Despite fewer healthcare deals, corporate venture capital booming
While last year’s boom in corporate venture capital financing continues to expand in some business sectors, the healthcare space raised only $288 million in 23 deals in the first quarter of 2014—the lowest in five quarters.
A survey of first quarter venture capital (VC) investments by CB Insights showed a continuing trend of big companies with deep pockets making sizeable late-stage financing investments. Known as corporate venture capitalists, led by Google Ventures and Intel Capita, they invested a total of $3 billion in the first quarter, 30% of all VC investment, which totaled $9.92 billion in 880 deals.
Lilly Ventures, the investment arm of Eli Lilly, and SR One, GlaxoSmithKline’s corporate VC fund, led corporate venture investing in healthcare. While 36% of corporate VC investments were in internet companies, 18% were in healthcare, the second largest sector. Still, first quarter corporate investments in healthcare were nearly $100 million less than the year-ago quarter, when $380 million was invested.
Of the 23 corporate VC deals in the first quarter, the top three were:
- Neotract received $51 million in late stage financing from Johnson & Johnson. It is developing minimally invasive devices that address unmet needs in urology. Last fall, the 10-year-old company gained FDA approval for UroLift, which lowers urinary tract symptoms due to Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH). The device works by opening the urethra directly without resecting or ablating prostate tissue. Last month Neotract said it gained positive insurance coverage for UroLift from Aetna U.S. Healthcare.
- Thesan Pharmaceuticals raised $49 million in Series B funding from a group that included Novartis Venture Fund, SV Life Sciences, Lundbeckfond Ventures and Thesan’s original investor, Novo Ventures, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Novo Nordisk Foundation. The Carlsbad, Calif.-based biotech company is developing treatments for skin disorders starting with atopic dermatitis, a form of eczema, and acne.
- Axonics Modulation Technologies received $32.6 million from Paris-based Edmond de Rothschild Investment Partners, the private equity affiliate of the Edmond de Rothschild Group, NeoMed Management and Legend Capital. Axonics was spun out of the Alfred Mann Foundation, which is providing intellectual property and device experience in neuromodulation—the process in which several classes of neurotransmitters in the nervous system regulate diverse population of neurons. Neuromodulation involves the use of implantable devices that alter nervous system activity through the use of electrical stimulation. Irvine, Calif-based Axonics is developing novel implantable neuromodulation technology directed toward severalchronic conditions, including chronic pain and overactive bladder.
The report also highlighted the record number of U.S. initial public offerings during the first quarter—35 VC-backed companies, the highest since the third quarter of 2000. Of the 35 IPOs, 22 were in the healthcare sector, compared to four in the year-ago quarter. The remaining 13 VC-backed IPOs were technology companies.
“Healthcare remains a conundrum, with great IPO activity but more than a dip in venture financing compared to a year ago,” said Anand Sanwal, CEO of CB Insights. “It’s hard to put my finger on why it is happening, as there is an overall shift to technology investments. Still, IPOs are a better indicator of the healthcare space.”