Last month saw huge biotech investment rounds dedicated to Covid-19 vaccines in Europe, including IPOs by Valneva and Vaccitech. However, a €227M (£195M) private round by the DNA sequencing giant Oxford Nanopore Technologies made the biggest splash.
Last month was a difficult one for a number of public biotech companies. Biotech stock indices proved volatile due to regulatory and economic concerns. This shaky environment, combined with recent gene therapy safety scares, prompted the UK firm Gyroscope Therapeutics to postpone a Nasdaq IPO.
For investment firms, however, the outlook was more optimistic. Last month continued a boom in fundraising for life sciences investors that started in late 2020. A notable addition to the biotech investments team was the French startup creator eureKARE, which recently debuted with €49M ($60M) and an eye for opportunities in the microbiome and synthetic biology fields.
European biotechs took home just over €1B in 49 funding rounds in May. Healthcare players pocketed the most cash, with infectious disease and oncology research receiving the strongest support. Outside of healthcare, big money went to companies developing DNA sequencing technology and specialists in biomaterials such as bioplastics and silk.
The main drivers of these trends were huge late-stage funding rounds. The king fundraiser was the UK sequencing behemoth Oxford Nanopore Technologies, which dominated with a €227M (£195M) private round. Oxford Nanopore’s eventual aim is to list on the London Stock Exchange later this year.
Biotech investments also flooded into companies developing vaccines against Covid-19. A €91M Nasdaq IPO by the UK firm Vaccitech and a combined Nasdaq IPO and global offering worth €89M ($107.6M) from the French company Valneva will pump cash into vaccine research. On a smaller scale, we also saw rounds from Ziphius Vaccines in Belgium and OSE Immunotherapeutics in France to develop Covid-19 vaccines.
One of the biggest fundraises, a €91.6M Series C closing, went to the Swiss oncology company Numab Therapeutics. This firm is developing multispecific antibodies to compete in the trendy area of checkpoint inhibitor immunotherapies for cancer.
Biotechs developing biomaterials also had a strong month, with the second biggest round going to Carbios, a company aiming to revolutionize plastics recycling. The French firm launched a €114M share offering to finance the construction of a bioplastics manufacturing unit, with the first revenues expected by 2025.
Also in the top 10 was the German firm AMSilk, whose Series C round will bankroll the development of microbe-derived spider silk. This biomaterial has applications in medical implants and in making sustainable clothing.
The majority of last month’s biotech investments came from Series C rounds and share offerings. This was especially the case for biotechs in the healthcare sector, with leaders including Valneva and Vaccitech’s public offerings and Series C rounds from Numab and Pulmocide.
Series A rounds in healthcare also had a strong showing; CytoKi Pharma raised an impressive €37.1M round in Denmark to fund a regenerative treatment for injuries. And the UK stem cell therapy specialist Mogrify added €14M to a Series A round originally announced in 2019, bringing the total to around €29M.
In comparison to healthcare, industrial biotechnology and other sectors such as sequencing relied more on late-stage fundraising and had relatively few Series A and B rounds.
The biggest seed round prize went to the startup Haya Therapeutics, which raised over €16M in Switzerland. Haya is gunning to take on fibrotic diseases by blocking RNA molecules that promote fibrosis and aging.
Chromologics in Denmark took second prize for its €6M seed round. The company uses fungal fermentation to produce food colorings more cheaply than traditional coloring agents, which often require high-value fruit and vegetables.
Another industrial biotech startup to watch going forward will be the synthetic biology firm Origin.bio, which launched this year with a €12.4M closing. The company aims to foster Europe’s nascent bioeconomy in the chemicals industry by replacing traditional petrochemical sources with microbes.
Moving into June, we’ve already seen two European IPOs: a €23M (£20M) AIM listing by the UK diabetes treatment developer Arecor and a €6.1M (SEK 62M) offering by the Swedish immuno-oncology specialist Elicera Therapeutics. Other anticipated IPOs from European biotechs in the coming weeks include those of the psychedelic drug developers ATAI Life Sciences in Germany and GH Research in Ireland.
Landmark FDA approvals this month could also shift the biotech investment landscape going forward. Novo Nordisk’s approved diabetes drug semaglutide became the first FDA-approved obesity treatment since 2014. And this week’s stunning FDA approval of Biogen’s controversial Alzheimer’s treatment aducanumab could revitalize investor interest in drugs aiming to slow the progression of the disease.