The rocky market hit every aspect of biotech, creating poor prospects for going public, sparse M&A activity and a pullback in venture capital investment.
But it isn’t all bad, with global VC levels still topping 2019 investment and anti-aging researcher Altos Labs bringing in an eye-popping $3 billion by itself. In total, private biotech investors put down $21.7 billion last year, compared to 2021’s whopping $28.5 billion, according to Evaluate Vantage’s year-end report (PDF).
The number of fundraises also dropped 25%, with 381 rounds last year versus 514 in 2021. Only 65 rounds equaled or eclipsed $100 million in 2022, compared to 93 in 2021, but still rising above 2020’s 63.
On average, 2022’s fundraise totals rang in at $58.9 million per round. However, Altos’ $3 billion boosted that average quite a bit. Without Altos’ billions—which would be an outlier in any year—the average round total drops to $51 million.
The slowdown wasn’t entirely unexpected. COVID-19 largely drove the peak of investor interest. That enthusiasm became largely unsustainable as new therapies and vaccines were shipped off to market and the pandemic waned.
As 2023 launches, sparks of life have started to show, with the return of the megaround roaring back in March. The rebound inches biotech closer to better days, though industrywide healing is shaping up to be a slow and challenging process.
Altos Labs started off 2022 with a $3 billion bang, and the biotech venture capital world never got even close to catching up. The company made its public debut Jan. 19 with a wildly ambitious and unspecific goal of turning breakthroughs in our understanding of cellular rejuvenation into transformational medicines.
But it wasn’t just the 10 figures that made the biotech world take notice; it was the names. The company poached GSK’s Hal Barron, M.D., for CEO; Juno Therapeutics and Grail co-founder Rick Klausner, M.D., as chief scientific officer; and Hans Bishop, who previously headed up Juno and Grail, as president. CRISPR pioneer Jennifer Doudna, Ph.D., is a board member, among other Nobel laureates as well as Arch’s co-founder and managing director Robert Nelsen.
So what will this all-star group of biotech big shots do? The company has remained largely mum on the specifics but has promised to “integrate the best features of academia and industry.”
“Altos seeks to decipher the pathways of cellular rejuvenation programming to create a completely new approach to medicine, one based on the emerging concepts of cellular health,” Klausner said in the January 2022 statement.