Biotech Money, Where Art Thou?
While public biotech funding in the US in 2003 outpaced private funding by more than five to one, the smaller financing picture in Europe tells a different story.
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The $752 million worth of new funds raised by leading European biotechnology VCs over the past three months suggests that Europe's private biotech market is picking up. But these funds won't simply land in companies' laps. Europe's biotech managers, many of whom have raised funds only during boom times, will have to satisfy increasingly stringent criteria to secure their slice of the pie. Yet although late-stage products and critical mass still top some investors' wish lists, selected platform and early-stage groups capable of rapidly advancing a broad range of compounds into the clinic have also found funding.
Chiron's acquisition of PowderJect is the most recent sign that the vaccines industry is coming of age, taking the field's only two mid-sized players up among the top-ranking Big Pharma. This deal was largely about infrastructure. But it suggests any European biotech with a valuable asset--be it product or distribution network--is an attractive takeover target for US firms.
A handful of private European biotechs have raised money, but the process takes time, and the sums aren't great. Since VCs can invest in late-stage companies at the same prices they used to pay for newer ventures, early and mid-stage biotechs are being forced to broaden their search for funds, and meet growing demands for cost cutting and detailed spending plans. Both VCs and biotechs may emerge stronger from the squeeze, however.