The new Wales Life Sciences Investment Fund has made its first investment, backing Merthyr Tydfil-based clinical research organisation Simbec Research.

The cash injection will allow the 40-year-old firm to take on a new phase of development, with the appointment of two former directors, Howard Jenkins and Trevor Tanner, and the acquisition of the company from its former parent the Canadian Altasciences Group, which will make Simbec Research a totally independent Welsh company.

This is the initial investment to come out of the Wales Life Sciences Investment Fund, which was launched in March. The fund has backing from biotech entrepreneur Sir Chris Evans’ Arthurian Life Sciences.

The commercial support will help with a planned expansion of Simbec’s workforce to employ more than 100 staff as well as investment in a range of clinical stage opportunities. Professor Trevor Jones, board director of Arthurian and former head of R&D at Wellcome Plc, will become Simbec’s chairman, and Sir Chris will join the firm’s board.

Simbec’s new chief executive Howard Jenkins said: “This new partnership with the Wales Life Sciences Fund is a major step towards creating an invigorated and more dynamic company and we look forward to a highly stimulating period of growth for Wales and for all involved.”

Sir Chris said: “We had been watching developments at Simbec very closely and had to move fast to secure this deal once the Canadian owners had decided to sell. We are pleased we were able to anchor this company in Wales and preserve this very significant number of skilled jobs. This is a good Welsh-based clinical business and the extensive Arthurian networks should be able to contribute significantly to the growth of Simbec’s commercial activities in the near future.”

The £100 million fund, which is part supported by the Welsh Government, was set up in a bid to boost growth in the country and establish Wales as a credible base for life sciences. According to the Welsh Government, The life sciences industry is worth £1.3 billion to the economy.

Since its launch, the fund has received more than 160 applications from business seeking investment in Wales.