Nordic biotechs yielded some of Europe’s biggest biotech funding rounds in July, as did developers of cultured meat and other protein alternatives.
July saw a continuing buzz of biotech fundraising activity in Europe. In the venture capital arena, the investors Sofinnova and Panakès Partners closed new funds to target life sciences companies, including those in the medtech sector. Meanwhile, the UK government laid out the red carpet for an initiative to pump over €235M (£200M) into biotech investment funds.
In the realm of public biotech companies, stock prices — as seen from the Nasdaq Biotech Index — seem to be slowly recovering from drops earlier in the year.
The biggest biotech initial public offering (IPO) from a European company was the €197M ($234M) Nasdaq listing of the Swiss genomic medicine player SOPHiA Genetics. Runners up included the Belgian agricultural biotech Biotalys, which yielded €54.6M in Euronext Brussels, and the UK firm Poolbeg Pharma, which raised €29.2M (£25M) on the London-based stock market AIM.
Meanwhile, several companies across a range of sectors, including the French rare disease specialist Dynacure, backed out of their planned Nasdaq listings. This may have been due to ongoing volatility in the public markets.
In total, European private biotechs and those undergoing IPOs bagged €860M in 40 deals in July. This also included deals from companies in Israel. The IPO total in July of €294M didn’t come close to matching June’s €463M IPO yield, which was thanks largely to huge Nasdaq debuts by the psychedelic players atai Life Sciences and GH Research.
Industrial biotechs also saw a bigger slice of the funding pie than in previous months. This trend was partly driven by an impressive €88M ($105M) Series B round from the Israeli company Aleph Farms, which will use the cash to scale up the manufacture of cultured meat as it prepares for a potential launch in 2022.
The biggest private round by a European biotech company in July was a €129M (£110M) Series C raised by the UK oncology specialist Artios Pharma. The company is well known for developing drugs that prevent cancer cells from repairing damaged DNA, called DNA damage response inhibitors.
Biotechs from the Nordic countries Denmark and Sweden had unusually large rounds last month. One example was Muna Therapeutics, which raised the biggest-ever Series A in the Danish biotech sector; the round will fund the development of treatments for neurodegenerative conditions including Alzheimer’s disease. Meanwhile, a Series B round from Swedish firm Anocca made a big splash in Europe’s previously quiet TCR cell therapy scene.
No European biotech seed rounds in July reached the size of June’s headliner: a round worth over €30M from the Dutch gene therapy startup VectorY Therapeutics. July’s top seed fundraiser with €7.3M (£6.2M) was the UK firm Nanosyrinx, which uses synthetic biology to deliver drugs more effectively and more selectively to a patient’s cells than current techniques.
Also prominent on the seed round leaderboard were the UK startups Arborea and Multus Media, which are active in the protein alternatives scene. Arborea produces food ingredients using microalgae. Multus Media, meanwhile, is developing an animal-free cell culture medium, which could help cultured meat technology reduce its reliance on fetal bovine serum — an expensive product extracted during the slaughter of pregnant cows.
Among Series A fundraisers, the Nordic biotechs Muna and Hemab topped the charts. Another notable entry was the Spanish firm IMIDomics, which raised €13.9M ($16.5M) to fund the development of treatments for inflammatory diseases by tapping into biobank and clinical data from people with these conditions.
French biotech companies also raised frequent biotech Series A rounds. Of these, Micropep and Protera bagged rounds to bankroll the development of technology to make food production more sustainable — Micropep by making peptide treatments for crops and Protera by designing proteins that can extend the shelf life of food products.
Several companies developing meat alternatives received investment in July, a trend that follows last year’s explosion of investments into startups in this field. As the first-ever cultured meat player obtained regulatory approval in Singapore in December last year, we’re likely to also see escalating investments in this field going forward.
In terms of August’s biotech funding stars, the Berlin-based firm T-knife is likely to be in the top ranks; the TCR therapy developer recently followed up Anocca’s Series B round with a colossal €93M Series B round of its own.
Going forward, manufacturing of advanced therapeutics such as vaccines and gene therapies will likely be another major theme for investments. While this month saw few private rounds going to manufacturing players, there have been other signs of growing interest.
Last week, for example, the global life science supplier Danaher Corporation invested €1.2B ($1.5B) to crank up its production capacity of materials including cell culture growth media and single-use syringe filters in a range of countries including the US, UK, and Austria. At the same time, the German lab supplier Sartorius acquired the cell culture specialist Xell to expand its production of cell culture media, which is required to cultivate viral vectors used in vaccines and gene therapies.
Much of this demand stems from the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, which continues to drive the expansion of manufacturing of advanced therapies such as messenger RNA and viral vector vaccines.
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Cover image via Elena Resko.