Burrill Report: Financing Activity May Lift Cloud Hanging Over Biotech Industry

dollarsBy Marie Daghlian, The Burrill Report

Although investors are grasping at any positive sign of improvement in the economy to push a market rally forward, the recession is still very much with us. A rally in the beginning of last week fizzled ahead of the holiday weekend as investors remained concerned about the U.S. government’s interventions to stimulate the economy. But while biotech leaders from all over the world gathered at the 2009 BIO International Convention in Atlanta, financing activity in the sector raised hope that the cloud hanging over the industry may be lifting a little.

Public markets remain dry, but companies raising venture capital and private equity financings are having quite a bit of success. Small U.S. public companies are tapping the private markets and seem to be especially fond of registered direct offerings, with six of the nine PIPEs completed last week structured in this manner.

Venture capital investment had a strong showing during the week with 15 deals. In one of the largest ever rounds of venture financing, newly formed Clovis Oncology, based in Boulder, Colorado, announced that it had secured $145 million in start-up financing. The company, founded by former executives of Pharmion Corporation, is focused on acquiring, develop and marketing innovative anti-cancer compounds in all stages of clinical development. Investors in Clovis include Domain Associates, New Enterprise Associates (NEA), Versant Ventures, Aberdare Ventures, Abingworth, Frazier Healthcare Ventures, ProQuest Investments and the Company’s management team. Pharmion was acquired by Celgene (CELG) in 2008 for $2.9 billion.

Molecular imaging products developer Avid Radiopharmaceuticals completed the first closing of a $34.5 million Series D financing led by Alta Partners. Also participating in the financing were existing investors AllianceBernstein, Safeguard Scientifics, Pfizer Venture Investments, Lilly Ventures, RK Ventures Group, LLC and BioAdvance (Biotechnology Greenhouse of Southeastern Pennsylvania).

Philadelphia-based Avid will use the proceeds to fund the completion of the development and, if approved, to commercialize its Alzheimer’s amyloid imaging compound. The funding will also allow it to continue it mid-stage clinical development of its Parkinson’s disease imaging compound. In conjunction with the progress of its clinical trials, Avid is providing its amyloid imaging compound to measure amyloid burden as a biomarker in Phase II and Phase III trials of experimental drug under development by several major pharmaceutical company collaborators.

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