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Chinese PE Firm Closes $400 Million Fund

A Chinese private equity firm that has its eye on San Diego biotech just closed a $400 million fund, its second and biggest yet.

The company, called C-Bridge Capital, is based in Shanghai but has offices in San Diego and Boston. The fund puts its cash into biotech, pharmaceuticals, medical device, and mobile health care. C-Bridge is especially looking to invest in companies developing therapies for hepatitis B and lung cancer, which has seen a dramatic increase in China due to high pollution and an aging population of smokers.

Founded in 2014 with a $200 million fund, the company now has $700 million in assets under management. That includes I-Bridge Capital, a $100 million venture capital fund headed by CEO Fu Wei focused on life science and health care.

The fund’s local representative is Jason Brown, who’s been managing director for C-Bridge for the past year. He’s a former associate from Forward Ventures, a popular San Diego venture firm that had its heyday in the early 2000s but whose investments dwindled over time. Today, Forward Ventures is a ghost in the local health care space, rarely making even small investments and never leading deals.

Forward Ventures is a good example of the exodus of local venture capital from San Diego. Today, San Diego companies often look to outside firms for venture or private equity capital to grow their companies.

Increasingly, local life science companies have been looking to deep pockets in China to tap investor groups there. That’s because these investment firms only recently became safe bets for companies guarding trade secrets – drugmakers and medtech companies, for example. It seems the tightening of intellectual property rules in China, along with loads of government incentives, have cultivated a boom in China’s life science industry that’s starting to bleed into San Diego’s economy.

Over the past two years, deal after deal has been announced with involvement from Chinese investors — a new trend for local life science companies that historically received very little cash from that part of the globe.

Most recently, Epic Sciences announced a $40 million financing round earlier this month with money coming in part from Shanghai-based Hermed Capital.

Before that, local VC fund Avalon Ventures joined forces with two Chinese funds — Lilly Asia Ventures and Vivo Capital — on an $18 million round for Fortis Therapeutics. And BioNano Genomics, which teamed up with Beijing’s Legend Capital on their Series C in 2014, is now working with two Chinese investors (Legend and Ping An Ventures) on their current Series D.

Read more on the China’s entrance into San Diego biotech in our May 2017 Special Report.

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