The class of 2020 biotech IPOs will go down as one of the most buoyant in history, with the leading 10 raising a massive $3.19 billion collectively.
During a year when almost every other sector suffered, life sciences had a stellar year, boosted rather than battered by the global pandemic, as people flocked to invest in companies that were looking to literally save the world.
The biggest life sciences IPO of 2020 came from what was a little-known Canadian company, AbCellera Biologics, which has more than two dozen pacts with biopharma companies to help them speed up their R&D.
While its antibody work is focused across multiple disease areas, its major $483 million raise at the end of last year was itself accelerated by COVID-19 after the company teamed up with Eli Lilly to create a new antibody against the infection. Atea Pharmaceuticals, which is working with Roche on an antiviral for COVID-19, also nabbed a monster $250 million raise in May and then a $300 million IPO a few months later.
But not all are COVID-19 focused; many are focused on the “normal” R&D areas—predominately cancer. But the optimistic view of biotech has swept up companies of all stripes, with companies such as Legend and Relay seeing $400 million-plus IPOs for their attempts at next-gen oncology work.
As we start 2021, biotech IPOs look like they will continue to bring in upsized offerings after meaty VC raises, though we will have to wait and see how long the love-in lasts if we get the pandemic under control.
Editor’s note on rankings: Technically, the largest life science IPO of 2020 was, by far, Royalty Pharma, which grabbed an eye-watering $16.7 billion valuation from a massive $2.2 billion IPO. I focused on R&D discovery biotechs, which is why AbCellera is on the list (though not a biotech), and Royalty Pharma isn’t. Royalty's business is based on royalties paid by pharmas—such as Merck, Gilead and Johnson & Johnson—for producing drugs, with the bulk of the IPO money going toward buying up more royalty rights, and not R&D activities. For the final figures, I have used the net total raised on the day and sourced from Renaissance Capital.
-- Ben Adams, senior editor, Fierce Biotech