23 September, 2020 - 21:15 By News Desk

Local life science investment goes from strength to strength

The global economic and societal challenges brought by COVID-19 have impacted all industries, many quite extensively, writes Simon Ormiston, partner at  PwC in Cambridge.

In contrast, the performance of the life sciences sector has gone from strength to strength, with sentiment and confidence in it borne out by continuing significant scientific progress and levels of investment. This is exemplified by the Cambridge cluster, reinforcing its position as a leading centre globally and a key destination for businesses, research and investment.

A number of players here have made a huge contribution towards the COVID-19 testing, treatment and prevention efforts but it’s by no means all about the immediate challenges presented by COVID-19. 

The IP developed in Cambridge addresses a broad spectrum of therapeutic targets  and the strength and clinical potential of the drug candidates and platform technologies means there is significant investor appetite and activity – both from private and public sources.

If there were ever concerns that fund-raising would potentially dry up in the absence of face-to-face meetings whilst we have been working remotely, they were quickly dispelled. A number of substantial venture capital rounds were announced since March, which included:

  • Nodthera – $55 million Series B
  • ReViral Ltd – $44m Series C
  • Bit Bio – $41.5m Series A
  • Mission Therapeutics – $15m in equity investment 
  • Biofidelity Ltd – $12m Series A

Despite initial concerns about the impact of COVID-19 on capital markets and IPO valuations, the IPO market has remained buoyant. NASDAQ seems to be by far and away the market of choice. 

Bicycle Therapeutics listed there in May last year, and others, including Horizon Discovery and F-star Therapeutics (via its recently announced merger with Spring Bank Pharmaceuticals) have announced that they are evaluating such a move, and plenty of others are waiting in the wings.

Cambridge also continues to provide corporates with high potential and successful IP and products to strengthen their offerings, such as Nanna Therapeutics’ sale to Astellas Pharma Inc and NeoGenomics’ investment in, and option to buy, Inivata.

The focus on industry corridors is of increasing importance to economic development and spatial development strategies. Down the A1 corridor from Cambridge is the Stevenage bioscience catalyst and its growing cluster of leading edge life sciences companies are also contributing to the strength of the UK life sciences industry. 

This includes the recent $120m series C investment into Freeline Therapeutics and their announcement of an IPO, and Bayer’s acquisition of KaNDy Therapeutics.

The links between the two centres are becoming stronger, which should help with the continued acceleration and performance of the wider cluster, building the deeper and larger talent pool so necessary for future expansion of the industry.

In these ongoing uncertain economic times, it is more important than ever that the life science cluster here in Cambridge celebrates and builds on its successes!

For more information, email simon.j.ormiston [at] pwc.com (Simon Ormiston).

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