What’s Up With MedImmune?

I had an editor who liked to tell me all the time, “Don’t try to re-invent the wheel” every time I was working on a story. In corporate speak, it’s like saying, “Keep It Simple Stupid.”

So with that wisdom in hand, I thought I’d channel Dan Primack and clear off my desk and see what kind of paper dump I could come up with.

One note of mine I unearthed from the mess that is my desk was a question about a corporate venture arm: “What’s up with MedImmune Ventures?”

Of importance here is that MedImmune Inc., the Gaithersburg, Md.-based drug developer, was last month acquired by London-based AstraZeneca for more than $15 billion. What was not so widely reported was that the company’s founder, Wayne Hockmeyer, announced his retirement as president of the VC arm when the deal was finalized. Hockmeyer had earlier in the year stepped down as chairman of MedImmune when the merger was announced.

Hockmeyer is not only a local Maryland biotech pioneer, he’s also the face of MedImmune Ventures, an early stage investor of life sciences companies. The venture operation has made a decent number of deals, according to our Thomson Financial database, including last month backing Metastatix Inc., a Tucker, Ga.-based developer of drugs to inhibit cancer and the HIV virus. The company has riased $4.5 million from MedImmune and others.

Our database shows MedImmune Ventures’ portfolio includes about half a dozen companies that have went public, including Vanda Pharmaceuticals, which debuted on the Nasdaq last year.

I overheard from some investors in the life sciences arena that they thought the MedImmune merger would spell the end of the venture arm. Wasn’t sure if they were lamenting or gleeful.

I traded messages with MedImmune Inc. spokeswoman Kate Barrett who says, adamantly, that the venture arm is well-funded and remains actively seeking investments. No word on who will replace Hockmeyer or if the VC operation would ever consider going independent. So let me pen words of wisdom to live by. Don’t bury it if it’s not dead.

As always, if you have any insight on MedImmune Ventures, or any other corporate VC arm, drop me a line.