While some local venture capital funds are in the process of forming partnerships to bid for the biotechnology incubators under the auspices of the Chief Scientist of the Ministry of Industry and Trade, Clal Biotechnology Industries is to this month open its own Yavne-based research and application center, Clal Biotechnology Laboratories, (CBL).

Preliminary investment in the incubator is over $3 million.

The center is to be headed by Michael Schickler, who today told TheMarker that two of Clal Biotechnology's portfolio companies, MediWound and CureTech, will be the first to relocate to the new center.

Clal Biotechnology is currently considering investing in another two local startups, which are expected to join the incubator as part of the investment agreement.

The incubator is to serve as a research and manufacturing center for Clal Biotechnology portfolio companies. The center will include research laboratories and a biotechnology manufacturing facility for startups nearing the clinical trials stage.

Clal Biotechnology is considered Israel's leading life sciences venture capital fund. In addition to supporting research and clinical developments, the center will provide strategic services, such as business development and management, and administrative services.

The center will employ twelve Clal Biotechnology workers, including managers for the clinical trials unit and the business development division.

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Schickler joined Clal Biotechnology in mid-2001. Before that he served as managing director and VO for development in Pharmos, the Israeli R&D subsidiary of Pharmos Corp. (Nasdaq:PARS).

He said that Clal Biotechnology will be significantly involved in the companies' activities, in order to shorten the learning curve on each project. He said Clal Biotechnology will provide these companies with professional assistance in their contacts with world health authorities. He said that such assistance is aimed at cutting back on resources and advancing the companies' entry into the market.

Clal Biotechnology invested $3 million in each of MediWound and CureTech, in which it owns 80% and 42% of the shares respectively.

MediWound, established in 2000, is developing a product called Debridase, designed for treating burns. The product is based on plant enzymes. The company is currently in talks with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for commencing Phase III clinical trials of this product in 2002. MediWound has five workers and is in the process of recruiting another two.

CureTech was founded in January 2001. Schickler, who serves as CEO, said that the company is developing an antibody for activating certain cells in the immune system, so that they can participate in destroying cancer cells. Schickler added that the company is developing another immune system product for the body to independently activate antibodies. The product is designed for treating a wide range of cancerous tumors.

CureTech is planning to commence with toxicological trials this year.

The company has seven employees and is in the process of recruiting another three.

Clal Biotechnology in 2001 invested over $20 million in Israeli biotechnology and medical equipment companies, out of which some $6 million was invested in D-Pharm and over $7 million was invested in Mindset Biopharmaceuticals.