Top biotech venture capital funds of 2018, 2019 and 2020

by Richard Murphey

Whether you're a startup looking for funding or an aspiring VC looking for a job, it's a good time to be in biotech. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 has surpassed 2019 in terms of biotech venture funding -- and there are still 3 months left in the year. In fact, 2020 is on pace to beat 2018's record year for biotech venture funding by 15%.

2020 is shaping up to be a great year for exits as well. The biopharma IPO market is at record levels, with with 33 big IPOs of VC-backed biopharma startups on NASDAQ raising a over $5.8B through mid-September. The M&A market has also shown signs of life, notably with Gilead's $21B acquisition of Immunomedics (although Immunomedics doesn't count as a startup).

A quick note -- in this post, I use "biotech" and "biopharma" interchangeably to mean companies developing FDA-regulated prescription medicines -- no devices, diagnostics, etc. Biopharma is by far the biggest subsector of healthcare VC.

This post will describe the top biotech venture capital firms from 2018 to today:

  • What kinds of investors fund biotech startups?
  • Who were the most active biotech VCs in Series A and B rounds?
  • Who are the most active seed and angel investors in biotech?
  • Which VCs made the most money from IPO exits in 2018 through 1H 2020?
  • Which VCs had the best M&A exits in 2018 and 2019?

Perhaps most encouragingly, the biggest investments and exits were for companies with life-saving medicines and transformational technology. The industry now seems to value true innovation more than incremental advances and me-too drugs. If you're interested in seeing what kind of startups investors are funding, checkout our searchable list of recently funded biotech startups.

Who's investing?

The biopharma venture landscape hasn't changed too much from 2019, with one exception: crossover investors are becoming even more active, at even earlier stages. Crossover investing started to pick up around 2012 when hedge funds and other public equity funds started investing in private companies in an effort to boost returns. As the IPO market has become more accessible to earlier stage companies, and as later-stage VC has become more crowded, crossover investors have moved earlier.

Crossover investors led 24% of Series B rounds through the first nine months of 2020. That's a huge increase compared to 2018 and 2019, when crossovers led 13-14% of B rounds.

Crossover investors are largely picking up where Chinese investors left off. Chinese investors were some of the most active funders of biotech startups in the world in 2018, but that ground to a near halt in 2019 due to US-China geopolitical tensions.

Despite the mid- and late-stage venture markets becoming increasingly crowded, early stage funding is still dominated by traditional biotech VCs. The biggest shift at the Series A stage in 2020 has been crossover investors taking some Series A share from traditional US-based biotech VCs. Crossover investors led 8% of A rounds in the first three quarters of 2020, compared to 3-4% in 2018 and 2019.

Notably, generalist tech VCs are slow to enter the sector. Generalist tech VCs are becoming more active in "bio", but generally focus on investing in companies that focus on non-pharma verticals, or that provide products or services to pharma rather than developing their own drugs.

Biopharma VC database

Fund activity and performance data for 1,300+ biopharma investors covering $55B+ in global venture investment since January 2018. Plus IPO, M&A and venture comps.

Few active lead investors

The last few years have been notable not just for total VC investments in biopharma, but also for the record level of Series A investing. Series A investing was down modestly in 2019 from 2018, but 2020 is on pace to be the biggest year ever for Series A rounds in biopharma startups. As shown previously, Series A investing is dominated by US-based biotech VCs. Within this subset of investors, only a handful of investors lead more than 2 Series A deals each year.

The top Series A investors are also company creators and many of their A investments go to companies they build in-house. They then syndicate out to crossover investors (public equity investors who invest selectively in private markets, often in the last private round), Chinese investors, and corporate VCs.

While the most active Series A VCs have shuffled around a bit since 2018, there hasn't been too much change in terms of who is most active: Atlas, Versant, ARCH, Sofinnova, Canaan, The Column Group, Orbimed et al. RA Capital, traditionally a crossover investor, has made a big play in Series A investing in 2020 (and venture investing in general), which isn't surprising given the strength of the IPO market.

Who were the most active lead Series A investors in 2018 through September 2020?

What about the top Series B investors? The biggest change from 2018 to 2019 is the decline of Chinese investors. Chinese investment in US biotech companies has been a casualty of the trade war. None of the leading Chinese Series B investors of 2018 are in the 2019 leaderboard.

Biopharma VC database

Fund activity and performance data for 1,300+ biopharma investors covering $55B+ in global venture investment since January 2018. Plus IPO, M&A and venture comps.

Top seed funds

Prior to 2018 or so, there wasn't really a biotech seed market. But in the last few years, the biotech seed market has exploded. Dozens of new investors have emerged who are focused on funding scientifically ambitious biotech companies, often started by younger scientific founders (as opposed to the experienced professional entrepreneurs that often run VC-backed biotech startups).

Data on seed funding is less comprehensive than later-stage funding, as these companies don't publicize their raises as often. To identify the top biotech seed investors, I asked biotech founders in my network who have raised $1M+ in seed capital in the last 2 years.

This methodology ensures that the investors on the list are 1) actively investing and 2) founder friendly. However, this list is not comprehensive and certainly omits some great investors. If you are a founder and think I should add an investor to the list, let me know.

Fund name Blog Notable investments Location Investor type Team Twitter
5AM Ventures, Arvinas, Ceterix Orthopedics, Vor Biopharma, ViveveBoston, San Francisco Bay AreaSeed, VentureKush Parmar, Andrew Schwab, David Allison, Jamil Beg, Mira Chaurushiya, Brian Daniels, Rebecca Lucia, Deborah Palestrant, John Diekman, Michelle Ho, Pengpeng Li, Kevin Nguyen, Scott Rocklage, Jason Ruth
8VC Genomics, Bolt Threads, Mantra BioSan Francisco Bay AreaSeed, VentureFrancisco Gimenez, David Moskowitz, Alex Kolicich
Alix Ventures Health, Circularis, Xilis, EleganSan Francisco Bay AreaSeedChas Pulido, Ron Shigeta
Andreessen Horowitz Bio, Scribe Therapeutics, Asimov, FreenomeSan Francisco Bay AreaSeed, Venture, GrowthJudy Savitskaya, Jorge Conde, Vijay Pande, Andy Tran, Frank Chen, Julie Yoo, Justin Larkin, JT Evans
Apollo Health Ventures, SeedJens Eckstein, Nils Regge, Alexandra Bause, Anela Vukoja
ApolloSan Francisco Bay AreaAcceleratorMax Altman, Sam Altman, Jack Altman
ARTIS, Freenome, Eko, IdbyDNA, Fabric Genomics, Aether BiomachinesSeedStuart Peterson, Vasudev Bailey, Austin Walne
Asset Management Ventures, Freenome, HealthTap, Audentes Therapeutics, 3T BiosciencesSan Francisco Bay AreaSeed, VentureSkip Fleshman, Lou Lange, Rich Simoni, Melina Mathur, Luke Lee
Augustin KuCloud9, Hexagon bio, StemCentRx, SyntheXLas Vegas, NevadaAngelAugustin Ku
Axial Biosciences, Inflammatix, Genedit, Unnatural ProductsSan Francisco Bay AreaAngelJoshua Elkington
BioRock Ventures, Seal Rock Therapeutics, Octagon Therapeutics, AN2 Therapeutics, Primmune TherapeuticsSan Francisco Bay AreaSeedMary Wheeler
Bioverge Labs, Enclear Therapies, Echo, Blue Mesa, Occamz RazorSan Francisco Bay AreaAngelNeil Littman
Boom CapitalMammoth Biosciences, A-Alpha Bio, FaunaBio, System1 BiosciencesSan Francisco Bay AreaSeedCelestine Schnugg
Cambrian BiopharmaNew York CitySeedJames Peyer, Christian Angermeyer, Juliete Han, Tauhid Ali, Dennis Yamashita, Georg Terstappen
Canaan Therapeutics, Synthekine, Onkos Surgical, Pathios Therapeutics, Pact PharmaSan Francisco Bay Area, New York CitySeed, VentureBrent Ahrens, Colleen Cuffaro, Julie Grant, Nina Kjellson, Stephen Bloch, Tim Shannon, Wende Hutton
Civilization VenturesBillionToOne, Omada Health, Lemonaid, Foresight Diagnostics, Singular Bio, Convergent Genomics, Rocket Pharma, Prellis BiologicsSan Francisco Bay AreaSeed, VentureShahram Seyedin-Noor
Codon CapitalArcus Biosciences, Bolt Threads, Flexus Biosciences, Oric Pharmaceuticals, Shattuck Labs, ZymergenSan Francisco Bay AreaSeed, VentureKarl Handelsman, Mitchell Mutz
DCVC, C16 Biosciences, Cofactor Genomics, Orca BioSeed, Venture Zachary Bogue, John Hamer, Kiersten Stead, James Hardiman, Armen vidian, Ali Tamaseb, Anna Fokina, John Cumbers, Christopher Meldrum, Andy May
Digitalis Ventures Therapeutics, Terray Therapeutics, The Mighty, MollyBox, Onc.AI, Rejuvenate BioNew York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco Bay Area, BostonSeedGeoff Smith, Sam Bjork
E-Fund / Point Reyes Management1910 Genetics, Industrial Microbes, Spiral Genetics, Nano CheqSan Francisco Bay AreaSeedSophia Collier, Chula Reynolds, Matt Esh
Endpoint Ventures (angel syndicate of founders of GeneWEAVE and Endpoint Health)Billion to One, Shasqi, Indee Labs, Meru Health, Reverie Labs, The One Healthcare Company, Viosera Therapeutics, SynkrinoSan Francisco Bay AreaAngelDiego Rey, Jason Springs, Leo Teixeira
Fifty Years VChttps://fiftyyears.substack.comHelixNano, Opentrons, Tierra Biosciences, Athelas, Memphis MeatsSan Francisco Bay AreaSeedEla Madej, Seth Bannon, Shuo Yang
Foobar VCCircularis, VitroLabs, Radix Labs, Nextmind, HelixNanoSeedDavid Helgason
FoundersX Ventures1910 Genetics,, Kernal Bio, Trexo RoboticsSan Francisco Bay AreaSeed to GrowthHelen Liang, Benjamin Xu, Tom Kosnik, Cyrus Hodes, John Sun, Wendy Hayes
Genoa Ventures Biosystems, Intabio, Intervenn, Ionpath, Synthomics, Tropic BiosciencesSan Francisco Bay AreaSeedJenny Rooke, Richard Kenny, Bill Hyun, Paul Conley, Paco Cifuentes
Georges Harik23andMe, uBiome, Metabiota, Adimab, Tegmine TherapeuticsSan Francisco Bay AreaSeedGeorges Harik
Gwen CheniTinctorium, Lupa Bio, SynthexSan Francisco Bay AreaAngelGwen Cheni
Hof Capital, Metagenomi, XGenomes, Ovid Research, BillionToOneNew York City, San Francisco Bay Area, LondonSeed, Venture Victor Wang, Hisham Elhaddad, Neil Devani
Humboldt FundMemphis Meats, Meatable, NotCo, Mission Barns, Ansa Biotechnologies, Geltor, Miroculus, Finch Therapeutics, BrightSeedSan Francisco Bay AreaSeedBenjamin Quiroga, Sebastian Bernales
Hummingbird VenturesBillionToOne, Basecamp Research, KernalLondon, AntwerpSeed, Series A, Series BFirat Ileri, Tess van Stekelenburg, Pablo Lubroth
Incube VenturesCorhythm, Neurolink, Rani Therapeutics, Spinal ModulationSan JoseSeedMar Perez, Andrew Farquharson, Mir Imran, Talat Imran, Mark Sieczkarek, Wayne Roe
IndieBio Age Meats, SugarLogix, Prellis Biologics, JunglaSan Francisco Bay Area, New York CityAcceleratorJun Axup, Po Bronson, Stephen Chambers, Rodrigo Mallo Leiva, Alex Kopelyan, Pae U
James HongAthelas, Hexagon Bio, Tegmine Therapeutics, Emerald Cloud Lab, Emerald TherapeuticsSan Francisco Bay AreaAngelJames Hong
Jude Gomila Pharma, Cofactor Genomics, Coral Genomics, Viosera Therapeutics, Gingko BioworksSan Francisco Bay AreaAngelJude Gomila
KdT Ventures Biosciences, PathAI, 54Gene, EleganAustinSeed, VentureCain McClary, Mack Healy, Rima Chakrabarti, Phil Grayeski
Khosla Ventures Bio, BIOAGE, Cellino, E25Bio, Editas Medicine, eGenesis, Eligo Biosciences, Encellin, Fountain Therapeutics, GEn1ESan Francisco Bay AreaSeed, VentureVinod Khosla, Alex Morgan, Justin Kao, Kristina Simmons
Liquid2 VenturesC16 Biosciences, Solugen, AthelasSan Francisco Bay AreaSeedMichael Ma, Nate Montana, Joe Montana, Mike Miller
Longevity Fund Oncology, Celevity, Decibel Therapeutics, Fauna Bio, Precision BiosciencesSan Francisco Bay AreaSeed, AcceleratorLaura Deming
Luminous VenturesOxford VR, Optellum, Vital, Active Global, Astroscreen, Biobeats, Beyond…, Climax Foods, Ellipsis Health, Facesoft, FloxLondonSeedIsabel Fox, Lomax Ward, Simon Hsu, Peter Crane, Alasdair Thong, Miao He, Josh Liu, John Spindler, James Joll, Csaba Konkoly
Lux Capital Neuroscience, Recursion Pharma, Genocea, Auris Surgical Robotics, KallyopeNew York City, San Francisco Bay AreaSeedZavain Dar, Adam Goulburn, Ian Peikon, Robert Paull
Mars Bio, Better Earth, Encellin, ArmadaSeed, Venture Robert Rhinehart, Arye Lipman, Llewellyn Cox,
Mayfield Bio, Mammoth Biosciences, Qventus, Endpoint HealthSan Francisco Bay AreaSeed, VentureTim Chang, Arvind Gupta, Ursheet Parikh, Navin Chaddha
Mission BioCapitalZymergen, Cell Design Labs, Alector, Bolt Threads, Nocion Therapeutics, Wild Type, Pandion Therapeutics, GlycomineSan Francisco Bay AreaSeed, VentureDoug Crawford, Peter Parker, Steve Tregay, Johannes Fruehauf, Eric Linsley, Robert Blazej, Anthony Walsh
New Ventures Funds (Scientia Ventures) Therapeutics, Royalty Pharma, Fibrogen, CibusNew York CitySeed, VentureJonathan Finn, Mark Finn, Henry Glorikian, Rory Riggs, Richard Warburg, John Dessouki
NFX Biosciences, C2i Genomics, Twist Biosciences. Armada, Genome CompilerSan Francisco Bay Area, IsraelSeedJames Currier, Pete Flint, Gigi Levy-Weiss, Morgan Beller, Shayma Sharif, Brittany Yoon
Nordic Makers, Helix Nano, BiolibNordic CountriesSeedMoaffak Ahmed, Michael Seifert, Esben Gadsboll, Klaus Nyengaard, Martin Von Haller Gronbaek, Lars Floe Nielsen, Alexander Aghassipour, David Helgason, Benjamin Ratz
OMX VenturesFinch TherapeuticsSeed, VentureDaniel Fero, Nick Haft, Craig Asher
Pacific 8 Bioscience, BillionToOne, Dorian Therapeutics, Fauna Bio, Karius, Cura TherapeuticsTaipei, San Francisco Bay AreaSeedChris Shu, Jack Liang, Ser-Chen Fu
Paul Buchheit Genomics, Bikanta, Cue Health, Comprehend, LuministSan Francisco Bay AreaAngelPaul Buchheit
Paul Graham Graham
Petri BioBostonAccelerator, SeedTony Kulesa, Jaye Goldstein, Brian Baynes, Jamie Goldstein, Christian Caraco, Josh Moser
Point Nine Coppey, Ricardo Sequerra, Christoph Janz, Pawel Chudzinski
Presight CapitalTerran Biosciences, Peptilogics, Enclear TherapiesNew York CitySeedChristian Angermayer, Fabian Hansen
Refactor Capital Biology, Computational Biology / Chemistry, Therapeutics, Longevity, Genomics, AI / ML, OtherSan Francisco Bay AreaSeedZal Bilimoria, David Lee
Sam Altman Altman
Sea LaneCradle Genomics, Spring Discovery, Q BioSeed, VentureLing Wong
Tech.BioSan Francisco Bay AreaSeedOmri Drory
True Ventures, Fauna Bio, Intervenn Biosciences, Prellis Biologics, SymbiomeSan Francisco Bay AreaSeedRohit Sharma, Adam D'Augelli
Tsingyuan Ventures Therapeutics, Namocell, Erisyon, Cardea BioSeedMichael Jin, Steve Sun, Biao He
Wireframe VenturesMammoth Biosciences, Reverie Labs, GeneticureSan Francisco Bay AreaSeedHarsh Patel, Paul Straub
Y Combinator Therapeutics, Gingko Bioworks, Alpine Roads, Solugen, AthelasSan FranciscoAcceleratorJared Friedman, Paul Bucheit, Michael Seibel, Uri Lopatin
Yleana Venture Partners/Emles AdvisorsSeed

Which VCs made the most from IPOs?

In biotech these days, exit is often through IPO. Here are the VCs who made the most through IPO exits in 2018 and 1H2020. This list includes biotech startups that raised $50M+ on NASDAQ or NYSE. The market values at June 30 and Sept 30, 2020 assume the investor held all shares since IPO (which is not always the case). This table only includes data for companies where investors held 5% or more of common shares pre-IPO.

Total market value of investments in companies that went public
Firm name at IPO price at 6/30/2020 price at 9/30/2020 price Num. of portfolio IPOs Portfolio IPOs
AT Impf GmbH (Strungmann family)$1,712,122,800$7,617,805,045$7,902,017,4301BNTX
Flagship$2,933,735,489$4,265,505,826$4,672,382,9205AXLA, KLDO, EVLO, RUBY, MRNA
Viking Global$902,846,877$2,116,906,190$2,299,621,8063MRNA, BBIO, ZNTL
AstraZeneca$885,439,521$2,259,211,404$2,207,424,2463VIE, ETTX, MRNA
Orbimed$1,444,059,891$2,045,810,505$1,578,226,39019ORIC, RPTX, KROS, ARQT, PASG, IMRA, ETNB, SWTX, PRVL, NXTC, TPTX, ALEC, HARP, LOGC, TORC, CRNX, VRCA, ARVN, TCDA
T.A. Springer$524,241,926$1,314,382,194$1,427,266,7613MORF, SRRK, MRNA
KKR$641,465,189$1,228,878,439$1,403,187,1712OYST, BBIO
Pfizer Venture Investments$611,182,966$1,411,792,255$1,306,272,5676IMRA, SWTX, MORF, NXTC, CRTX, ALLO
Baker Brothers$826,412,824$1,534,560,573$1,257,933,0737FMTX, CABA, IGMS, BCEL, HOOK, KNSA, KOD
Fidelity$622,631,600$1,201,242,615$1,237,059,74210AKUS, GBIO, BNTX, AXLA, EVLO, KNSA, TBIO, SRRK, UBX, RUBY
MIG Fonds$203,341,590$904,734,514$938,489,2181BNTX
Alta Partners$232,019,115$824,897,144$937,422,5952ALLK, STRO
Versant$696,103,137$1,181,877,945$920,867,8728RPTX, BDTX, PASG, OYST, APRE, AKRO, CRNX, GRTS
TPG Biotech$501,355,513$1,056,013,206$878,996,1734ETTX, ALLO, STSA, TRVI
Atlas Venture$703,645,814$707,405,788$816,273,5969AVRO, GBIO, AKRO, BCYC, MGTA, TBIO, UMRX, REPL, SURF
Third Rock$629,477,644$940,999,335$785,555,9255PLRX, RVMD, FULC, MGTA, CNST
The Column Group$599,289,315$930,211,477$777,047,3446RVMD, NGM, CNST, RCUS, GRTS, ORIC
Frazier Healthcare Partners$560,236,325$786,150,096$761,797,7609PASG, MIRM, ETTX, APTX, ITRM, GRTS, PCVX, PHAT, ARQT

The biotech IPO market has continued to be active in 2019. To learn more about the kinds of companies going public, and what valuations these companies commanded as private companies, check out this post. I also did a writeup on the returns that venture capital firms have generated from their investments in startups that went public.

Which VCs made the most from M&A?

M&A exits were less common than IPO exits. The total amount of M&A was roughly steady from 2018 to 2019. The biggest VC-backed biopharma buyouts in 2019 were:

  • Eli Lilly's $8.0B acquisition of Loxo Oncology (VC / private investors include Aisling, Orbimed, New Enterprise Associates, Access Industries)
  • Roche's $4.8B acquisition of Spark Therapeutics (VC / private investors were Sofinnova, Brookside Capital, Deerfield, Rock Springs Capital, T. Rowe Price, Wellington and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia)
  • Astellas' $3.0B acquisition of Audentes Therapeutics (VC / private investors were Orbimed, 5AM Ventures, Cormorant Asset Management, Cowen, Deerfield, Foresite, RA Capital, Redmile, Rock Springs Capital, Sofinnova, Versant and Venrock)
  • Sanofi's $2.5B acquisition of Synthorx (VC / private investors were Avalon Ventures, Correlation Ventures, Medicxi, Orbimed, Osage University Partners, RA Capital)
  • UCB's $2.5B acquisition of Dova Pharmaceuticals (VC / private investors include PBM Capital, Perceptive Advisors)
  • Ipsen's $1.3B acquisition of Clementia (VC / private investors include Orbimed, New Enterprise Associates, RA Capital, Janus Henderson, Rock Springs Capital, EcoR1, UCB Biopharma, BDC and Fonds de solidarite des travailleurs du Quebec)
  • Merck's $1.0B upfront / $2.2B total acquisition of Peloton Therapeutics (VCs include The Column Group, Vida Ventures, Topspin Fund, Biotechnology Value Fund, EcoR1, Foresite, Nextech Invest, Curative Ventures, Driehaus, Eventide, Orbimed, RA Capital and Tichenor Ventures)

The two biggest exits in 2018 were Celgene's acquisition of Juno for $11B, and Novartis' acquisition of AveXis for $8.7B. Both companies were public at time of exit, and both raised their Series A rounds less than five years before exit. The major investors in AveXis were Deerfield, Roche Venture Fund, and Paul Manning (an angel investor). The major investors in Juno were ARCH Venture Partners, Venrock, the Alaska Permanent Fund (not really a VC) and Bezos Expeditions.

To stay updated on biopharma startup funding and exit trends through 2020, check out our free startup dashboard for summary info updated on a regular basis.

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