Canaan Partners adds $200M in venture funds for life sciences

Canaan Partners is starting off 2012 with a bang. The venture fund announced it has rounded up $600 million for its new fund, with $200 million carved out for new healthcare and life sciences investments. A busy backer in the biotech field, Canaan general partner Brent Ahrens tells FierceBiotech that the cash is likely to be spread among 40 to 45 companies, with about 15 in healthcare gaining anywhere from $12 million to $20 million each over a three- to four-year cycle.

"Two hundred million dollars keeps us on strategy," says the venture partner. The money from Canaan IX brings the total amount of investments managed at Canaan to $3.5 billion.

Despite some dire forecasts recently from the likes of the National Venture Capital Association and others, Ahrens expects to maintain a steady pace on new venture deals. While the venture group has targeted a broad range of new technologies, Canaan has backed biotechs like Theraclone, a Fierce 15 company, the startup Civitas, spun out of Alkermes ($ALKS), as well as Elevation.

All of its target biotech companies, added the venture investor, are working on treatments at different stages of clinical development that promise to offer "real benefits," with a focus on efficacy, safety and a clear understanding of the cost strategy involved. And while the FDA may have raised the bar for drug developers, he says, there's still a clear clinical trial path for the biotech world to follow if developers expect to cap their efforts with success.

While Ahrens notes the frustrations the NVCA and others have been voicing in recent months, he's also quick to add there are some positive trends in play right now. Pharma drug deals are still being struck at a fast pace, pharma venture arms have filled part of the gap left by the dwindling pool of VC cash in the U.S., and investors in Europe and China have been sounding out opportunities in the U.S.

That may not all add up to a perfect world, but it leaves plenty of room to explore new opportunities.

- here's the press release