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Investments show UK biotech still booming despite Brexit

UK raised a quarter of all European biotech funds

New figures show the UK life science sector is still in good health, with a strong start to fundraising in early 2019, despite the continuing chaos and uncertainty around Brexit.

The UK BioIndustry Association (BIA) and Informa Pharma Intelligence have released a report showing £182m was raised by private biotech companies between Dec 2018 and the end of February 2019, almost £50m more than during the same period a year earlier.

They say the figures suggest that the sector could break the fundraising record set in 2018, when over £1bn of venture capital was raised.   

The report shows there were seven VC investments of £10m or more in UK companies in the period. The UK’s £182m biotech venture capital accounted for almost a quarter of the total £771m raised in Europe

Only Iceland raised more venture capital than the UK, due to £231m raised there by a single company, Alvotech.

However not all the signs were positive. Public markets were quiet for biotech around the world, with only 19 IPOs globally, and none in the UK. This reflects a continuing shift away from biotech IPOs on European markets, with European biotech firms increasingly choosing to list on the US Nasdaq exchange.

One such company was London-headquartered firm Orchard Therapeutics, which successfully raised $200m in November.

Meanwhile China emerged last year as a new force in biotech venture capital, and has now overtaken Europe as the second biggest region for VC fundraising behind the US.

The figures were published as the global sector convenes in Vienna for BIO-Europe, with a delegation of 200 companies representing the UK making up 13% of attendees.

steve bates

Steve Bates

“This quarter’s data shows the UK’s life science sector has kept calm and carried on whatever has happened with Brexit,” said Steve Bates, CEO of the BIA. “It is reassuring that investors have maintained their confidence in the UK’s innovative young biotech companies.”

“As a sector at the cutting edge of science, the leaders of UK biotechs have continued working hard to raise capital for their R&D programmes to develop the life-changing medicines we’ll all need in the future. Our community is part of a global sector, and we will continue to build relationships with our international colleagues and welcome investors to our shores.

The new report coincides with Bio Europe in Vienna, one of the region’s biggest biotech meetings, with 200 delegates from the UK sector attending the event.

Mike Ward, head of pharma content, Informa, said the combination of a world class life science research base and an Britain’s world class life sciences base and an established entrepreneurial ecosystem continued to attract investors.

He added that “Whatever happens over Brexit, the UK is likely to remain Europe’s pre-eminent biotech hub.

This is a widely held view, though other European biotech hubs are keen to pick up investment from life science firms who have been spooked by the huge uncertainty around Brexit. This includes the Netherlands, which is looking to capitalise on the arrival of the European Medicines Agency in Amsterdam after Brexit forced it to leave London.

Article by
Andrew McConaghie

24th March 2019

From: Sales



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