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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Latest Headlines

Biotech VCs return to back Affimed's cancer drug trials

Affimed Therapeutics has scored 15.5 million euros ($20.1 million) more in venture cash for clinical trials of its drugs that hit two targets with one antibody to kill cancer.

Biotech stars make WSJ's list of top startups as healthcare lags

The Wall Street Journal has put together its list of the top 50 venture-backed companies most likely to do great things. The good news is that Achaogen, a San Francisco-based antibiotics company, and Acceleron, the Cambridge, MA-based tissue- and muscle-building company, are both on the list.

Flagship Ventures CEO keeps Merck aboard to inform biotech bets

Gone are the days when venture capitalists could hatch a biotech and take it public without much regard for the needs of Big Pharma. Public investors seldom buy into new biotech companies, and drugmakers have increasingly become early partners with VC firms and their young ventures. In the process, pharma has gained significant clout in the biotech VC game.

Google VC group eyes biotech bets with $1B purse

Google Ventures aims to invest in entrepreneurs who want to change the world, not only those working in Google's main business areas, but also pioneers in biotech. And the web giant's VC group plans to make life sciences a prominent area of its $1 billion in planned investments over the next 5 years, CNBC.com reported.

Foundation Medicine hauls in $42.5M round to back commercialization effort

Yesterday FierceBiotech named Foundation Medicine one of this year's Fierce 15 companies. Today the biotech unveiled a $42.5 million B round to help it continue to grow, with plans for a new diagnostic product as it scales up its commercialization effort.

NEA's David Mott on what VC firm's $2.6B fund means for biotech

Fresh off closing a diversified venture fund of $2.6 billion revealed in July, NEA is expected to spend roughly a third of its capital from the fund on healthcare investments primarily in the biopharma industry, General Partner David Mott told FierceBiotech.

Biotech group says crowdsourcing funds can fuel next-gen developers

The British biotech industry has been making strides over the last two years in gaining the support of new government initiatives that support the business of drug development. But now the BioIndustry Association says the country's biotechs can make a leap forward if the government agrees to adopt a tax-advantaged crowdsourcing plan it believes can generate up to $375 million a year to back a whole new generation of companies.

New CEO tapped to run armed-antibody biotech Actinium

Veteran biotech exec Jack Talley has stepped into the top job at Actinium Pharmaceuticals, a low-profile developer which has been pursuing a lengthy effort to develop an armed antibody that can be used to fight blood cancers.

Kineta uses unorthodox strategy to push autoimmune drug into clinic

Five years ago, when Chuck Magness and Shawn Iadonato completed the sale of Illumigen Biosciences to Cubist, the two were back at work on their new Seattle-based startup the very next day. Since then, they've been building a different kind of biotech, scooping up as much non-dilutive grant money as possible and looking to a nontraditional set of investors to fund the development of key assets.

Unconventional Kineta adds to its bankroll for autoimmune program

A Seattle-based biotech with an unconventional approach to raising venture cash has added $5.8 million to its coffers as it preps an early-stage study of an experimental diabetes drug. Kineta--a developer launched 5 years ago by Chuck Magness and Shawn Iadonato after they sold Illumigen Biosciences to Cubist, filed papers with the SEC on the cash several days ago.