Biopharma started the year gravitating toward fewer, but larger, venture capital deals, according to a report released today.  

Investors raised $4.011 billion in 39 biotech VC deals during the first quarter, according to the most recent quarterly PwC/CB Insights MoneyTree™ Report.

That’s $1.079 billion in dollars—a 37% year-over-year jump—but 22% less in number of deals, compared with the $2.932 billion in 50 deals recorded in Q1 2017.

The first quarter finished 11% higher in dollars, but 28% lower in deals, ahead of the fourth quarter, which according to updated MoneyTree figures showed about $3.6 billion raised in 54 deals.

Megadeals of $100 million or more by biopharmas accounted for seven of the top 10 deals in the broader “healthcare” sector. The seven were paced by the $500 million in later-stage financing raised by Moderna Therapeutics to help it fund further R&D into its pipeline of messenger RNA (mRNA) treatment candidates, announced February 1.

Moderna raised the financing from a global group of 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.

The quarter’s next-largest biopharma financing was the $250 million in early-stage financing reported by Viela Bio, a spinout of AstraZeneca focused on treating severe autoimmune diseases by developing six pipeline candidates contributed by AZ’s MedImmune subsidiary. The $250 million was raised by investors led by Boyu Capital, 6 Dimensions Capital, and Hillhouse Capital, with participation by Temasek and Sirona Capital.

Also raising $250 million was Celularity. The Celgene spinout, launched last year, said in February that its proceeds would go toward commercializing allogeneic cells and tissues derived from the postpartum placenta, with the goal of developing treatments that advance immunity and longevity by amplifying the body’s ability to fight disease, heal, and regenerate itself.

Celgene led Celularity’s financing, with participation by investors that included United Therapeutics, Sorrento Therapeutics, Homan Longevity, Genting Group, the Dreyfus Family Office, Section 32, and Heritage Group. 

Five Companies Raise $100M–$200M

Other biopharma megadeals during Q1:

  • TCR2 Therapeutics—The developer of T-cell receptor (TCR)-based cellular immunotherapies for solid tumors and blood cancers said March 21 it completed an oversubscribed Series B financing of $125 million. The company said proceeds would advance two TRuC™ T cell programs through human proof-of-concept, including its lead solid tumor program TC-210 targeting mesothelin; and support further expansion of the company's multi-format TRuC platform with a pipeline that includes dual-target TRuC, immune cell enhancements and allogeneic technologies.
  • Tmunity Therapeutics—The developer of next-generation T-cell immunotherapies said January 23 it closed on a $100 million Series A financing, with proceeds to be used for expanding commercial operations to support rapid translation, development, and manufacture of its portfolio, first for the treatment of cancer.
  • Gossamer Bio—Receptos’ former executive leadership team on January 4 announced the launch of Gossamer with $100 million in Series A financing, and plans to leverage an asset-rich in-licensing environment, with a focus on developing treatments in areas of high unmet need in immunology, inflammation, fibrosis, and oncology.

Of the companies for which a specialty description was available, drug development companies won the most in VC funding during Q3, with $1.105 billion, 27.5% of the biotech total.

That was followed by drug discovery ($438.46 million), disease diagnosis ($263.06 million), drug delivery ($167.33 million), drug manufacturing ($46.28 million), pharmaceuticals/drugs ($38.5 million), and elective and aesthetic medicine ($30.94 million).

Companies described solely as “biotech” racked up just over $1.922 billion, nearly half (48%) of total VC biopharma financing.

Previous article“Ouchless” Patch Promises Needle-Free Diabetic Monitoring
Next articleParallelized CRISPR-Cas9 Generates Sequence Variants Genome Wide