The Largest Deals, Fundraising and Exits of 2016 in European Biotech

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Curious about which technologies have attracted the most cash in biotech finance this year? Here’s a list of the most impressive cash movements of 2016 in Europe.

Believe it or not, 2016 has been the worst year for biotech finance in a decade. The political scene has become unfavorable for British biotech after Brexit, and the uncertainty raised by the US elections is now looming over the field.

Despite fewer acquisitions and IPOs, some companies have managed to come out with very successful deals and funding rounds. From the US, Moderna has beaten its own record raising $474M and increasing its total funds to a massive €1.78B ($1.9B). In Europe, several companies have also managed to defy the challenging financial scene; here’s a list of some of the most impressive.

Biggest Deals Biotech finance

The biggest deal in European biotech ever took place in September between BioNTech in Germany and Genentech in the US. There’s not an official sum of the total it could reach, but the upfront payment alone was €280M and both companies will do 50/50 on profits. Genentech was attracted by individualized mRNA cancer therapy, a promising technology that BioNTech is racing to be the first to launch.

The second biggest deal brought together Allergan in Ireland and Heptares Therapeutics in the UK. The big Irish biopharma offered Heptares up to a massive €3Bn in exchange for a broad portfolio of drugs targeting neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s. The foundation for such huge deal is G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), a protein superfamily that is the target of 30% of approved drugs.

Closing the list of euro-billion deals this year, Medigene,  in Germany, licensed four candidates from its T Cell Receptor platform to Bluebird Bio in the US for up to €1B if all milestones are met. Close to that amount, Roche offered €900M to Blueprint Medicines in the US to get hold of new cancer drugs. Just before wrapping up the year, BMS announced a €850M deal with PsiOxus for an oncolytic virus therapy that could work better than CAR-T.

Biggest fundraising Biotech finance

Oxford Nanopore leads the pack this year with an impressive €120M round. The British biotech unicorn developing pocket DNA sequencers will use the funds to challenge the monopoly of Illumina, which currently dominates 75% of the next-generation sequencing (NGS) market).

Until December, ADC Therapeutics was first on the list, with a €96M round. The Swiss company develops antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) for oncology applications, a technology challenging CAR-T immunotherapy. Its ambitious plan for the funds is to advance 6 clinical programs focusing on lymphoma and leukemia.

Also in oncology, Carrick Therapeutics managed to raise €85M to treat the most aggressive and resistant forms of cancer. The largest round in Scandinavia was Aprea’s €46M, while Hookipa in Austria raised €27M from Sofinnova and Forbion to develop its promising viral vaccine platform.

Biggest IPO Biotech finance

AC Immune managed to raise €52.5M in September, showing once again the huge relevance of Alzheimer’s in biotech. The Swiss company is currently running Phase III trials with crenezumab, which could become one of the first therapies for Alzheimer’s after the recent failure of Eli Lilly.

Surprisingly, CRISPR Therapeutics is the runner-up this year. Despite its two rivals in the therapeutic CRISPR field, Editas and Intellia, managed to raise €84M ($94) and €96M ($108), respectively, the Swiss biotech only reached €51M. The most likely reasons for this relatively low amount are the absence of clinical results and the ongoing patent war over the technology’s IP.

Other two companies that did really well in their respective IPOs are Merus, which raised €42.5M to support its oncology bispecific antibody pipeline, and Gensight, which plans to dedicate its €40M IPO to develop gene therapy for eye diseases.

Biggest acquisitions Biotech finance

The splashiest and most polemical transaction this year is Bayer’s acquisition of Monsanto for €59B. The deal has been polemic since Monsanto is one of the world’s least ethical companies. However, Bayer seemed to consider it worth it to strengthen its position in agrochemicals.

Ganymed Pharmaceuticals was the protagonist of Germany’s biggest Biotech deal ever this October when the Japanese Astellas Pharma acquired it for a whopping €1.3B, which will be paid entirely if its cancer antibody therapy meets developmental and regulatory milestones.

The end of 2016 has brought news about tentatives from Sanofi and J&J to acquire Actelion, Europe’s largest biotech. Speculations have reached a massive €30B offer, and J&J is now in exclusive discussions. We can’t wait for 2017 to see the outcome…

Biggest Funds Biotech finance

The promising possibilities of biotech are increasingly attracting dedicated funds. In 2016, the Swiss UBS Group raised an impressive €416M towards a fund solely focused on oncology.

For their part, Gilde Healthcare and Life Science Partners (LSP) raised €250M each to invest in top-line European biotechs.

Medicxi Ventures launched this year a brand new €210M Life Sciences fund in the UK, while MVM Capital raised €204M for healthcare investment. Forbion was also among the best with a new €183M fund for medical biotech.

In short, lot of fresh cash available to fund breakthrough Biotech startups in 2017.

It’s impressive to see the huge amounts of cash that are moved around in biotech; a great indication of the possibilities of the sector, which will continue to grow and provide more and more solutions to cure, feed and fuel the world. 

Images by Venera Salman, Rattanasak Khuentana, Baramee Chongchaeng, Kanok Sulaiman, weRpix, Number1411/

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