Investment in UK biotech sector up 60% in 2021

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT


Related tags Uk Venture capital

Last year was the highest year on record for investments into UK biotech and life science companies: with £4.5bn ($6bn) raised in public and private financings, representing 60% more than in 2020.

The year was defined by a ‘remarkable increase’ in IPOs: which totaled £1.3bn ($1.8bn) in 2021 compared to just £244m ($330m the year before, according to the data from the UK’s BioIndustry Association (BIA) and data and analytics firm Clarivate.

Breakdown of investment

In 2021, $4.5bn ($6bn) was raised, which was £1.7bn ($2.3bn) more than in 2020.

Venture capital financings totaled £2.5bn ($3.4bn), an increase of 81% from 2020. Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) reached £1.3bn ($1.8bn), an increase of 434% from 2020. Other public financings raised £684m ($924m).

Although venture capital made up the biggest chunk, it is the number and scale of IPOs that mark out the year as ‘distinctly different’ to what the UK has seen before.

“Listings of UK companies on markets on both sides of the Atlantic suggest an ecosystem reaching maturity, and the record-breaking levels of venture investment shows a strong pipeline of companies coming through,”​ notes the BIA.

Notable company investments include:  

  • Oxford Nanopore topped UK Venture deals for the second year running with a £195 million fundraise prior to their £350 million London IPO, which was the largest amount raised in a listing on the London Stock Exchange by a biotech company.
  • Vaccitech, the Oxford University spin-out commercializing the technology platform behind the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, also raised a large series B round of £118m prior to their IPO on NASDAQ.
  • Exscientia, a company applying AI to drug design, secured the fourth largest private fundraise ever recorded by the BIA, with a £158m Series D round.

Steve Bates OBE, chief executive of the BIA, says that while the record year of investment shows a thriving sector, much investment came from overseas and there is the opportunity to grow investment from within the UK.

“The UK is a global hub for life sciences, with a world leading academic base, global pharmaceutical players, an increasing manufacturing footprint and a thriving pipeline of innovative SMEs and entrepreneurs,”​ he said.

“There is an obvious gap that we must plug in the UK’s financing environment. The large fundraises seen in 2021 are largely the result of welcome overseas investment, meaning that significant value creation will also be offshored. History has handed the UK two world-leading sectors: life sciences and finance. A symbiosis should exist between these two, but it doesn’t, yet.

“There is great opportunity to turbo-charge the UK’s biotech and life sciences sector and capture more of its economic value for the UK by building better connections between the UK’s financial institutions and our innovative scaling businesses.”

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