Where the money is, 2016 edition: The top 100 VCs investing in biotech, by the numbers
Using the latest set of numbers on the top 100 VCs operating in the US, you can sketch out all of the big trends at play in the multibillion-dollar game of biotech investing and startups.
The top four VCs — Flagship, Third Rock, New Enterprise Associates and Arch Venture — all entered 2016 flush with cash and ready to start ramping up new companies while fostering the upstarts already in their portfolios, according to figures Thomson Reuters provided to Endpoints News. NEA may have slipped down the list a bit, but the life sciences group under David Mott continues to be one of the most prolific in the industry, not shy in the least to take a lead role in big new rounds.
In many cases, these four VCs have been kickstarting companies into existence using a blank-slate approach in tracking down and sparking the shift from academia into the clinic. And groups like Atlas and 5AM have been close behind.
If you ranked these firms by the number of deals, Polaris would come in at the top (same as last year) though they are clearly looking at making smaller bets across a wider slate of candidates.
Most of these top players are keenly interested in the earliest stages of investing in biotech, but the undertow on the money is also inevitably broadening to include later stages of work, which is why Flagship recently added a new $285 million fund to extend its reach further down the clinic.
With IPOs suffering last year, it’s also no surprise to see a crossover investor like RA Capital drop from 5th in 2015 to 56th in 2016. But OrbiMed and Deerfield remain in the top tier of the busiest players.
The number of new deals has slipped, which is also no surprise. 2015 remains a record year in venture investing that will be hard to beat in the coming years, as VCs wait out the lull in the public market. But the overall flow of cash remains near enough to historic highs to keep the landscape looking bright.
To fully understand these numbers, you have to start by clarifying that the totals in the amount invested column aren’t gospel. Thomson Reuters gathers up all the numbers it can find — in the news, SEC filings and so on — and then divvies the amount of each round by the number of players on record. If one VC was involved in a round, they have a solid figure. If 4 or 5 players are involved, they divide by the total and use that as the average. It’s not perfect, but it does capture the level of activity each VC is playing with.
Based on the number of new funds that continue to attract record amounts of money for players like Versant, it’s fair to say that 2017 looks solid as we begin the year. Just about everyone expects a repeat of 2016 on the IPO front, though with Donald Trump entering the White House as the wild card in American politics — stroking corporations with one hand while slapping pharma with the other — who really knows what’s going to happen?
Someone asked me recently where they had the best shot at raising cash for his biotech venture. My suggestion: Look over the numbers and deals in your own sector and see who has a track record in your field. And this is a good place to get started on that exercise.