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

Latest Headlines

Latest Headlines

Karyopharm snags $19M more to expand work on anticancer contender

Karyopharm has scored an additional $19 million for its Series B round of financing, padding the $48.2 million raised for the round in May, for a total of more than $67 million, among the largest this year for a drug developer.

$1.3B VC cash surge buoys biotech as analysts point to a rebound

A blistering round of IPOs wasn't the only source of fresh cash for biotech companies in the second quarter. The National Venture Capital Association and PricewaterhouseCoopers tracked a $1.3 billion gusher of venture capital in the biotech community, a spike of 41% over Q1 as two big rounds in a mix of 103 deals helped drive the surge.

NEA's Mott, Kleiner Perkins pump $20M into cancer drug upstart

David Mott at New Enterprise Associates has put together a $20 million round to back 3-V Biosciences, an upstart biotech with deep roots in Switzerland's scientific community and an office in Silicon Valley.

Merck Serono CEO stakes out Boston biotech startups

Merck Serono CEO Stephan Oschmann has made overtures to biotech entrepreneurs as the pharma group seeks ways to bolster its business after a series of R&D setbacks such as the failure of an experimental oral drug for multiple sclerosis and major layoffs and cutbacks in Geneva, Switzerland.

Effector Therapeutics snags $45M venture round from A-list backers

Effector Therapeutics has rallied marquee investors for a sizable $45 million Series A financing, determined to use discoveries in protein translation to mine for new cancer drugs.

Amgen, Novartis aim to fuel biotech startups in alliances with Atlas Venture

For Amgen and Novartis, investing in the latest fund from Atlas Venture wasn't enough. The Cambridge, MA-based venture firm has struck separate agreements with the two major drugmakers to join forces on biotech startups.

UPDATED: Third Rock Ventures expands roster with Alnylam's CEO and Genzyme/Sanofi vet

Alnylam Pharmaceuticals CEO John Maraganore has joined Third Rock in the advisory role of venture partner, reunited in a way with his former Millennium Pharmaceuticals colleagues who launched the venture firm 6 years ago.

Startup biotech charges into PhII with $23M bankroll for rare disease drugs

A little more than a year ago, the startup crew at Lumena Pharmaceuticals was based in North Carolina and working on a new drug for diabetics. But things have changed. The company moved to San Diego, refocused its lead program on a rare liver disease and today announced that it had rounded up $23 million in Series A cash from a trio of venture groups.

Astellas, VCs stake virtual biotech spinout with $15M and a PhII program

Astellas and a pair of venture companies have joined forces to launch a spinout virtual biotech which will pick up mid-stage research work on an experimental therapy for nocturia.

E&Y: Biotech budget hawks rule the roost in year of mixed performance

Public biotech companies around the world stayed on a healthy pace last year, boosting top and bottom-line revenue together and extending a solid improvement in the industry's financial performance into its third year, according to Ernst & Young's annual checkup on the numbers.