A decade from now, 2020 likely will be considered a year like no other in terms of the massive amounts of capital raised amid a raging pandemic. Financing transactions of all types smashed records and in terms of volume hit 1,580, a total that was 42% higher than last year despite the serious disruptions to normal business operations. Global public and private biopharmaceutical companies raised approximately $134 billion – a total that is almost double the existing record of about $69 billion raised in 2015 – and is greater than the amounts generated in 2018 and 2019 combined. A tsunami of capital also washed over global private companies in 2020 and reached the highest level ever recorded and 64% above the existing 2018 record ($17.4 billion). In the past 10 years (2011-2020), the biopharmaceutical industry has taken in more than $500 billion, well over double the amount of money from the previous decade.

By the numbers

A breakdown by type of financings during the year shows that public offerings, including IPOs, raised $73 billion, or 54%, of the total raised.

BioWorld recorded 335 follow-on offerings that raised about $50.5 billion. (See Biopharma financings by type and by volume, below.)

Notable transactions that generated more than $1 billion in 2020 included Biogen Inc.’s pricing of two series of senior unsecured notes for a total of $3 billion and Cambridge, Mass.-based Moderna Inc.’s sale of 17.6 million shares to raise $1.34 billion. There were 15 other companies that raised more than $500 million from their follow-on offerings.

The record number of biopharma IPOs completed during the year demonstrated that there was a healthy demand for new issues, despite the uncertain environment that persisted over the sector in general. Globally, 106 new offerings were completed, collectively raising almost $22.5 million, double the existing record of $10.7 billion raised in 2018 from 80 new issues. The final quarter of the year was particularly active with 39 IPOs completed. More than $17 billion was raised by 85 biopharma companies that completed their IPOs on U.S. exchanges. There was strong demand for many of the listings, with 32% of the companies pricing offerings above their pricing range.

One of the largest IPOs in terms of money raised was completed by Vancouver, British Columbia-based biotechnology company Abcellera Biologics Inc., a technology company that aims to become the centralized operating system for next-generation antibody discovery, which closed its IPO on Nasdaq, for gross proceeds of $555.5 million. The company also reported that along with Eli Lilly and Co., of Indianapolis, it is planning to begin a new study of bamlanivimab (LY-CoV555) in high-risk patients with COVID-19 to gather real-world evidence on the neutralizing antibody. The drug is currently authorized in the U.S. and Canada for the treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19 patients who are at high risk for progressing to severe disease and/or hospitalization. The study will be conducted in collaboration with the state of New Mexico and major local institutions.

Venture investments

Global private companies raised venture capital consistently during the year, averaging about $7 billion in each quarter, bringing the total raised in 2020 to $28.1 billion, about $11 billion higher than the record total of private financings established in 2018 at $17.37 billion.

The top transaction among the 559 deals that were completed was cell and gene engineering company Sana Biotechnology Inc., which raised a record-setting $700 million in a first round financing. The company revealed that the funds will be used to advance discovery and development within its core platforms, including gene delivery, immunology, stem cell biology, and gene modification and control. Proceeds are expected to support IND-enabling and initial clinical studies for multiple therapeutic candidates, buildout of manufacturing capabilities, and expansion of the company’s portfolio of enabling technologies. In October, it acquired Oscine Corp., a company developing potentially curative or disease-modifying cell therapies for diseases of the brain and central nervous system. The combination will integrate Oscine’s glial progenitor cell program and underlying technologies together with Sana’s broader platform and programs.

Share of the pie

U.S.-based public and private companies received the lion’s share of the amount raised at 70%, with European biopharma companies amassing 18% and those companies based in the Australasian region generating about 12%. China’s biopharma industry has continued to attract investors, not only because of its importance in dealing with the pandemic but also as a result of increased maturity and a growing list of government incentives.

In the U.S., not surprisingly, companies located in the leading biopharma hubs in California and Massachusetts captured the major proportion of the public and private financings pie at $34.1 billion and $26.8 billion, respectively. Biopharmas located in the regions of New York and New Jersey generated $6.7 billion and $4.8 billion, respectively. (See Biopharma financings by state: 2020, below.)