Zombie no more: Oxford Bioscience raises new fund

Jan 12, 2011

Dan Primack was a senior editor at Fortune from 2010 to 2016. He was also the author of Term Sheet, Fortune's daily newsletter about deals and dealmakers.

A few years ago I wrote off Oxford Bioscience Partners, a Boston-based venture capital firm focused on the life sciences space. Specifically, I included Oxford in a slideshow called The VC Walking Dead.

The firm was displeased. It said that Oxford didn't meet the criteria for zombie-hood -- no dry powder to add new portfolio companies -- because it still had 33% of its $150 million fifth fund remaining (it originally tried to raise $400 million). My original info had come from a firm insider, but I relented after being told about a new investment in something called GloriOil. Fair's fair, although it's safe to say I kept Oxford on my Walking Dead Watchlist (it's a real thing, complete with some George Romero-esque doodlings).

Well, today I take them off.

Fortune has learned that Oxford has held a $66 million first close on its sixth fund, which is targeting a total between $100 million and $150 million. More impressively, the firm has yet to solicit capital from its existing investors.

The initial contributions come from the government of South Korea and the municipal government of Seoul. It's part of a national program to encourage VC investment in the country, and Oxford has tapped a local partner in Hanhwa Corp. It's currently unclear if any existing Oxford staffers will be on the ground in Korea, although we have learned that the new fund will invest in both Korean and American startups.

So why Korea, as opposed to "hotter" Asian startup markets like China or India? Part of the answer obviously lies in the funding, which Oxford may not have been able to secure elsewhere. I'm also told that Oxford believes the Korean stock markets are more receptive to bioscience companies than are the Chinese or Indian exchanges (note: Oxford takes a broad view of bioscience, including pharma, green chemistry and bio-enabled energy). Finally, Oxford appreciates South Korea's willingness to endorse intellectual property (IP) rights, which is particularly important for bioscience companies.

No official comment yet from Oxford, of course, due to SEC fundraising restrictions.

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