Q4 venture haul pushes 2013 biotech investing past $4.5B

If you thought there was a big surge in new biotech venture rounds over the last few months, you can count yourself as a savvy observer of the life sciences scene.

U.S. biotech companies attracted a bountiful $1.3 billion venture haul in the fourth quarter of 2013, according to the MoneyTree Report, which is compiled by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association with data from Thomson Reuters. And the surge of new investing pushed the total for the year to $4.53 billion--well ahead of 2012's mark of $4.19 billion and a hopeful sign of continued activity headed into 2014.

A total of 134 biotech companies divvied up the fourth-quarter venture cash. There were 470 deals for all of last year, which is remarkably consistent with the deal flow for 2012 (478) and 2011 (469).

For several years now there has been a long-running debate over the health of venture investing in the U.S. While startups often complain of a lack of capital, venture players like Third Rock and Flagship have been seeding new biotechs at a steady clip. But as the number of venture players dwindled, that left the remaining investors with a tremendous amount of influence over who's getting financed. The overall pace for biotech has hit at around $4 billion a year for several years now, with 2011 standing out of the pack with $4.8 billion.

Venture investing in biotech tends to fluctuate dramatically from quarter to quarter. The first quarter of last year came in low; the second three months bounced back with $1.3 billion, only to fall again in the third quarter. But the fourth-quarter surge clearly left the industry in a positive position, however much analysts may fret about the startup scene.

For an industry that runs on red ink, venture investing is a particularly critical gauge of activity. The new report says that the life sciences as a whole--including devices--attracted 23% of all venture dollars in 2013. 

- here's the release