Send Me an Angel: More VC Alternatives on the Rise

November 28, 2011 – 10:30 am | By Trista Morrison | No comments yet

It seems to me that an increasing number of start-ups have been boot-strapping their way through preclinical without venture capital lately.

I have no quantitative data to back this up. But it’s a feeling I had earlier this year, too, as we reported on some big non-VC start-up rounds, like Ascletis Inc.’s $100 million raised largely from high net worth investors in China, and Acetylon Pharmaceuticals Inc.’s $27 million Series B round raised in $1 million chunks from private individuals. We even made this subject the topic of BioWorld’s BIO 2011 panel.

The trend appears to be continuing. Avaxia Biologics Inc. just raised $2.2 million in Series A financing from angels. Karyopharm Therapeutics Inc. closed a $10 million Series A2 round led by Chione Ltd., a Greek investment vehicle for a high net worth individual. Quanticel Pharmaceuticals Inc. raised $45 million through a unique deal with Celgene Corp. and Versant Ventures. And last month, Russia’s state-owned investment firm Rusnano made some big bets on Selecta Biosciences Inc. and Bind Biosciences Inc.

Non-VC deals are still the minority, but they seem to be ever so slightly more common than in the past. I’m guessing this is a trend born of necessity – with so many VCs pulling back (Prospect Ventures, Scale Venture Partners, etc.), start-ups might be forced to seek alternatives more often than in the past.

But even so, the fact that alternatives exist is encouraging. I’m a self-professed optimist on biotech, but I’m even further encouraged by the bills moving through Congress that could boost small company fundraising options. For start-ups in particular, H.R. 2930 could be good news, as it would let private companies raise up to $2 million through crowd funding, essentially opening the private markets to non-accredited investors. For all the details, don’t miss this week’s BioWorld Insight.

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