Venture Capital

Megadeals keep investments up in lifesci’s Q1, but the tempo continues to slow for biotech

The money train in biotechnology has slowed down.

In another clear sign that venture investors and crossovers are tapping the brakes, the new MoneyTree Report shows that Q1 investing in biotech fell to $887,310,000, a significant drop from the $1.3 billion the report registered for the same period in 2016.

But with the help of a couple of megadeals — including a $900 million wager on a new diagnostics player — once you step back and take a broader look at the life sciences business the overall number for the industry, including devices, swelled to $3.4 billion, a significant gain over the first three months of 2016.


The money flowing into biotechnology also outpaced the fourth quarter of last year, when the MoneyTree report also registered a drop year-over-year, with $668 million flowing into drug development.

The MoneyTree Report by PricewaterhouseCoopers has undergone some distinct changes, though, as Thomson Reuters’ numbers were switched out with data collected by CB Insights. And the old and new data do not align, underscoring how varied these analyses can be.

Grail had a lot to do with the overall increase. Diagnostics is an active but definitely smaller niche player in the quarter-by-quarter number analysis done by their researchers. And Grail is one of the biggest examples of how some VCs like Arch enjoy swinging for the fences with big bets on new tech.

Arch was also behind George Scangos’ new venture, Vir Biotechnology, which attracted a $150 million megaround to target viral and bacterial diseases.

If you break out the top 10 lifesci investments last quarter, you’ll see an even split between the Bay Area and Cambridge, MA, though more dollars flowed into a few oversized plays on the West Coast.

Venture investing in biotech hit a peak in 2015 and early 2016 on top of an IPO boom and a myriad of profitable exits. The boom has faded as IPOs slowed, and the slide has taken much of that crossover money with it.

Still, it’s early days in biotech, and we’ve seen some new VC players hit the field recently while older funds continue to attract some record sums.


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