European biotech funding on track for record year

Europe
The financings highlight the emergence of a clutch of growing European biotechs with aspirations to take drugs deep into the clinic. (CC0 Public Domain)

The European biotech sector is on track to break its annual funding record, according to BioWorld. After a big third quarter, the total for the first nine months of the year stands at $6.3 billion, putting the region on course to clear the $8 billion bar.

European biotechs made a solid start to 2018, pulling in $3.9 billion over the first six months. But the fundraising haul really took off in the third quarter, when major follow-on offerings contributed to the sector pulling in $2.5 billion. The surge means the sector is set to ease past last year’s total of $6.9 billion and puts it a solid quarter away from breaking the $8 billion barrier.

The deals underpinning the sector’s move toward the new fundraising high says something about the state of biotech in the region today. Galapagos, a European biotech with the once-rare aspiration of becoming a midsized, standalone company, led the way with a $346 million follow-on offering that built on positive clinical trial data.

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Argenx and ProQR Therapeutics made similar moves to Galapagos, pulling in $301 million and $104 million, respectively, after generating data on clinical-phase candidates. 

The financing highlights the emergence of a clutch of growing European biotechs with aspirations to take drugs deep into the clinic. However, they also show the importance of the U.S. in the fulfillment of these aspirations. Galapagos, Argenx and ProQR are all listed on Nasdaq.

Yet, while Nasdaq is the default option for European biotechs, Idorsia is showing there is another way. Idorsia, which spun out of Actelion following the Johnson & Johnson takeover, used its listing on the Swiss stock exchange to raise $307 million to fund a slate of late-phase trials.

While the follow-on market thrived in the third quarter, the IPO pipeline dried up. The VC world was more active. As previously reported, British biotechs, led by Nasdaq-bound gene therapy player Orchard Therapeutics, raised serious sums of money in the third quarter. Orchard was one of six U.K. companies in the list of top 10 private European financings for the quarter.

The question now is whether European biotechs can maintain the momentum built up in the third quarter and hit a new funding high. Early signs are good. GW Pharmaceuticals got the quarter underway with a $300 million follow-on offering, moving the total for the year above $6.6 billion.