Since 2019, CipherBio, with support from our user base of VCs and CEOs, has tracked investments of $14.92 billion in Biotech, Diagnostics, Digital Health, and Medical Devices companies. North America received the bulk of those dollars, although other geographic areas did witness significant deal-making. Within the sector, biotech companies were the dominant ones by far.
Investment trends over time
Investments throughout 2019 and in January and February 2020 have been stable. However, given the coronavirus (COVID-19) disease outbreak and related developments in 2020 VC and CorpVC investing will most likely decline. In 2019, the peak took place in July as there were deals worth over $1.5 billion, and some of the top 25 deals were made. During that month, BioNTech from Germany raised $325 million in series B financing, and Breath Therapeutics Inc was acquired by Zambon for $558.7 million. Frequency Therapeutics raised $62 million in series C financing, and signed a $625 million development and distribution deal with Astellas Pharma. August 2019 was another busy month during which four more top deals were made. Babylon Health raised $550 million, BlueRock Therapeutics (incubated by JLabs) was acquired by Bayer for $1 billion, Corindus Vascular Robotics was acquired by Siemens for $1.1 billion, and Noile-Immune Biotech signed a $312 million deal to co-develop next generation SPEAR T-cell products with Adaptimmune Therapeutics PLC.
The beginning of 2020 witnessed significant activity as well. Below are some of the top deals.
- Akouos raised $105 million in series B funding. The company provides gene-based hearing loss therapies.
- ALX Oncology Inc, which works on cancer treatments, also secured $105 million in series C funding for midphase trials of CD47 cancer drug.
- EQRx, which focuses on efficiency and manufacturing drugs at cheaper and more affordable prices, raised $200 million in series A funding from Google Ventures (GV) and ARCH Venture Partners, among other investors.
Although biotech companies received the most attention and capital from investors, peaks and troughs in investment in diagnostics, digital health/AI, and medical devices companies paralleled those in biotech. Deal activity was somewhat subdued during the winter but sped up in spring and summer. Investment seemed to go quiet for the holidays before a burst of activity early in the new year.
Moreover, many giants from the technology sector are actively investing in healthcare. For example, Alphabet had founded Google Life Sciences and today it is an independent subsidiary under the name Verily Life Sciences. Amazon and Apple have opened clinics, and Uber has launched Uber Health to help with patient transportation.
This foray by technology companies (and their partners) into the life sciences sector is expected to address the large inefficiencies in the healthcare sector and usher in a wave of unprecedented innovation. This can already be witnessed by the growth of patent applications in the life sciences sector each year. For example, in 2019, there were 13,833 applications to patent and protect medical technologies in Europe, up from 12,531 in 2015. Based on other statistics from the European Patent Office (EPO), European companies maintained their lead in applying for life science patents in 2019. 41% of applications in pharmaceuticals came from European companies, with a 2.5% growth rate in 2019 over the previous year. 39% of applications in pharmaceuticals came from US companies, with a higher growth rate of 14.1%. 5% of the patents came from Japan, and 3% from China and South Korea combined.
Geographically, investment activity remains concentrated in North America
The distribution of the investments was geographically uneven, as investments remain largely concentrated in the coastal areas of the United States, with the East and West coast states receiving the biggest portions. Three of the top ten regions in the US in terms of sector activity were in California. Those were San Francisco Bay, San Diego, and Los Angeles. Massachusetts and New York are also among the top states in terms of VC funding. Companies in California and Massachusetts still receive most of the funding, but their portion of investments has dropped in the last two years, as investors now seek to fund companies in other markets. In New York, the amount of funds raised has grown by 52% in the last decade, according to one estimate. Middle states did not receive the same volumes as the eastern and western ones.
Prominent investors outside of the US
Outside of the US, the most active investors tend to be located in Europe (figure 4).
In Switzerland, there were two prominent investors: NexTech Invest which signed nine deals, and HBM Healthcare Investments which signed five. Both investors focused heavily on US markets with many American companies in their portfolios. Nonetheless, Swiss life science startups are also flourishing. According to the Swiss Biotech Association, 20 of the top 100 startups in Switzerland were biotech companies. Those companies include Cutiss AG, Polyneuron Pharmaceuticals AG, Volumina Medical SA, Maxwell Biosystems, and many others.
From Israel, Pontifax and aMoon Fund had five deals each. aMoon Fund was founded by Marius Nacht and Dr. Yair Schindel. Nacht had founded Check Point Software Technologies, a publicly traded cybersecurity company. After his father’s long struggle with cancer, he was inspired to team up with Dr. Schindel in a joint mission to bring innovative new treatment options to light.
From Asia, Horizons Ventures from Hong Kong and EDBI from Singapore inked four deals each, while Aju IB investments from South Korea signed three. RedMile Group, a Chinese hedge fund with operations in San Francisco, has been investing in companies working on protein degradation drugs (which help with diseases such as Alzaheimer’s and intractable cancers). Many companies in RedMile’s portfolio are US companies.
Composition of investments by sector
Since the beginning of 2019, the biotech sector saw 273 deals being made in total, including the majority of the top deals. The runner up was the digital health/AI sector with 122 deals, including a few top deals. The medical devices sector had 74 deals (but none of the top deals), and diagnostics had 48 deals in total, including a few top deals. In all sectors, most investments came from venture capitalists, as they were responsible for 69% of the deals in biotech, 76% in Digital health/AI, 77.1% in medical devices, and 75% in diagnostics companies. Corporate Venture Capitalists were the second most active providers of investments to those companies.
Most salient investment deals (excluding acquisitions)
Four of the top 11 deals involved companies that were developing better methods for detecting and treating cancer. Moreover, three companies (Poseida Therapeutics, Karius, and Maze Therapeutics) were working on extracting insights from genes. All top deals in series A rounds went to biotech companies, indicating that investors are willing to make big bets at an early stage.
- Babylon Health ($550 million, series C): Babylon Health, a UK-based company, secured investments totaling $550 million in series C funding. Babylon Health offers remote medical consultations via its AI-based robots. The company reached a $2 billion valuation following the round that was led by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF).
- BioNTech ($325 million, series B): BioNTech is a biotech company that seeks to offer highly individualized cancer treatments.
- Nuvation Bio ($275 million, series A): Nuvation Bio is an oncology startup.
- Century Therapeutics ($250 million, series A): Century Therapeutics is a biotech company focusing on stem cell therapies for cancer.
- CMR surgical ($240, series C): CMR surgical specializes in medical devices and produces a robotic surgery system.
- EQRx ($200 million, series A): EQRx is a UK-based company seeking to produce innovative medicines for the public at significantly lower prices.
- Maze Therapeutics ($191 million, series A): Maze Therapeutics is a biotech company that seeks to derive medicines based on people’s genetic makeup.
- Karius ($165 million, series B): Karius is a diagnostics company that seeks to fast track medical testing to uncover and treat infectious diseases based on genomic insights.
- Freenome ($160 million, series B)|: Freenome offers its multiomics platform to detect cancer early on with the help of AI.
- Concerto HealthAI ($150 million, series B): Concerto HealthAI is a digital health company focusing on precision oncology and aiming to accelerate therapeutic innovations and introduce them to people.
- Poseida Therapeutics ($142 million, series C): Poseida Therapeutics is a Biotech company that works on developing cell and gene therapies that build on the power of the human immune system.
- D&D Pharmatech ($137 million, series B): D&D Pharmatech is a biotech company that funds the development of groundbreaking medicines through its subsidiaries and partnerships.
Investors that made the largest number of deals
Some investors were more active than others. Perceptive Advisors, a hedge fund, was the most active investor securing 18 investment deals. Excellent management efforts have enabled the fund to achieve a staggering 53.7 percent return in 2019. This is higher than the 31 percent growth rate realized by the American benchmark S&P 500. Alexandria Venture Investments made 17 deals. The fund implements the cluster theory written by the famous management scholar and Professor Michael Porter. According to Porter, global competitive advantage stems largely from economic clusters (or ecosystems). Some of the target companies Alexandria Venture Investments has invested in are Prevail Therapeutics, eGenesis, Inc., and Nohla Therapeutics. It currently invests in Biotech companies for the most part. Out of the 66 companies in its portfolio, 57 companies are in the biotech sector, whereas the remaining companies are in digital healthcare/AI, medical devices, and research.
The investments of GV (Google Ventures) were also highly concentrated in biotech, as 40 companies (56.3%) in its portfolio of 71 companies were in the biotech sector. Despite this, other big investors still hold a higher percentage of biotech companies in their portfolios. GV sealed 15 deals within the period. In general, the focus on biotech companies was a common theme that emerged upon examining the portfolios of various investors.
There were other active investors such as ARCH Venture Partners with 16 deals, and Boxer Capital and Orbimed with 14 deals each. Redmile Group signed 13 deals, RA Capital Management 12, and Johnson & Johnson Innovation 11.
RA Capital Management implements an evidence-based investing (EBI) approach, which helps make sound capital allocation decisions by relying on rigorous research that shows where the weight of evidence lies. This approach reduces the probability and costs of investing mistakes that are usually caused by human biases. Most companies in RA Capital’s portfolio are biotech companies.
RedMile Group has also a portfolio with a high exposure to biotech companies. RedMile was a co-leader in Kymera Therapeutics’s C series investment round, in which it raised $102 million. Redmile Group also invested in Nurix alongside other investors such as Foresite Capital and Boxer Capital, among others. Nurix raised $120 million and is expected to use most of the funds on research on protein degradation drugs that help boost the immune system’s response to diseases.
The life sciences sector is benefiting from advances in technologies such as AI and robotics, among others. This intersection between technology and healthcare is releasing enormous value for investors, startups, and patients. Life science companies are enjoying strong investment momentum, led by biotech companies which have absorbed 64.6% of the $14.92 billion invested. Given the investors’ appetite, there is a high probability that the next wave of innovation will be originating from the sector.
What the future holds
The life sciences sector is growing, mostly driven by evolutionary forces. The availability of data and enhanced ability to analyze that data are factors behind that growth. Startups are aware of the potential and value that can be created, and investors agree with them. As a result, investment activity is likely to regain momentum once the coronavirus crisis reaches a turning point. CipherBio is staying and keeping you up to date about all the relevant deals and developments in the sector. Our strong network and connections with both investors and startups enable us to present you with the most timely, accurate, and comprehensive database about the entire life sciences ecosystem.
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