The DNA sequencing newcomer Ultima Genomics won the crown for the biggest U.S private biotech investment in May 2022. Other top fundraising firms are developing gene and cell therapies in addition to cultured leather and omics-based diagnostics.
The headliner private biotech investment in the US in May 2022 went to the Californian firm Ultima Genomics. The company exited stealth mode with $600 million to fund the development of high-throughput sequencing technology. The aim is to bring down the cost of sequencing the whole genome to just $100 compared to the roughly $1,000 it costs with current technology.
Ultima Genomics is upping the scale of its sequencing platform by blending a range of advances in fluidics, sequencing chemistry and machine learning. The firm is applying its sequencing technology to multiple types of ‘omics’ approaches, including whole-genome sequencing, single-cell, and methylation sequencing.
The second biggest private biotech investment in the U.S. went to Kriya Therapeutics, which is based in California and North Carolina. The $270 million Series C round will advance Kriya’s preclinical-stage gene therapy pipeline for the treatment of a range of ophthalmological and rare genetic conditions.
The biggest private investment raised by an industrial biotechnology firm in North America in May 2022 was an $82 million Series C round by Vestaron. Based in North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park, the firm is developing peptides to protect crops from insect pests. Unlike some chemical pesticides in current use, Vestaron’s products are designed to be non-toxic for humans and other vertebrates that aren’t the direct target of the pesticide.
North America’s biggest biotech Series A round was closed by the San Francisco company Terremoto Biosciences. The company will use the winnings to fund the development of a type of small molecule that binds to proteins in a different way than traditional drugs do. This allows the company to put in the crosshairs proteins that were previously considered ‘undruggable.’
The Series A runner up in May 2022 was VitroLabs in California, which raised $47.4 million to fund the development of cultured leather. Cultured leather involves farming animal cells to produce leather, rather than using the whole animal. Like the field of cultured meat, the intention is to reduce the land, energy and water requirements of manufacturing animal-derived products.
In the seed round division, the champion was San Diego-based Pleno Inc., which took home $15 million. The company is developing a multi-omic platform to accelerate clinical diagnostics and research. By using a new type of signal-processing technology, the firm claims it can obtain much more information from polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and next-generation sequencing technology than from current methods.
Another notable seed round went to the New York-based Oviva Therapeutics, Inc. The firm raised $11.5 million to fund research into the aging process in women. This research focuses on slowing aging in the ovaries, which could lead to a longer lifespan in general.
One major biotech investment in the U.S. in May didn’t make this list because it was of a new investment firm called Enavate Sciences. Enavate was launched by the healthcare investment firm Patient Square Capital with a $300 million boost and aims to support drug developers with vital cash as they bring novel medicines to the market.
Looking forward to June, we’re already seeing some huge investments, with the frontrunner so far being a $625 million Series D round by the biomanufacturing heavyweight National Resilience, Inc.
Cover image via Elena Resko