Investors keen to capitalise on British science have poured nearly £50m into a new venture capital fund.

Epidarex, a specialist life science venture capital group, will on Thursday unveil a new £47.5m fund dedicated to UK start-ups, including university spin-outs.

Backers include US drug giant Eli Lilly as well as King’s College London and other major research universities. It has also attracted investment from the EU’s European Investment Fund, Scottish Enterprise and Strathclyde Pension Fund.

Elaine Sullivan, vice-president of global external research and development at Lilly, said the US drugmaker’s investment, its first in a UK venture capital fund, underlined its belief in Britain as a scientific powerhouse.

“This investment reflects Lilly’s strong belief in the excellence of life science research and development in the UK and will complement our own R&D and existing academic partnerships,” she said.

Sinclair Dunlop, managing partner at Epidarex Capital, moved from the US to his native Scotland last year to launch the fund. He said the fundraising was a “significant validation of the UK’s life science research base”.

He added: “All of our investors are committed to the fund’s goal of providing the scalable capital needed to commercialise the UK’s most innovative research.”

The completion of the new fund is the latest sign that investors are warming up to Britain’s biotech companies, which have struggled to attract capital in the risk-averse environment following the financial crisis.

Earlier this year, the successful stock market debut of cat allergy company Circassia, which raised £200m in what is thought to be London’s biggest ever biotech float, also helped boost confidence.

Meanwhile Mayor of London Boris Johnson has launched an initiativetasked with convincing investors from around the world to put their money behind research from Oxbridge and the major London universities rather than their competitors in the US, where most biotech funding currently ends up.

Epidarex first launched the Edinburgh-based fund last year under its previous name of Rock Spring Ventures.

Back then it had already secured £25m from the universities of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen as well as the EU. King’s College London and Eli Lilly came on board more recently.

Epidarex in February invested £4m from the fund in Edinburgh Molecular Imaging, a spin-out from Edinburgh University that is developing a new method for diagnosing lung disorders.