort to launch more life sciences companies Tuesday afternoon. The City of New York will contribute $10 million, according to the Wall Street Journal, and will look to attract venture capital firms willing to put in another $50 million.

The initiative hopes to launch 15 to 20 new life sciences companies in New York by 2020.

Lilly operates a research and development center in New York focused on cancer, which it acquired in 2008 as part of its purchase of New York-based drug company ImClone Systems Inc.

The two other companies contributing money are New Jersey-based biotech company Celgene Corp. and GE Ventures, the venture capital arm of Connecticut-based General Electric Co. The contributions of each company were not disclosed.

Also helping the effort are Rockefeller University, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Weill Cornell Medical College, Mount Sinai Medical Center and Columbia University.

“For us, the key thing is to spot unique, world-class research very early so we can be both an investor in future opportunities but also to potentially learn from that and adapt our own science into new areas based on new discoveries,” said Jan Lundberg, Lilly’s executive vice president for science and technology, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Venture capital funding in life sciences firms has been dampened not only by the slow economy, but even more by increased regulatory scrutiny and a murky environment for reimbursement of new medical products.

“It’s quite unfortunate that early-stage investment has been reduced over time from venture capital companies and that’s the reason that big pharma companies like Lilly are interested in this area,” said Lundberg, according to the Wall Street Journal.

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