Financings of the Fortnight Explores the Alternatives

From The IN VIVO Blog
September 19, 2013 - 2:28pm

With all the noise this year about IPOs in our little corner of the world, it’s been easy to forget that most biotechs out there are scrambling for any source of cash they can lay hands on. Assurances aside that traditional biotech VC is making relative bank, the overall pool of traditional venture capital available to invest will continue to dwindle, as respondents in START-UP’s 3rd annual life science VC survey were quite adamant about. (The survey is now available, by the way.) This week we got a taste of the post-VC world; or at least, a reminder of the various types of alternative funding out there for health care and biotech that, in a few years, could replace a significant chunk of traditional venture and interrupt for good the boom-and-bust cycle.First, the elephant in the room: Google announced it would fund a new health care company, Calico, dedicated to anti-aging. The search-and-so-much-more giant is clearly obsessed with health, and doing something about the drastic – dare we say “tragic” – flaws in the care system. Our correspondent Paul Bonanos did a great job delving into Google Ventures’ health care investment strategy in this feature earlier this year, and we recommend reading it (non-subscribers can sign up for a free trial) as background to what might be going on with Calico.Fly-on-wall fantasy: Page: How do we increase Google searches over a person's lifetime? Brin: What if we just increased the lifetime?— Josh Berlin (@BioPharmaJosh) September 18, 2013Paul also reminds us that the Googlers aren’t the only tech-heads with health-care ambitions: Peter Thiel, Yuri Milner and others are shifting their fortunes in small measures. And bully for them; we could certainly use fresh minds and tech-savvy strategies (Tech Tonics?), what with the data-intensive nature of health care these days. But Silicon Valley’s libertarian streak is often at odds philosophically with another important source of biotech funding that we were reminded of this week. The National Institutes of Health announced the recipients of $45 million from the funds dedicated in 2012 to Alzheimer’s research. Those funds aren’t going directly to biotech companies, but the trials and other efforts they’re backing are much needed in an area that seems practically abandoned by industry – at least in proportion to the level of the dire medical need Alzheimer’s represents. So, indirectly, one can only hope the NIH funding can move the needle enough for biopharma, big and small, to see clearer pathways that deserve cash outlays from the private sector, as well.Finally, we’re about to see a small but significant step toward equity crowdfunding. Title II of the JOBS Act, which loosens the rules for general solicitation of accredited investors, takes effect next week. It’s not quite crowdfunding nirvana – or the apocalypse, depending on your viewpoint – because we’re still a ways away from Mom and Pop, Joe Sixpack, and the Joneses being able to participate.  (That’s Title III.) But all manner of folks are lined up, ready to provide investment platforms for those with an eye on biotech, as our colleagues have written about here. If you happen to be at PSA: The Pharmaceutical Strategy Conference in New York next week, you can ask Greg Simon, who’s running the equity crowdfunding site Polliwogg, all about the latest developments. (Or you can catch him on the panel “Funding Biotech: New Ways To Create Value.”) Or, if you hate going anywhere near New York because you’re convinced it’s about to be overrun by giant drooling sea-dragon spiders, well, the people we write about have products that can help you. Until then, relax in the safety of your home or office, avoid the crowds (and their funds), and enjoy the latest edition of….Civitas Therapeutics: From the ashes of the inhaled insulin efforts of the previous decade comes Civitas, which said September 11 it has raised a $38 million Series B financing to fund late-stage development of the company’s lead program, CVT-301, an inhaled formulation of levodopa (L-dopa) to treat debilitating motor fluctuations – known as “off episodes” -- associated with Parkinson’s disease. Civitas spun out of Alkermes' pulmonary business in 2010, then the latest casualty in Big Pharma’s complete retreat from several efforts to create inhaled insulin products. But Longitude Capital and Canaan Partners raised $20 million for a Series A, and in early 201


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