Earlier this year, Stemcentrx, a company developing oncology therapeutics that use the body’s immune system to fight cancer, was acquired for upwards of $10B by pharmaceutical giant AbbVie in one of the largest ever exits of a VC-backed company. Deals to similar immuno-oncology startups have been increasing year-over-year and so far occupy half of all deals to private oncology therapeutics companies this year.
Traditional chemotherapy broadly targets all rapidly dividing cells. Many of the side effects of traditional chemotherapy such as hair loss, organ damage, and immunosuppression are a direct result of its indiscriminate targeting mechanism. Immunotherapy, in contrast, refers to a set of treatment options that stimulate the body’s own immune system to fight against cancer cells. Because immunotherapies are not poison to non-cancerous cells, treatments are generally well-tolerated. For this reason, immunotherapy has been increasingly adopted by physicians and investors alike and is widely considered the future of cancer treatment.
We used CB Insights data and the CB Insights Trends tool to look at investment activity and media attention on the cancer therapeutics industry, especially immunotherapy.
This brief is broken down as follows:
- Immunotherapy Deals Share
- Most Well-Funded Immunotherapy Companies
- Most Active VCs In Immunotherapy
CB Insights Trends is software that analyzes millions of media articles to identify and understand emerging technologies and innovations.
Immunotherapy comprises four general categories of treatment options: monoclonal antibodies, cancer vaccines, checkpoint inhibitors, and non-specific therapies. Using the Trends tool, we see the growing excitement surrounding the field since 2013.
In October, the National Cancer Institute listed immunotherapy research as one of its “transformative research topics” that would significantly advance cancer treatment. And recently, attention paid to immunotherapy or immuno-oncology has surpassed media attention on chemotherapy as a whole. In addition, targeted therapy, another relatively new area of cancer therapy in which drugs act on precise targets associated with cancer cells, has also experienced growth in media attention.
Year-to-date, there have been 126 deals to cancer therapeutics startups, half of which were to companies developing immunotherapies. However, this is lower than last year’s share, when immunotherapy startups accounted for 60% of cancer therapy deals. Total number of immunotherapy deals has grown every year since 2012 but this year, deal count is on track to come in lower than in 2015. So far in 2016, there have been 63 deals to immunotherapy startups.
In addition, total number of deals in 2016 YTD to targeted therapy startups has surpassed 2015’s count and deal share, with 34 deals accounting for 26% of deal share. Recent targeted therapy deals include the $16M Series A to UK-based Celleron Therapeutics and the $95M Series A to Ireland-based Carrick Therapeutics.
Immunotherapy: Most well-funded companies
There have been 14 $100M+ megarounds to immuno-oncology startups since 2012, 9 of which occurred after January 2015. The most well-funded private cancer immunotherapy company is Denmark-based Symphogen which raised almost $360M over the last 12 years. Symphogen develops antibody-based therapies initially targeting colorectal cancer and glioblastoma, a common form of brain cancer.
In second is CureVac, with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The company is developing a vaccine for prostate cancer and immunotherapy treatments for lung cancer.
|Rank||Company||Total Funding||Select Investors|
|1||Symphogen||$359.2||New Science Ventures, Gilde Healthcare Partners, Life Science Venture|
|2||CureVac||$351.8||Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, NorthView Ventures, Baillie Gifford & Co.|
|3||Immunocore||$323.7||Lilly Ventures, Malin Corporation|
|4||ADC Therapeutics||$275.0||AstraZeneca, MedImmune|
|5||NovImmune||$256.8||Novartis Venture Funds, Aravis Ventures, Rosetta Capital Partners|
|7||Immatics Biotechnologies||$190.4M||3i Group, DH Capital, EMBL Ventures|
|8||CStone Pharma||$150M||Boyu Capital, Wuxi Venture Fund|
|9||Zymeworks||$142.90||Advent Venture Partners, Celgene, Eli Lilly & Co.|
|10||Jounce Therapeutics||$139M||Third Rock Ventures, Wellington Management|
Immunotherapy: Most Active VC firms
The venture capital firm with the most investments to unique immunotherapy startups since 2012 is New York-based OrbiMed Advisors. OrbiMed recently participated in the $67M Series A of Maryland-based NextCure, with co-investments from Lilly Asia Ventures and Pfizer Venture Investments, among others. As a sign of confidence in the immunotherapy sector, this investment was made despite NextCure being in the nascent stages of the drug development process.
Boston-based MPM Capital came in second while Atlas Venture and Amgen Ventures tied for third. 4 of the top 14 investors are corporate venture arms such as Amgen Ventures, Pfizer Venture Investments, and Lilly Ventures. For more on corporate venture investing in cancer therapeutics see our Business Social Graph.
|5||Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers|
|6||Pfizer Venture Investments|
|8||The Column Group|
|8||Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund|
|8||New Enterprise Associates|
|8||Life Sciences Partners|
Want more data on oncology startups? Log in to CB Insights or sign up for free below.
This report was created with data from CB Insights’ emerging technology insights platform, which offers clarity into emerging tech and new business strategies through tools like:
- Earnings Transcripts Search Engine & Analytics to get an information edge on competitors’ and incumbents’ strategies
- Patent Analytics to see where innovation is happening next
- Company Mosaic Scores to evaluate startup health, based on our National Science Foundation-backed algorithm
- Business Relationships to quickly see a company’s competitors, partners, and more
- Market Sizing Tools to visualize market growth and spot the next big opportunity