The Top 15 Biotech Venture Investments in H1 2012

Perhaps it's no surprise that much of the top venture investment for the first half of 2012 was delivered by the VC arm of billionaire Randal Kirk to his biotech venture Intrexon. These days, it's good to have your own money to bank on when you're growing a biotech company.

It's also extraordinarily rare.

The first half of the year delivered a long string of red flags on the venture side of the business. Startups were finding it harder than ever to gain new rounds as investing plunged in the second quarter of the year. And that same bottom line was reached by every group that crunches the numbers.

Over the last quarter biotech companies scraped together $697 million in 90 deals, a stinging 42% drop compared to the same period a year ago and the lowest level the National Venture Capital Association--which got its numbers from Thomson Reuters--has seen since the first quarter of 2003.

Which doesn't mean there isn't a silver lining. The buyout deals struck in recent months--Amylin and Human Genome Sciences, for example--show that Big Pharma is still finding many of its best new products in companies it can easily afford to buy. With AstraZeneca ($AZN) and others anxious to grow pipelines, willing to license what they won't buy, you can look for more deals in the future. And as long as such buyers are out there, new biotechs will be coming around to look for a deal.

Also, the month of July saw a string of new rounds, which helps illustrate the volatile nature of the quarter-by-quarter assessment that's being done here. Yesterday alone we tracked three new venture rounds or extensions which delivered $53 million to support new drug programs. So it's not as if the venture groups have ceased business.

Innovation still attracts investment dollars, and the monster $2.6 billion fund unveiled by New Enterprise Associates illustrates that many of the big institutional players haven't given up on the field.

The following 15 venture rounds qualified as the top investments of the first half, as tracked by Thomson Reuters and the National Venture Capital Association. At first glance, you may wonder where the figures come from. FierceBiotech runs the rounds as they're touted by the companies. The NVCA tracks actual dollars that are flowing to the company in a designated time period. So Tesaro ($TSRO), which announced a $101 million round of venture funding last year, got the bulk of that in a second tranche in the first half. Warp Drive Bio, which announced a $125 million Series A in January, actually landed $75 million last December. -- John Carroll, Editor-in-Chief. Follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn.