Pharma Giant Roche To Strengthen R and D Pipeline In Israel Through Pontifax DealSwiss pharmaceutical giant F. Hoffmann–La Roche signed a deal with Israeli venture capital firm Pontifax Management Company for its first significant undertaking in the country to build up its R&D pipeline by way of investment in the Israeli life science industry.

Pontifax will help Roche, one of the world's leading healthcare companies, identify and invest in Israeli biotech companies, with an initial focus on seed-stage and later-stage biotech firms in areas such as drug development, clinical trials, manufacturing, and marketing.

Selected start-ups will be admitted to an incubator affiliated with Pontifax. The joint investment will complement funding through the incubator program of the Office of the Chief Scientist of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor. In 2007, a delegation of Hoffman-La Roche executives visited 40 Israeli biotech companies and examined 47 academic research projects.

Roche, which was established in 1896, covers every stage of the healthcare process, from identifying disease susceptibilities and testing for disease in at-risk populations to prevention, diagnosis, therapy and treatment monitoring. Herzliya-based Pontifax specializes in investments in seed, early and mid stage companies, including startups. Despite the pressures of the global financial crisis, Roche joins several other international companies that have chosen to invest in the Israeli life science industry.

In February, Medtronic Inc, the world's largest stand-alone maker of medical devices, agreed to buy the Netanya-based Israeli start-up Ventor Technologies, for $325 million in cash. Prior to that, Johnson & Johnson bought Omrix for $438 million and St. Jude acquired Haifa’s Mediguide for $300 million.