Private biotech investments in Europe were on a steady decline in April 2022 as biotech public markets continued to disappoint. The top funding rounds were dominated by UK and Swiss firms targeting genetic diseases and cancer.
April 2022 provided no relief for the European biotech industry as public stock markets remain anemic. Though flush with cash from 2021, private biotech investors are also cautious as they expect troubles to hit venture capital investments in biotech companies.
European and Israeli biotech companies raised €450.6M across 33 deals in April 2022. This is lower than the totals from January, February, and March, and continues a steady monthly decline in European private biotech investments.
As in March 2022, there were no initial public offerings (IPOs) by any European biotech companies in April. One UK firm, Okyo Pharma, registered its intent to list in the US, but hasn’t yet taken the plunge, and has halved its expected proceeds to €4.8M ($5M).
Private investments in industrial biotechnology companies have felt the squeeze particularly strongly. The total investments in April for industrial biotechs fell to just €14.5M from €83.6M in March. In contrast, firms in healthcare and enabling technologies sectors such as genomics and sequencing raised similar levels of investments to those bagged in March.
As expected, oncology companies were the primary draw for biotech investments, followed by players developing treatments for gastrointestinal diseases and genetic disorders. Drug discovery and automation attracted the most funding in enabling technologies, while the downsized industrial biotechnology investment share went to firms developing novel foods including precision fermentation.
The private biotech investment winner of April 2022 was Renexxion Ireland, which landed a €92M commitment from the investor GEM Global Yield. Renexxion will use the funding to advance a small molecule drug for the treatment of gastrointestinal conditions in phase III trials.
In second place, the UK firm OMass Therapeutics raised €90M in a Series B round to finance the development of small molecule drugs against tough targets in inflammatory diseases and genetic conditions.
Another noteworthy contender was a €15M fundraise by the Spanish firm Oncomatryx, which is developing antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) — a hot field in cancer research — to tackle solid tumors.
Swiss companies dominated the early biotech venture rounds in April. The biggest Series A round was a hefty €70M bagged by the firm CDR-Life. The company is developing antibody drugs that can trigger T cells to attack cancer by allowing them to recognize cancer-specific proteins on the cell surface.
Also from Switzerland, the startup Cimeio Therapeutics was launched by Versant Ventures with a €46M Series A round. Cimeio aims to enhance cancer cell immunotherapies and bone marrow transplants by developing more effective ways of depleting diseased cells from patients. In addition, transplanted cells are gene edited to shield them from the depletion treatments.
The Canadian-UK firm Epitopea won the seed round crown in April 2022. The €12.7M round will bankroll research into a novel class of tumor antigens that could lead to immunotherapies including cancer vaccines and cell therapies.
The runner-up was the Swiss company Planetary, which is working on a fermentation strategy that uses fungi to produce food protein. The idea is to empower other firms to develop meat alternatives on a massive scale, using less land and resources than traditional agriculture.
Third on the list was Pangea Biomed, which raised €6.4M to advance its RNA sequencing approach. By identifying the RNAs produced in tumor cells, the company offers a way to screen for treatments that would most benefit patients with cancer.
While the month of April saw less biotech funding in total, there were plenty of large venture rounds flowing, indicating that private investors are still on the hunt for opportunities in Europe. One example was the launch of Forcefield Therapeutics by the investor Syncona to deploy protein drugs for the treatment of heart attacks.
While Switzerland had a strong month in April, the UK has remained one of the most attractive locations for private biotech investments. April saw a UK funding heavyweight — the charity Cancer Research UK — reorganizing itself with more ties to industry with the aim of launching more startups to commercialize innovations in oncology. Meanwhile, the investment firm Cambridge Innovation Capital raised €261M (£225M) in its mission to invest in deeptech and life sciences startups in the local region.
Nonetheless, other European nations are also gunning to stay in the game. In one recent example, the Dutch government dedicated €60M million to building an ecosystem for nurturing the emerging cultured meat scene, which allows the production of meat without farming animals.