Celgene has backed more than 15 companies since 2012. Google Ventures joined the list of top investors this year.
Corporate interest in life-science startups developing cancer therapies has been increasing over the years. Corporate-backed deals are up from around 30 in 2012 to nearly 50 so far this year (as of 10/26/16).
Apart from big pharma companies like Novartis, Celgene, and Pfizer, tech giants like Google and IBM have recently entered the space as well. Google Ventures backed startups this year working in immuno-oncology (drugs enhancing the body’s own immune system to fight cancer) and targeted therapy (drugs that precisely identify cancer cells, minimizing damage to healthy cells). Specifically, Google backed Carrick Therapeutics, Forty Seven, and ARMO Biosciences. Meanwhile, the IBM Watson Group backed Petra Pharma in a $48M Series A round.
We used the CB Insights database to identify and analyze the investment/acquisition trends of the top corporate investors in the space, which have invested in 3 or more unique companies since 2012. Our list includes:
- Novartis, Novartis Venture Funds, and Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research
- Pfizer and Pfizer Venture Investments
- SR One
- Eli Lilly & Co., Lilly Ventures, and Lilly Asia Ventures
- Amgen and Amgen Ventures
- Roche, Roche Venture Fund, and Genentech
- Astellas Venture Management
- Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund
- F-Prime Capital
- Johnson & Johnson and Johnson & Johnson Innovation
- Novo Nordisk and Novo Ventures
- WuXi Venture Fund and WuXi Pharma Tech
- AbbVie and AbbVie Biotech Ventures
- MedImmune and MedImmune Ventures
- Baxter International and Baxter Ventures
- Missouri Technology Corporation
- BioMed Ventures
- Merck & Co., and Merck Capital Ventures
- Brace Pharma Capital
- Google Ventures
- Boxer Capital
Our cancer therapy category includes drug delivery, drug discovery, biotechnology, and pharma startups with a major focus on oncology or with a leading oncology drug candidate in their pipeline. The companies are working on a variety of technologies including oncolytic viruses, T-cell therapies, epigenetics, and targeted therapies.
Please click on the graphic to enlarge. Orange lines denote an acquisition, green lines denote an investment.
- Celgene: Biopharma giant Celgene has an oncology research program focusing on areas including immuno-oncology and epigenetics. It has been the most active investor in cancer therapy startups, backing 16 companies in the last 5 years, including 4 in Q3’16. More recently, it backed Cleave Biosciences in a $37M Series B round and took a $36M minority stake in Jounce Therapeutics. Celgene acquired Quanticel Pharmaceuticals for $485M in 2015, giving it access to Quanticel’s research program on epigenetics.
- Novartis: Novartis has invested in 3 companies since 2015, with a strong focus on immunotherapies. It took a minority stake in Gamida Cell (focusing on blood cancer) and Aduro Biotech (focused on various types of cancers and tumors), and backed Boston-based IMF Therapeutics in a $27M Series A round in Q2’16. Its venture arm, Novartis Venture Funds, was the second-most active corporate investor, having backed 11 startups focused on cancer therapies. In addition, the Novartis Institutes of Biomedical Research, which focuses on immuno-oncology, among other disease areas, backed 2 companies: IDEAYA Biosciences in a $46M Series A round in Q2’16 and Surface Oncology in a $35M Series A round in Q2’16.
- Pfizer: Earlier this year, Pfizer bought the assets of BIND Therapeutics, which had filed for bankruptcy, for $40M. BIND, which went public in 2013 after raising a Series D round that year, had previously collaborated with AstraZeneca for therapies targeting kinase inhibitors (drugs that block the action of certain enzymes). Pfizer Venture Investments has backed 10 startups since 2012. Its most recent investments include Petra Pharma, NextCure, and Metabomed.
- Eli Lilly & Co.: Drug development corporation Eli Lilly backed 9 companies through its venture arm, Lilly Ventures, and 4 companies through Lilly Asia Ventures. Eli Lilly also directly invested in previously mentioned Petra Pharma, and Canada-based Zymeworks (also backed by Celgene).
- AbbVie acquired Stemcentrx for $10.2B in Q2’16. It was one of the largest acquisitions of a VC-backed company in history.
- Astella Pharma acquired Ganymed Pharmaceuticals for (up to) $1.4B in Q4’16. Ganymed was working on monoclonal antibody therapies.
- Johnson & Johnson acquired Aragon Pharmaceuticals for $1B in 2013, giving it access to Aragon’s lead compound for treating prostate cancer.
- Petra Pharma, a drug development company based in New York, was backed by 5 of the top corporate investors—AbbVie Biotech Ventures, Eli Lilly & Co, Johnson & Johnson Innovation, Pfizer Venture Investments, and WuXi PharmaTech—as well as the IBM Watson Group (not included in the graph), this year in a $48M Series A round.
- eFFECTOR Therapeutics was also backed by 5 of the top corporate investors. It raised $16M in Q1’16 from AbbVie Biotech Ventures, Astellas Venture Management, BioMed Ventures, Novartis Venture Funds, and SR One, among other investors.
- Surface Oncology, working on immunotherapies, was backed by Amgen Ventures, F-Prime Capital, Lilly Ventures, and Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research in a $35M Series A round in Q1’15.
- Metabomed, an Israel-based drug discovery startup, raised $18M in Q2’16 from Merck Ventures, Pfizer Ventures Investments, and Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund.
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