Bob Ingram, RTP needs you. Big time.

With the N.C. Biotechnology Center’s budget at risk of being cut by 60 percent, with venture capital in North Carolina continuing to be scarce, yet with many promising companies crossing fingers and hoping for investment to carry them to the promised land of FDA approved life-science therapies, just imagine what $465 million in startup funding from GlaxoSmithKline would do.

Well, just imagine that possibility for now. 

Why? Because GSK announced on Monday an investment deal along side venture capital firm Avalon Ventures to invest up to $465 million in up to 10 startups.

But here’s the kicker: The firms must be located in San Diego where Avalon is based.

San Diego is a nice place with many promising drug firms, but RTP has the third largest life science cluster in the U.S.

Plus, GSK (NYSE: GSK) operates its North American headquarters right here in the Park.

Plus, many former GSK executives still work here – some in the venture community. 

Among them: Bob Ingram, former chairman and CEO of GlaxoWellcome who is now a general partner with Hatteras Venture Partners in Durham.

Maybe Mr. Ingram could do a similar deal with GSK for RTP?

Go for it, Hatteras. (Maybe they already are? Let’s hope so.) After all, Hatteras recently closed on a fund totaling totaling $125 million.

Ingram recently was awarded CED’s annual Life Science Award, and in accepting it he said that North Carolina and the Southeast need to attract more venture capital to support innovation: “Great ideas need funding and we need more capital.”

The Avalon Deal

GSK is rethinking its drug development strategy, shifting away from internal to external development. It’s already made a major deal with Triangle-based Liquidia. The giant has worked well in the past with pain reliever developer Pozen. So maybe the Avalon deal could be replicated here.

Avalon calls its deal with GSK the “first-of-its-kind collaboration,” and the venture firm is kicking in up to $30 million from a recently raised $200 million fund.

“The collaboration between GSK and Avalon Venturesrepresents a new paradigm for funding early-stage life science companies in which Avalon can continue to pursue its validated approach to company formation and value creation whilecapitalizing on the drug discovery and developmentinfrastructure of one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies,” said Jay Lichter, managing director of Avalon Ventures, in announcing the deal. “I believe that this partnership has the potential to drive the innovation ecosystem and economic growth in Southern California.”

Under the deal, Avalon will provide leadership and management for startups while GSK will have the option to acquire each firm as a “clinical candidate” is developed. 

“We are committed to finding creative ways to support academia and the early stage research that is vital to the success of our industry,” said Moncef Slaoui, the chairman of Research and Development at GSK, about the deal. “This innovative collaboration with Avalon, which has established a robust track record in drug discovery, will benefit not only GSK but the life science industry as a whole and, ultimately, patients.”

So, let’s hope a similar deal is done for RTP.

After all, RTP with its major research universities and already existing infrastructure supporting a wide range of life science from discovery to manufacturing, from genomics to nanotechnology, is all right here.

And the Triangle also has Bob Ingram.

Go for it, Mr. Ingram. 

[GSK ARCHIVE: Check out more than a decade of GSK stories as reported in WRAL Tech Wire.]