AstraZeneca has committed an additional $100 million to its venture capital arm and announced an investment in Australian life sciences start-up NeuProtect.

The Anglo-Swedish drugmaker's MedImmune Ventures now has total capital under management of $400 million. The cash is invested in private companies that focus on biopharmaceuticals, medical and healthcare technology.

Since 2009, the VC has been evergreen, where a start-up receives regular funds rather than a one-time lump sum. The firm's website reveals a portfolio of 15 companies, including the antibiotics specialist Rib-X Pharmaceuticals, Synovex, which is developing a novel antibody therapeutic for rheumatoid arthritis and Inotek Pharmaceuticals, an eye expert with a focus on glaucoma.

Ron Laufer, senior managing director at MedImmune Ventures, noted that with the additional funding from AstraZeneca, "we look forward to expanding our investment activities globally and across therapy areas. We believe that in the current financial environment, there is a growing role for corporate VC funds". Simon Lowth, AstraZeneca's chief financial officer, added that the fresh cash combines "commitment to advance science and technology in the life science industry while generating financial returns expected of VC funds.”

Joining the aforementioned 15 companies is NeuProtect. AstraZeneca has co-led the second round of financing, with Starfish Ventures, for the Australian company which specialises in the reduction of cardiac remodelling post-myocardial infarction. It is the VC's first investment in Australia.