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Financing breaks all records in 2020

2020 stands out as one of the best years ever for biotech financing across the globe. Stock indices remained up through December. Initial public offerings (IPOs) had a banner year, with >73 life science firms raising collectively >$22 billion. Thirty-three biotech-related special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) — shell companies making an IPO that present private biotechs with an alternative to going public without a costly traditional flotation — raised a whopping $6.3 billion. Private fundraising also mushroomed, with a 37% increase in funds flooding in compared to the previous year, and private equity firms like Blackstone Life Sciences continued to expand into venture financing. Only mergers were off compared to previous years, as pharma showed a greater interest in partnerships. Chinese biotechs continued to flex their muscles, with seven of the top ten IPOs originating in Asia (last year, the region accounted for only four), and three of the ten biggest venture rounds last year also included Chinese biotechs LianBio, Everest Medicines and Mabwell Biotechnology.

Stock market performance

Biotech stocks were up over 20% on the year.

Global biotech initial public offerings

All regions had nearly triple IPO funding.

Number of IPOs

  2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Asia-Pacific 18 13 28 40 44
Europe 23 26 16 8 14
Americas 25 33 56 46 73
  1. Source: BCIQ BioCentury Online Intelligence

Global biotech financing

Money flowed into the sector from all avenues — none as great, though, as partnerships.

PIPE, private investment in public equity. Source: BCIQ BioCentury Online Intelligence.

Global biotech venture capital investment

All regions brought risk capital.

Number of rounds

  2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Asia-Pacific 70 82 104 109 112
Europe 195 182 171 176 178
Americas 428 492 501 411 442
  1. Source: BCIQ BioCentury Online Intelligence


Company (principal underwriters) Amount raised ($ millions) Date completed Country Change in stock price (as of 1/12/2021
SK Biopharmaceuticals (NH Investment & Securities, Citigroup Global Markets) 799 2 July South Korea +21
AbCellera Biologics (Credit Suisse, Stifel, Nicolaus, Berenberg Bank, SVB Leerink, BMO Capital Markets) 555 15 December Canada –32
RemeGen (Morgan Stanley, Huatai Securities, J.P. Morgan Securities, UBS, BOCI Asia, BOCOM International, Haitong International, Zhongtai Financial International) 514 9 November China + 60
Legend Biotech (Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan, Jefferies) 487 5 June China –21
Relay Therapeutics (Goldman Sachs, Cowen) 460 15 July United States +14
Everest Medicines (Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Citibank, CICC, Credit Suisse, Nomura, Brocade River) 451 8 October United States +9.5
Akeso (Morgan Stanley) 383 23 April China +100
Genor Biopharma (Goldman Sachs, Jefferies, J.P. Morgan Securities, CMB International Capital, China Renaissance, Haitong International, Macquarie Capital) 371 6 October China Not available
Gan & Lee Pharmaceuticals (Qiming Venture Partners) 360 28 June China +46
Antengene (Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, Citibank, CICC, CMB International Capital) 359 19 Nov China –5
  1. Source: BCIQ BioCentury Online Intelligence


Researcher Partner Up-front cash ($ millions) Description
Genmab AbbVie 750 Genmab grants AbbVie rights to co-develop and commercialize bispecific antibody products outside of the United States and Japan
Blueprint Medicines Roche 1,702 Blueprint Medicines grants Roche exclusive rights to pralsetinib to treat non-small-cell lung cancer, thyroid cancers and solid tumors outside the United States, excluding Greater China
Seattle Genetics Merck 600 Seattle Genetics partners with Merck to develop and commercialize cancer drugs ladiratuzumab vedotin and Tukysa (tucatinib)
Denali Biogen 560 Denali partners with Biogen to develop and commercialize LRRK2 program for Parkinson’s disease and certain TV platform–enabled programs for neurodegenerative diseases
Dragonfly Therapeutics Bristol Myers Squibb 475 Dragonfly Therapeutics grants Bristol Myers Squibb exclusive, worldwide rights to develop and commercialize Dragonfly’s IL-12 investigational immunotherapy program
uniQure CSL Behring 450 uniQure grants CSL Behring exclusive, worldwide rights to develop and commercialize etranacogene dezaparvovec to treat hemophilia
Assertio Therapeutics Collegium Pharmaceutical 375 Assertio Therapeutics grants Collegium Pharmaceutical US rights to Assertio’s Nucynta (tapentadol) franchise for pain
Atea Pharmaceuticals Roche 350 Atea Pharmaceuticals partners with Roche to develop and distribute AT-527 for COVID-19
Takeda Arrowhead 300 Takeda and Arrowhead collaborate to co-develop and co-commercialize ARO-AAT for α1-antitrypsin-associated liver disease
Translate Bio Sanofi 300 Sanofi partners with Translate Bio to develop COVID-19 mRNA vaccine and for other infectious disease indications for up to $1.9 billion
Apellis Pharmaceuticals Orphan Biovitrum 250 Apellis Pharmaceuticals grants Swedish Orphan Biovitrum (Sobi) global co-development and exclusive ex-US commercialization rights to systemic pegcetacoplan (APL-2)
  1. Source: BCIQ BioCentury Online Intelligence

Venture capital

Company (lead investors) Amount raised ($ millions) Round number Country Date completed
Sana Biotechnology (Flagship Pioneering, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Baillie Gifford, F-Prime Capital Partners, Alaska Permanent Fund, GV, Bezos Expeditions, Omega Funds, Altitude Life Science Ventures) 700 Not disclosed United States 23 June
Lyell Immunopharma (not disclosed) 493 C United States 5 March
Grail (Flagship Pioneering, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Baillie Gifford, F-Prime Capital Partners, Alaska Permanent Fund, GV, Bezos Expeditions, Omega Funds, Altitude Life Science Ventures) 390 D United States 6 May
CureVac (KfW) 337 Not disclosed Germany 15 June
LianBio (BlackRock, Vida Ventures, Perceptive Advisors, Konstantin Poukalov, Venrock Healthcare Capital Partners, T. Rowe Price, Pfizer, Viking Global Investors, Wellington Management, RA Capital Management, Tybourne Capital Management) 310 Not disclosed China 29 June
Mabwell Biotechnology (Shiyu Capital, Loyal Valley Capital, Ganzhou Development Investment Holding Group, Golden China Fund, Ningbo Gaoling Fund, Suzhou Ruihua, Nanshan National Fund) 279 A China 29 April
Freeome (Perceptive Advisors, Janus Henderson Investors, Soleus Capital, Roche Venture Fund, Kaiser Permanente Ventures, Section 32, RA Capital Management, GV, EcoR1 Capital, Andreessen Horowitz, Cormorant Asset Management and others) 270 C United States 28 August
Everest Medicines (Janchor Partners, RA Capital Management, Hillhouse Capital, Decheng Capital, Janus Henderson Investors, Rock Springs Capital, Octagon Capital, Guoxin Guotong Fund, CBC Group, Cormorant Capital, Pavilion Capital, HBM Healthcare Investments, existing investors) 260 C United States 4 June
Thrive Earlier Detection (Section 32, Exact Sciences, Janus Henderson Investors, T. Rowe Price, Perceptive Advisors, Third Rock Ventures, Brown Advisory, Rock Springs Capital, Camden Partners, Invus, Lux Capital) 257 B United States 29 July
Recursion Pharmaceuticals (Leaps by Bayer, Data Collective, Epic Ventures, Catalio Capital Management, Casdin Capital, Obvious Ventures, Samsara BioCapital, Intermountain Ventures, Lux Capital, Two Sigma Ventures, Advantage Capital, Mubadala Capital Ventures US, Felicis Ventures) 239 D United States 9 September
  1. Source: BCIQ BioCentury Online Intelligence

Mergers and acquisitions

Target Acquirer Value ($ millions) Date announced
Immunomedics Gilead Sciences 21,000 13 September
MyoKardia Bristol Myers Squibb 13,100 5 October
Qiagen Thermo Fisher Scientific 11,500 3 March
Momenta Pharmaceuticals Johnson & Johnson 6,500 19 August
Forty Seven Gilead Sciences 4,900 2 March
Principia Biopharma Sanofi 3,680 17 August
VelosBio Merck 2,750 5 November
Aimmune Therapeutics Nestlé 2,600 13 August
Asklepios BioPharmaceutical Bayer 2,000 26 October
Portola Pharmaceuticals Alexion 1,176 5 May
  1. Source: BCIQ BioCentury Online Intelligence

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DeFrancesco, L. Financing breaks all records in 2020. Nat Biotechnol 39, 133–134 (2021).

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