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.
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.
A little more than a year after launching with a portfolio of 6 early-stage assets from Amgen, Atara Biotherapeutics has rounded up $38.5 million in the first close of its Series B round, fueling its drive into Phase II with a lead asset while teeing up another program for its entry into the clinic.
Amgen, Celgene and Eli Lilly joined forces with some prominent venture players to back a $26 million round for Sutro Biopharma, a San Francisco-based biotech which has been garnering some careful scrutiny for its work on antibodies.
As biotech venture funding plods along at a middling pace, A-list investor OrbiMed has bagged $735 million for its 5th fund, cash earmarked for life sciences companies across all stages of development.
California VC Versant Ventures is putting together another $200 million fund, according to a regulatory filing, building up its chest as biotech investments maintain their sluggish pace.
First-time venture deals in biotech cratered to a 17-year low in the first three quarters of 2013, but that doesn't mean startups are starving. As The Burrill Report points out, despite the VC drought, about a quarter of all equity deals in that period went into Series A rounds, meaning early-stage companies are getting creative and nailing down alternative funding sources.
Biotech companies in the U.S. drew a weak $852 million in venture support over the past quarter, a distinct downturn over a burst of new financing rounds in the second quarter. That dollar figure represented a 39% plunge from the second quarter, though the smaller bankroll was divided among 123 deals, with a 10% jump in the number of companies involved.
California's Versartis is having quite a year, pulling down another $20 million in venture financing to get its once-a-month growth hormone through mid-stage trials.
Stockholm-based Pharmalink AB is banking $15 million from a C round designed to get one drug through a Phase IIb study and position another therapy for a pivotal trial of its own.