Forbion, with $316M to invest, backs away from medtech as consolidation and regulatory changes depress returns

Sander Slootweg
Sander Slootweg, managing partner at Forbion. (Forbion)

Forbion is scaling back its interest in medtech after deeming it is getting hard to generate returns on investments. Medical device and diagnostics startups were integral to Forbion’s first three funds but will receive only a fraction of the $316 million the Dutch VC shop has raised for its fourth fund.

The decision to back away from medtech follows regulatory and commercial changes that are making it harder for startups to bring devices to market and attract buyout bids from bigger businesses.

“Consolidation of the potential exit partners and changes in regulatory environment, around for instance the CE mark approval, have made it more difficult to drive ROI. For Forbion IV, we will continue to look for medtech and diagnostics but only expect to make sporadic investments,” Sander Slootweg, managing partner at Forbion, said.

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Forbion’s move cuts off a major source of funding for medtech and diagnostic startups, particularly in Europe. Around 20% of Forbion’s current and past portfolio companies are in the device or diagnostic space. If Forbion had retained that ratio for its fourth fund, a few medtech and diagnostic companies would have received some of the $316 million it has to invest. 

The Dutch fund is backing away from medtech despite having enjoyed success in the sector in the past. 

Forbion scored a big win in 2014 when BTG paid $230 million upfront and offered up to $245 million in milestones to buy PneumRx. More recently, Bio-Techne struck a $250 million deal to buy Exosome Diagnostics. Pathway Medical Technologies, another Forbion bet, was acquired by a Bayer subsidiary. And Forbion achieved a pair of exits when Abiomed bought Impella before going on to IPO. 

Forbion still has a clutch of medtech and diagnostic companies in its active portfolio, including the publicly-traded Cellnovo and Curetis and mitral valve regurgitation startup Mitralign.