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Fierce's 10 top biotech billionaires

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They are already rich, so why spotlight billionaires like Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and Teva Chairman Dr. Phillip Frost?

Well, the mega-wealthy have made an impact all over the biopharma world, from nourishing risky ideas in the lab with early financing to pushing major M&A activity in the industry. And it's worth taking stock of the companies and investigators that have won support from some of the savviest business minds on the planet. That's why.

For the first time, FierceBiotech has rounded up 10 deep-pocketed players whose names should ring a bell with our readers. And while the names may come as no surprise, what did strike me while writing this report was the sheer volume of biotech deals and efforts these billionaires have enabled. Check out where Peter Thiel and other wealthy Facebook folks have placed their biotech bets.

Peter Thiel

A search of the Forbes list of billionaires turns up dozens of names with ties to the pharma industry, yet we have decided to highlight the activities of those who have invested in innovative drug and biomedical research. Notice that some of the people made their fortunes in the tech industry, while others have dedicated their careers to building pharma businesses.

It doesn't happen often, but the biotech industry minted new millionaires over the past year as values of cancer drug developer Pharmacyclics ($PCYC) and Swiss health giant Roche ($RHHBY) jumped. What good can these and other 10-figure folks do in the sector?

Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong

One VC investor told me that billionaires likely account for only a small slice of the funding stream for biotech startups. Yet as you will see in the profiles in this report, billionaires have stepped up with cash to back bold ideas in recent years as startups struggle to garner support from traditional institutional and government funders. In the cases of Gates and biotech mogul Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, their healthcare investments make instant headlines as reporters closely follow their business interests. That kind of publicity brings extra value.

The people on this list appear in the order of their estimated net worth from Forbes and, in one case, Bloomberg. Please let us know your thoughts about this list. -- Ryan McBride (email | Twitter)