UK and German companies led the European biotech funding race in August, specializing in cell therapy, diagnostics, and RNA-based treatments.
With summer in full swing, August was a quieter month than July in terms of European biotech funding. Private biotechs in Europe and Israel — in addition to those going public in an initial public offering — raised a total of €466.8M in 26 deals in August, just over half that of the €860M pocketed in July.
One factor in this drop was the lower number of IPOs in August; the only two major biotech companies taking this step were BiVictriX Therapeutics on the UK stock market AIM and Ectin Research on the Swedish Spotlight Stock Market. Their winnings totaled €13.2M, a fraction of July’s €294M yield.
In August, the vast majority of private biotech funding went to companies focused on biomedical research compared to industrial or other applications. This was a starker trend than in July. The bulk of this cash came from German and UK firms closing Series B rounds.
The leader of August’s private investments haul was the Berlin-based biotech T-knife with a Series B round worth a hefty €93.2M. T-knife is developing cell therapies based on T-cells, and its round came just a few weeks after another T-cell therapy firm, Anocca in Sweden, raised €40M in its own Series B.
Other leading rounds came from the UK psychedelics startup, Beckley Psytech; the French regenerative medicine player Tissium; and Cardior Pharmaceuticals, a German firm with the goal of tackling heart disease using drugs made of non-coding RNA.
DnaNudge topped the Series A investments in August, netting €50.8M in biotech funding. The UK diagnostics firm will use the cash to roll out point-of-care PCR tests for Covid-19. DnaNudge also plans to offer DNA testing services to assist in the management of nutrition-related conditions including obesity and diabetes.
The Series A runners up included EpiEndo Pharmaceuticals, an Icelandic company researching treatments for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; the UK firm SolasCure, which clones proteins from maggots to assist wound healing; and Hudson River Biotechnology, a Dutch gene editing player that uses CRISPR to speed up the breeding process in crops.
Mestag Therapeutics bagged the top spot in the biotech seed round leaderboard in August. The UK firm originally raised a seed round of around €9.3M in April this year and has added to this round another €28.8M from investors including Forbion and GV — the venture arm of Google’s parent company, Alphabet. Mestag is researching ways to tackle cancer and inflammatory disease by putting the crosshairs on cells called fibroblasts.
Another major entry of €6M went to Resalis Therapeutics — a Turin-based startup founded this year to combat gastrointestinal and metabolic diseases involving the liver. And NRG Therapeutics in the UK closed a small seed investment of around £490,000 (€570,000) in a bid to treat Parkinson’s disease.
One interesting seed round with an undisclosed value went to the German startup QOA, which is developing a way to manufacture chocolate through microbial fermentation. This could reduce the industry’s dependence on cocoa, whose production is labor- and resource-intensive.
While August saw less biotech funding changing hands, the industry was steadily churning out drug approvals and clinical trials.
Over August, the FDA greenlit a slow-release hormone therapy from the Danish firm Ascendis in patients with growth hormone deficiency. The same regulator also granted full approval to the Covid-19 vaccine developed by BioNTech and Pfizer, as many other Covid-19 vaccines and treatments piled into late-stage clinical testing. And the French company Valneva revealed the first set of positive phase III results for a vaccine against the mosquito-borne infection chikungunya.
As the summer ends and September progresses, biotech funding rounds seem to be warming up. One notable Series A round went to the Scottish company Enterobiotix this week, bestowing around €18M to fund the development of microbiome-based treatments for gastrointestinal diseases.
Additionally, cell therapies seem to be advancing from strength to strength, as the big pharma company Roche recruited the UK-based Adaptimmune in a deal worth up to a staggering €3B this week. The pair will co-develop T-cell therapies that can be produced from donors rather than the patients’ own cells.
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Cover image via Elena Resko