Most new drug companies start small, with few staff members and little money. So in exchange for equity in their company, biotechs can raise much-needed cash from venture funds looking to invest in a technology early in order to earn a big pay-off down the road. Experienced individuals from the venture capital firms usually play a key role making decision and guiding the new company through the development process. 

Venture capital funds will, at various stages, provide fresh infusions of cash if a biotech's program shows promise and continues to move through the clinic without hitting any major speed bumps. Ideally, the drugmaker will exit when the it's in a position to demand a premium price. Promising Phase II or, better yet, Phase III data could tempt a larger company to make a pricy buyout offer. Alternately, some developers attempt to raise money by filing an IPO. This is a gamble at best. While some high-flying developers like Pacific Biosciences have had success on the open market in recent months, investors still lack an appetite for small developers with no drugs in the market and the risk of an FDA delay or rejection looming in the future.

In 2010 biotech venture capital investing began to recover from its 2009 low, growing three percent in the number of dollars raised and eight percent in the number of deals which were struck. That represents a significant bounce-back from 2009, which saw biotech investing plummet 19 percent during the worst of the economic crisis. The industry dropped to second place overall behind software, with $3.7 billion going into 460 deals.

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Biotech Venture Capital

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Sofinnova closes $500M venture fund, keeps late-stage focus

Sofinnova Ventures has evolved rapidly over the past decade to suit the times, from a diversified early stage biotech and IT investor to focusing solely on later stage biotech. And LPs seem to think it is making all the right moves; it has closed a ninth fund at $500 million, the hard cap for the fund that was initially targeting $425 million.

New Science Ventures joins the biotech VC boom, plots $100M fund

With investors revved up about biotech's future, a string of funds have outlined plans to raise billions of dollars to back a new generation of life science companies. And New Science Ventures is joining the frenzy with a $100 million game plan of its own.

Versant close to capping $300M fund to foster next-gen biotechs

Versant Ventures is nearing the finish line in its quest to raise a fresh $300 million fund to finance a new wave of biotech and med tech companies. The group, which is based in Menlo Park, CA, filed papers with the SEC indicating that it has now raised all but a few million dollars for Versant Ventures V, its first new fund since the last big $500 million fund was opened for business in 2008.

Neuropsychiatric biotech raises $20M for PhII program

The biotech is also planning to launch studies for SNC-102 in Tourette syndrome and post-traumatic stress syndrome. Accellient seeded Synchroneuron up to its $6 million Series A from Morningside.

Biotech VCs wager $1.1B in Q1, plus: top 5 rounds

Venture investing in the biotech sector hit the $1.1 billion mark in the first quarter of the year--a surprisingly strong showing for what has generally been a quiet season in the U.S. industry.

Foresite banks $300M to bet on late-stage biotechs

San Francisco biotech bankroller Foresite Capital has closed a $300 million second fund, setting out to invest in drugmakers with a clear path to market amid some renewed optimism in life sciences venture capital.

The top 15 cities for biotech venture funding

Anyone looking to start a biotech company should pay close attention to this list. Venture groups, entrepreneurs and increasingly Big Pharma have been concentrating their money and their attention in a few key places, only occasionally straying from the beaten path when funding a high-risk drug development effort.

Biotech parties on with billions more raised for R&D work

With IPOs still booming, follow-on financings sizzling and venture capital rolling in at a steady pace, the biotech industry has been stocking up on billions of dollars in cash.

The geography of money in biotech

I've been in the U.K. for a few days now, grabbing some meetings along the way after discussing valuations in biotechnology with a group of One Nucleus members at The Babraham Institute near Cambridge. And I've been thinking about this question a lot this week.

UPDATED: Third Rock backs $14M round for Igenica's cancer-fighting antibodies

The antibody upstart Igenica has rounded up $14 million in venture cash to move its lead drug into the clinic. The Column Group, 5AM Ventures, OrbiMed and Third Rock Ventures all participated in the round.