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OyaGen News

State pension fund invests in Henrietta biotech firm

Matthew Daneman – Staff writer, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
September 25, 2010

A small Henrietta biotechnology firm is working on enzyme discoveries that it hopes will translate into drugs that tackle HIV, hepatitis and some forms of cancer. And New York’s huge public pension fund is hoping that the firm might turn into a lucrative enterprise some day.

The state’s $128 billion Common Retirement Fund is doubling down on its investment in OyaGen Inc., putting an additional $500,000 into the biotech firm.

The state’s Common Retirement Fund has a $971 million pool, the In-state Private Equity Program, to be used for investing in small businesses, the string attached being a commitment to remaining in New York.

According to the New York Comptroller’s Office, the state has invested in 155 firms since 2000
. And of the 39 companies in which the state has exited its investment, the pension fund netted more than $53 million off the $99.5 million it invested.

The fund works with 17 investment managers, including Trillium Group LLC in Rochester, to serve as the gatekeeper, vetting the companies vying for the investment dollars.

The Comptroller’s Office said the state’s investments are typically for five to seven years.

OyaGen will use the money to further its research and for robotics equipment, said founder and Chief Technical Officer Harold C. Smith, a professor of molecular biology at University of Rochester.

The state’s latest $500,000 brings to a total $1 million that the pension fund has put into OyaGen since 2006.

The money is being matched by $500,000 raised from private investors, with Trillium Group trying to raise a total of $3 million for the firm.