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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Bustling biotech pushes Cambridge, MA surge in VC deals, dollars

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Pearl lands $65M round to fuel PhIII COPD showdown with Novartis, GSK

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Google VC group eyes biotech bets with $1B purse

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