SINGAPORE (Feb 10): Baidu Inc. is often referred to as China's Google with a market value of more than US$60 billion ($85.3 billion). But in 2000, it was an upstart struggling to get any attention from investors—except from a guy named Finian Tan.Tan, then head of Asia at DFJ Eplanet Ventures, began investing in the search engine, betting that 1.3 billion Chinese would eventually embrace the internet. When it went public five years later, Tan's firm emerged as the bigger beneficiary with a stake larger than the 22% held by Baidu co-founder, and now billionaire, Robin Li. He's making a similar bet on San Diego-based regenerative medicine company Samumed LLC, which is valued at US$12 billion.
What attracted Tan was Samumed’s approach to treating arthritic knees, hair loss, scarring of the lungs and degenerative disc diseases. The company is pursuing novel therapies for those conditions and cancer with drugs that target a cell-signaling pathway that offers promise in reversing the biological processes of aging.
“Only twice in my life I have bet so big on day one,” says Tan, 54, a Singaporean who co-founded Vickers Venture Partners in 2005. “Samumed is going to make even more money for us.”Samumed’s chief executive officer is Turkish-American entrepreneur Osman Kibar, who has managed to raise more than US$300 million in private funding for the company he founded in 2008. Before that, Kibar was scientific founder of Genoptix Inc., an oncology diagnostics company that Novartis AG bought for US$470 million in 2011. Tan began investing in Samumed in 2012. Today, Vickers and its co-investors own about 11 percent, including 3.8% held by Vickers. Tan's company is the only VC firm backing Samumed with the rest of its funding coming primarily from institutional family offices, the startup said. Investing in biotech startups is innately risky, with uncertainties over regulation and execution, according to Paul Santos, managing partner of Wavemaker Partners in Singapore.