Billionaire Hong Kong Chan family invests €1.4m in UCC spin-off
Morningside Investments, the global private equity vehicle owned by Hong Kong's billionaire Chan family, has invested almost €1.4m in an Irish biological startup.
The equity vehicle has invested in UCC spin-off Artugen Therapeutics, the Irish Independent has learned.
Morningside is headed by Gerald Chan, who holds an Irish passport and is a regular visitor to Ireland.
Artugen discovered a new antimicrobial agent that can kill the deadly Clostridium Difficile (CDiff) bacterium, which is resistant to antibiotics.
The research also involved scientists at Teagasc, the state's agricultural and food development authority. Colin Hill, the professor who headed the team that identified the antimicrobial agent, Thuricin CD, told the Irish Independent that the investment from Morningside will fund Artugen over the next 18 months.
It will spend that time doing additional research, and identifying the right strategy for the agent. That will determine whether the agent is used to as a frontline defence against CDiff, as a preventative treatment, or used as part of patient recovery programmes.
Artugen will also hire a small number of scientists to engage in ongoing research.
Mr Hill said that Mr Chan visited UCC's APC Microbiome Institute and spent a day receiving presentations from a number of teams explaining their work.
He opted to back Artugen. The Cork university also has a stake in the startup.
"We were enormously impressed with the level of engagement," according to Mr Hill.
He added that Artugen has also appointed Boston-based professor Ronnie Farquhar as its chief executive.
Mr Farquhar has held executive roles in a number of pharmaceutical companies, and studied at Oxford and Edinburgh.
Mr Chan is also based in Boston, and studied biology at Harvard back in the 1970s, where he received a doctorate.