After a red-hot 2018, private venture capital investment in early-stage biopharma and life-sciences companies cooled off this past year, notwithstanding the still-significant number of headline-grabbing nine-figure financings enjoyed by some companies. Why the decline? Experts have offered varying explanations, including financial markets still recovering from last year’s global equity sell-off, last winter’s U.S. government shutdown, and continuing trade and political tensions.

Also, both the law firm Jones Day and the Biotechnology Innovation Organization have cited regulations proposed by President Donald Trump’s Administration to implement the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act (FIRRMA) of 2018.

Those rules would further expand the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States’ (CFIUS) jurisdiction beyond transactions that could result in control of a U.S. business shifting to overseas investors, to also include a noncontrolling direct or indirect investment by a foreign person as spelled out by the U.S. Treasury Department. “It’s starting to slow things down, and we’ve seen a couple of investments not go through because one of the key components of a deal was this outside, foreign investment,” David Thomas, BIO’s VP of industry research, told Xconomy.

Figures released by three trackers of the private capital market showed overall year-over-year double-digit declines of more than 20% in the dollar value of financings during the third quarter. The Q3 2019 PitchBook National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) Venture Monitor report showed a total $11.5 billion in financings in the “pharma & biotech” sector between January–September 2019—a nearly 21% drop in value from the $14.48 billion recorded during the first half of 2018.

MoneyTree Report, compiled by PwC/CB Insights, showed a 25.5% plunge in financing value during the first nine months of 2019, to $9.461 billion—while a Vantage analysis of data from Evaluate showed a total $10.22 billion in financings, down 23% from $13.3 billion in January-February 2018.

The three reports varied widely, however, when it comes to a trend for the overall number of financings. PitchBook/NVCA reported an 11% increase in the number of deals year-over-year, to 609 in January–September 2019, from 548 in the first three quarters of 2018. MoneyTree Report, however, showed only a 1% increase, with the number of deals in January–September inching up to 457 from 452 a year ago. Lastly, Vantage’s analysis of Evaluate data even recorded a sizeable 15% decline, to 278 from 326 in Q1–Q3 2018.

Below is GEN’s A-List of top 10 private financings list for 2019, as of deadline on December 26. Companies are listed with the amounts they raised, the type of financing, the date(s) announced, the stated purposes of their financings, leading investors, and participating partner investors. In a handful of instances, financing partners disclosed the amount of their investments; those instances are included in parentheses next to the partners’ names.

Not included in the list are two companies that raised sizeable sums then went public: BridgeBio Pharma garnered approximately $366.3 million in net proceeds from its initial public offering (IPO) after raising $299.2 million in unspecified private financing. BioNTech racked up $413.7 million in private capital$325 million in Series B financing and an €80 million ($88.7 million) equity investment by Sanofi—before reaping a total $149.084 million in net proceeds from its IPO and subsequent exercise by IPO underwriters of a 30-day option to purchase additional shares.

Just off the top-10 list at No. 11 was Schrödinger, whose $195 million in two unspecified financing rounds was good enough for the company to rank No. 7 on GEN’s A-List of Young Companies in the Money, January–June 2019. Even better for Schrödinger were the two big-name investors it attracted in its January 2019 round of $85 million, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Trust and WuXi AppTec’s Corporate Venture Fund.

 

10. Tempus

Amount: $200 million

Type: Series F financing

Date announced: May 30

Purpose: Further enhance operations and accelerate its expansion into new therapeutic areas and geographies. Tempus seeks to build the world’s largest library of molecular and clinical data, starting with cancer, as well as an operating system to collect, sort, and analyze that data, in order to improve its accessibility and utility to physicians.

Financing leaders: None specified

Financing partners: Baillie Gifford, Franklin Templeton, NEA, Novo Holdings, Revolution Growth, and funds and accounts managed by T. Rowe Price

 

9. MGI

Amount: “Exceeded” $200 million 1

Type: Series A financing

Date announced: May 9 1

Purpose: Further strengthen the research and development and production of new gene sequencers, create a comprehensive product layout around digitalization of life, and commit to market development and “ecological construction” of the gene sequencing industry.

Financing leader(s): None specified

Financing partners: CITIC, Jinshi Capital, Songhe Capital and Dongzheng Capital

 

8. Taimei Technology

Amount: 1.5 billion yuan ($214 million)

Type:  Series E/E+ financing

Date announced: October 18

Purpose:  Improve the construction of its digital life sciences platform, build infrastructure for future operation in the pharmaceutical industry, and further expand its business in pharmaceutical R&D, pharmacovigilance, market access, and pharmaceutical marketing. Taimei is a Shanghai cloud-based software provider that serves biopharmas and clinical research organizations (CROs).

Financing leader(s): Tiger Global Management and Tencent

Financing partners: SB China Capital (SBCVC), Morningside Venture Capital, Cowin Venture, SAIF Partners, Zheshang Venture, and Ivy Capital.

 

7. Asklepios Biopharmaceutical (AskBio)

Amount: $235 million

Type: Unspecified financing round

Date announced: April 11

Purpose:  Provide AskBio with additional capital to help advance and expand clinical trials, enhance its manufacturing capabilities and capacity, and drive long-term growth.

Financing leader(s): TPG Capital and Vida Ventures ($225 million combined)

Financing partners: AskBio’s founders and board members ($10 million)

 

6. Anthos Therapeutics

Amount: $250 million

Type: Launch capital

Date announced: February 27

Purpose: Advancing next-generation targeted therapies for high-risk cardiovascular patients.

Financing leader(s): Funds managed by Blackstone Life Sciences, which will control the development of the company’s products.

Financing partners: Novartis 2

 

5. Century Therapeutics

Amount: $250 million

Type: Launch capital

Date announced: July 1

Purpose: Advance multiple programs into the clinic for hematologic and solid malignancies based on company’s induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) allogeneic cell therapy platform.

Financing leader(s): Leaps by Bayer, the venture investment arm of Bayer ($215 million)

Financing partners: Versant Ventures, Fujifilm Cellular Dynamics Inc. (FCDI)

 

4. ADC Therapeutics

Amount: $303 million 3

Type: Series E financing

Date announced: July 9, June 12 3

Purpose: Fund preparations for a potential BLA for ADCT-402 (loncastuximab tesirine) in relapsed or refractory diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) in the second half of 2020, as well as preparations for a pivotal Phase II trial of ADCT-301 (camidanlumab tesirine) in Hodgkin lymphoma.

Financing leaders: None specified

Financing partners: Unnamed U.S.-based “blue-chip institutional investor” ($25 million); unnamed existing and new investors

 

3. Hisun BioRay

Amount: 3.8 billion yuan ($542 million)

Type: Equity financing

Date announced: September 5

Purpose:  Acquire a 58% stake in Hisun BioRay Bio-pharmaceutical, a biologic antibody-based drug developer focused on developing autoimmune and oncology treatments. Established in January 2019, Hisun BioRay markets an autoimmune treatment in China and has a pipeline of more than 10 biologics. The company is the biologics subsidiary of Zhejiang Hisun Pharmaceutical, which specializes in generic drugs and active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs).

Financing leader(s): PAG, a Hong Kong private equity firm

Financing partners: None

 

2. FerGene

Amount: “Over” $570 million

Type: Launch capital

Date announced: November 25

Purpose:  Finance global development and US commercialization of nadofaragene firadenovec (rAd-IFN/Syn3), an investigational novel gene therapy in late stage development for patients with high-grade, Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG), an unresponsive, non-muscle invasive bladder cancer (NMIBC).

Financing leader(s): Blackstone Life Sciences ($400 million) and Ferring Pharmaceuticals (up to $170 million)

Financing partners: None

 

1. Ginkgo Bioworks

Amount: $640 million 4

Type: Spinout fund; Series E financing

Date announced: October 9, September 19

Purpose:  The fund, called the Ferment Consortium, is a “private investment vehicle for funding Ginkgo spinout companies with transformative potential” and full access to Ginkgo’s platform for cell programming in “mature industries where synthetic biology has been under-utilized but can have a profound impact on a business and its larger ecosystem established industries.” The Series E financing is intended for use toward expanding synthetic biology applications for Ginkgo’s cell programming platform.

Financing leader(s): None specified

Financing partners: For the spinout fund, Ginkgo’s current major investors, including Viking Global Investors, General Atlantic, and Cascade Investment. For the Series E financing, funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates joined all existing investors.

 

 

References
1. MGI, a gene sequencing equipment subsidiary company of BGI Group, said the funding was “the largest amount of capital raised in the genetic field in China in 2018,” though it had not been disclosed until May 2019.
2. Novartis will retain a minority equity interest in Anthos, the company said. As part of the launch, Novartis licensed to Anthos MAA868, an antibody directed at Factor XI and XIa, key components of the intrinsic coagulation pathway. According to Anthos, MAA868 has the potential to prevent a variety of cardiovascular disorders with minimal or no bleeding risk within a new long-acting treatment paradigm, which would provide major advantages over conventional standards of care.
3. On July 9, ADC Therapeutics announced the final close of a $303 million Series E financing—a $103 million expansion that was in progress June 12, when the company announced “completion” of the financing at $276 million.
4. Amount includes $350 million raised toward Ferment Consortium fund, and $290 in Series E financing.

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