Biotech investments in Europe jumped in May 2022 with a large initial public offering from the US/UK firm PepGen. Meanwhile, oncology companies Tubulis, Domain Therapeutics, and EngImmune Therapeutics topped the private biotech investment rounds.
Public stock markets remain in a volatile state for biotech companies, with a lot of uncertainty remaining over widespread inflation. Against this backdrop, the month of May 2022 proved a relatively strong month for European biotech investments.
European and Israeli biotech companies raised €514M across 41 deals in May 2022. While the private funding levels were slightly lower than those of April 2022, a surge in initial public offering (IPO) cash meant May had the highest European biotech investment total since February.
The biggest IPO in May was raised by PepGen, a company spun out of the University of Oxford and based in both the US and the UK. The firm raked in €102.4M on the Nasdaq to fund the development of peptide drugs that can deliver molecules of RNA or DNA to treat the neuromuscular disorder Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD).
The second European IPO was launched by Okyo Pharma in the UK. The firm raised €2.4M in a heavily undersized IPO on the Nasdaq after initially setting an IPO target of around €9.4M ($10M).
Industrial biotech companies had a stronger month than in April. While April’s industrial biotech total dropped to a paltry €14.5M, May saw it jump to an impressive €90M. Meanwhile, companies in enabling technologies sectors such as genomics and sequencing raised €24M, which is lower than the €30M they raised in April.
Though oncology companies were the top investor attraction as usual, firms treating disorders of the central nervous system proved a strong rival in the healthcare space in May. This trend was primarily due to the IPO from neurology-focused PepGen.
Bioinformatics, sequencing and manufacturing attracted the most funding in enabling technologies, and industrial biotechnology investments went mainly to firms developing industrial chemicals and novel foods.
The private biotech investment winner of May 2022 was the German company Tubulis. The firm raised €60M in a Series B round to fund the development of antibody-drug conjugates to treat cancer.
In second place, the Spanish firm Minoryx Therapeutics raised €51.2M in a Series C round. The mission is to develop drugs for the rare neurodegenerative disease X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy.
The biggest industrial biotechnology round went to Enzymaster in Germany. The company will use its hefty €51.2M Series C round to bankroll the development of sustainable, enzyme-based methods for manufacturing compounds in pharmaceutical, food, and other industrial biotech applications.
May 2022 saw just two life sciences Series A rounds compared to four in April. The biggest round, worth €39M, went to Domain Therapeutics in France. The company is developing antibody drugs that could form a new class of immune checkpoint inhibitor drugs, which can prevent cancer cells from evading the immune response.
The Series A runner up was the Israeli company Imagene AI. The firm raised €17.6M Series A cash in addition to €2.9M in seed funding. By deploying artificial intelligence, the firm claims it can speed up molecular image analysis in tumor biopsies from weeks to just minutes.
There were two joint winners of the seed round crown in May 2022, both taking home €15.2M. The first was the Swiss firm EngImmune Therapeutics, which is developing cell therapies and protein drugs for cancer based on engineered versions of proteins called T-cell receptors (TCRs). The second, Biogencell in Israel, is developing stem cell therapies to treat cardiovascular conditions.
Third on the list was Imagindairy, which added €14.2M ($15M) to its seed round, now totalling €26M ($28M). The company uses microbes to produce proteins found in milk, and is gunning to commercialize animal-free milk alternatives that are closer to the real thing than plant-based products.
While May 2022 performed more strongly than previous months, it pales in comparison to the total from May last year, which saw around €1B flowing into the European biotech industry. The main difference was that last year saw big IPOs and a mega investment for the UK giant Oxford Nanopore Sequencing, whereas this year continues to be plagued with adverse market conditions.
Nonetheless, life sciences venture capital firms are remaining strong and even flourishing. For example, Sofinnova teamed up with the investment giant Apollo in a €1B collaboration deal to invest in biotech companies. And the London-based firm Synthesis Capital bagged $300M in what it dubs the biggest food technology-focused investment fund. The firm’s portfolio companies include specialists in plant-based and cultured meat.