Alex Philippidis Senior News Editor Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News

Megadeals Keep VC Market Hot for Developers of Drugs, Diagnostics, and Related Technologies

The last time GEN published a list of top-10 private financings of early-stage biopharmas and developers of diagnostic or therapeutic technologies back in 2016, the top company turned heads by raising a then-staggering $474 million, while the No. 10 company garnered $110 million.

Two years later, the same number-one company is still on top among young companies in the money, while this year’s startup that raised $110 million in VC—Precision BioSciences, developer of the ARCUS® genome-editing platform—only ranked as high as No. 16 among top financings in the first half of 2018.

During that period, the No. 10 company raised $200 million, reflecting a VC market that remains hot, with total biopharma investment more than double that of a year ago, even if the Q2 amount was about 3% below the record-high $4.155 billion tallied during the first quarter of this year by PwC/CB Insights. Q1 was third consecutive quarter of record biotech VC investment, as Bruce Booth, D.Phil., partner in Atlas Venture, noted April 30 on his blog LifeSciVC. Both quarters have seen biopharma investment driven by megadeals of $100 million or more.

“Life sciences in general account for over 14% of U.S. VC volume, the highest proportion in years,” another VC market tracker, KPMG, observed in its most recent quarterly report, Venture Pulse Q2 2018. “As life sciences span healthcare devices and supplies, plus pharma and biotech, it is a testament to how much more interested VCs are becoming in healthcare innovation as the industry grows to an even larger share of the nation’s economy.”

Below is GEN’s top 10 private financings list for the first six months of this 2018. 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.

The combined amount of the top 10 “Young Company” biotech financings within this year was $3.009 billion—up 50% from $2.030 billion in 2016, with the No. 1 company racking up 32% more in capital than it did in 2016.

As with the 2016 list and GEN lists published last year, in 2014, and in 2013, this year’s tally does not include companies that secured private funding and later went public, or filed registration statements to do so. Also not included are public companies that raised large sums of private funding.

#10 (tie). Helix

Amount: $200 million

Type: Series B financing

Date announced: June 28

Purpose: Continue to accelerate consumer adoption of genomics via the planned expansion of its “marketplace” of products based on next-generation sequencing.

Financing leaders: DFJ Growth

Financing partners: All founding investors, including Illumina, Warburg Pincus, Sutter Hill Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, and Mayo Clinic

#10 (tie). SomaLogic

Amount: $200 million

Type: Not specified

Date announced: January 3

Purpose: Accelerate SomaLogic’s goal of becoming the world’s leading provider of precision digital health insights. Company has developed the SOMAscan® Platform, a protein biomarker discovery and development tool designed to enable biomarker discovery, diagnostics development, and pharmaceutical discovery and development.

Financing leaders: iCarbonX

Financing partners: Nan Fung Life Sciences and Madryn Asset Management

#8. I-Mab Biopharma

Amount: $220 million

Type: Series B financing

Date announced: June 29

Purpose: Primarily to advance preclinical and clinical development of a number of best-in-class and first-in-class assets. I-Mab has more than 10 investigational drugs under development.

Financing leaders: Hony Capital

Financing partners: Hillhouse Capital, HOPU Investments, CDH Investment, Ally Bridge Group, EDBI (the dedicated corporate investment arm of the Singapore Economic Development Board), and existing investors C-Bridge Capital and Tasly Capital

#7. Celularity

Amount: $250 million

Type: Not specified

Date announced: February 15

Purpose: Support formation of company, created to accelerate the development of cell and tissue regenerative products to address unmet medical needs.

Financing leaders: None specified

Financing partners: Celgene, United Therapeutics, Sorrento Therapeutics, Human Longevity, Genting Group, the Dreyfus Family Office, Section 32, and Heritage Group

#6 (tie). Brii BioSciences

Amount: $260 million

Type: Not specified

Date announced: May 24

Purpose: Support launch of company, created to accelerate the development and delivery of breakthrough medicines in China through partnerships, best-in-class research and development, and the application of digital and data insight.

Financing leaders: All disclosed financing partners specified as leaders.

Financing partners: ARCH Venture Partners, 6 Dimensions Capital, Boyu Capital, Yunfeng Capital, Sequoia Capital, and Blue Pool Capital

#6 (tie). CStone Pharmaceuticals

Amount: $260 million

Type: Series B financing, which company said was the largest Series B funding in the history of China’s biopharmaceutical industry.

Date announced: May 8

Purpose: “Primarily” for clinical development of CS1001, a full-length and fully human anti-PD-L1 monoclonal antibody completing Phase I dose escalation study, and other clinical stage assets; expanding company pipeline through internal R&D and external partnerships; and attracting top industry talent.

Financing leaders: GIC Private Limited, Singapore's sovereign wealth fund

Financing partners: New investors included Sequoia China, Yunfeng Capital, 6 Dimensions Capital, CITIC PE, Taikang Insurance Group, ARCH Venture Partners, Hillhouse Capital, King Star Capital, 3W Partners, AVICT, and Terra Mafnum Capital Partners. Existing investors also participated in the round, including Oriza Seed Venture Capital, Boyu Capital, and WuXi Healthcare Ventures (currently a 6 Dimensions Capital fund).

#4. Viela Bio

Amount: $282.25 million 1

Type: Series A financing

Date announced: February 28, March 15 1

Purpose: Developing treatments for severe autoimmune diseases by targeting critical pathways that are the root cause of disease. Company formed through spinout from MedImmune, the global biologics research and development arm of AstraZeneca, of six molecules—three clinical, the other three preclinical. AstraZeneca is the largest minority shareholder of Viela Bio.

Financing leaders: Boyu Capital, 6 Dimensions Capital, and Hillhouse Capital

Financing partners: Temasek and Sirona Capital


Amount: $300 million

Type: Oversubscribed Series C financing

Date announced: May 21

Purpose: Add to the company’s balance sheet and support ongoing development and validation of products for the early detection of cancer in GRAIL’s clinical research program.

Financing leaders: Ally Bridge Group (leader); Hillhouse Capital Group and 6 Dimensions Capital (co-leaders)

Financing partners: Blue Pool Capital, China Merchant Securities International, CRF Investment, HuangPu River Capital (HPR), ICBC International, Sequoia Capital China, and WuXi NextCODE

#2. Allogene Therapeutics

Amount: $411.8 million 2

Type: Series A financing

Date announced: April 3, April 19 2

Purpose: Support the continued development of allogeneic chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR-T) therapy

Financing leader: None denoted

Financing partners: Allogene is a portfolio company of the life sciences investment firm Two River, formed by an investment consortium that included Pfizer as well as TPG, Vida Ventures, BellCo Capital, and the University of California Office of the Chief Investment Officer, among others. Pfizer has taken a 25% stake in Allogene, to which the Pharma giant has contributed its lead allogenic CAR-T candidate UCART19, licensed from Servier, as well as 16 preclinical CAR-T candidates licensed from Servier and Cellectis.

#1. Moderna Therapeutics

Amount: $625 million

Type: Series G financing ($500 million) and Series H financing ($125 million)

Date announced: February 1 (Series G); May 3 (Series H)

Purpose: The Series G financing is intended to support company efforts to develop its pipeline, as well as corporate priorities for 2018/2019 that include: Advancing its development and delivery platform by investing in mRNA science and technology, building out its manufacturing infrastructure and digital backbone (though the company’s announcement of the financing offered no details), and focusing on drug discovery for rare disease and prophylactic vaccines.

The Series H financing is designed to support expansion of Moderna’s two-year-old collaboration with Merck & Co. to develop and commercialize novel mRNA-based personalized cancer vaccines.

Financing leaders: None specified

Financing partners: Series G: New investors that included EDBI (the dedicated corporate investment arm of the Singapore Economic Development Board), a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, BB Biotech, Julius Baer, and Sequoia Capital China. They joined existing investors that included Fidelity Management & Research Company (the investment advisor to Fidelity's family of mutual funds), Pictet, Viking Global Investors, ArrowMark Partners, and Alexandria Venture Investments.

Series H financing comes from Merck & Co.

1. Viela Bio announced having raised $250 million in the Series A financing on February 28. However, in a Form D filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission dated March 15, the company disclosed that it sold $282,253,240 of a planned offering of $312,253,240.
2. Allogene announced having raised $300 million in the Series A financing on April 3. However, in a Form D filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission dated April 19, the company disclosed that it sold its entire equity offering of $411,770,409, of which $111,770,405 of the 

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