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Amgen Fund Could Lead To Stem Cell Involvement

It’s normal in the Bay Area and Silicon Valley. The largest biotechnology companies have spin-off divisions that provide venture capital funding to emerging companies, giving the superpowers a chance take advantage of the newest breakthroughs in their industry. Los Angeles’ only large biotechnology presence, Amgen, had been slow to follow suit until announcing on Nov. 11 that it was forming Amgen Ventures with a budget of $100 million. “We understand obviously that there is a lot of innovative research happening,” said Amgen spokeswoman Christine Cassiano. “We thought it was important to establish a presence in early-stage biotech companies.” Cassiano said that Amgen started to focus on its outreach strategy in 2000 and is launching Amgen Ventures as a way to benefit in the future from research beginning today. Amgen already collaborates with companies that can help advance the firm’s work in cancer studies and other therapies. Amgen Ventures will be a chance to get in on the ground floor in a wider range of research with very low financial risk. Brent Reinke, a corporate partner with law firm Reed Smith who works with many emerging biotechnology companies, said that Amgen Ventures could be in a perfect position to work with companies doing stem cell research. With the passing of Proposition 71, California will be launching a bond sale to put billions of dollars toward embryonic stem cell research. Reinke said that Amgen may be more likely to fund these companies “if they feel that there’s going to be a spreading of the risk, that they’re not going to be the only ones coming in and providing (research and development).” Reinke added that Proposition 71 is also going to spur the creation of many new companies eager to get involved with stem cell research. Cassiano said that the founding of Amgen Ventures had nothing to do with Proposition 71, and that the announcement of the new company within a week of the Nov. 2 election was just a coincidence. Amgen Ventures has not announced what companies or fields it will be investing in, although Cassiano said the company is anticipating those announcements within the next few weeks. Jim Cole, managing partner with Windward Ventures in its Westlake Village Office, said he has no professional involvement with early stage biotechnology companies, but said that he personally expects Amgen Ventures to take an interest in companies doing stem cell research. “If I were Amgen and I saw that there was fresh capital around to support stem cell research I would (look into it),” Cole said. “It would behoove them as a pharmaceutical company to put some capital money in those companies.”

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