Vivo Ventures plans its first in Asian life-science investments now that it has closed a new fund, VentureWire is reporting (subscription required). The Palo Alto, Calif., outfit, formerly known as BioAsia Investments due to its former association with Asian investors, just closed a $275 million healthcare fund, its sixth.

From the VentureWire story:

Vivo expects to invest this fund in 14 to 18 companies, with a particular emphasis on those with drugs or medical devices in clinical trials. Historically, it has put 70% of investments into biotechnology companies and 30% into medical device concerns. Its portfolio includes drug makers Aspreva Pharmaceuticals Corp., which went public in 2005; CoTherix Inc., which went public in 2004 and was acquired last year by Actelion Ltd.; and Oculex Pharmaceuticals Inc., acquired by Allergan Inc. in 2003 for $230 million cash.

In recent years, Vivo has been considering opportunities in Asia and is now ready to make direct investments there. It already has backed an undisclosed U.S. company that has two joint ventures with Chinese companies, [Vivo partner Chen] Yu said. In addition, the firm has hired a team in China to help it invest there, though Yu declined to give details about that team or the types of investments the firm expects to make there. He estimated that Vivo would back two or three Asian companies with this fund.

The partners are attracted to Asia, and China in particular, because the medical-technology market there is beginning to mature, Yu said. Other firms scouting Chinese health-care opportunities include Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, which last year hired as partner James Li, former medical director of China operations; and Burrill & Co., which is raising up to $200 million for a China-focused fund.

Yu also said Vivo is positioned to see the best deals in China, largely because of the connections of Managing Partner Frank Kung, who formerly was co-founder of Genelabs Technologies Inc., a company he took public in 1991 that established operations in Taiwan, Singapore, and Switzerland in addition to the U.S.

Vivo’s bare-bones release on its new fund is here.