Although more than a third of U.S. citizens are fully vaccinated from COVID-19 and society moves closer to normalcy in many parts of the world, the SARS-CoV-2 virus continues to dramatically impact biopharma dealmaking with nonprofit entities, as well as grant awards.
Digital health and diagnostic efforts continue to dominate med-tech deal-making so far in 2021, while activity focused on medical devices has dropped over the last few years. COVID-19 partnerships also have fallen since last year. Digital health accounts for 43%, the largest portion, of deals this year. About 239 deals are targeting this space, including pandemic efforts. Diagnostic efforts represent about 19%, or 103, of the total deals.
About 13 years after four MIT graduate students and a computer science professor launched Ginkgo Bioworks Inc., the Boston-based synthetic biology platform business is merging with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) in the largest life sciences deal of its kind to date.
Although it has been a strong year for med-tech financings, they appear to be losing ground. While the first three months of 2021 showed a 67% increase in money raised over the same time frame in 2020, it is now showing that financing values are up by only 15% in comparison to last year.
With 2021 biopharma financings already at 40% of last year’s total, there is a good likelihood that a new record will be made for the industry, assuming wide open public windows and robust venture capital activity continue.
Dangerous blood clots and thrombocytopenia, rare simultaneous side effects seen with two adenoviral vector vaccines from Astrazeneca plc and Johnson & Johnson, as well as a worldwide spike in COVID-19 cases and deaths, primarily in India, has set the stage for what could soon become the next big vaccine option, a protein subunit candidate from Gaithersburg, Md.-based Novavax Inc.
Just four months after Blue Water Acquisition Corp. raised $50 million in an IPO, it set out on April 27 to merge with Clarus Therapeutics Inc., the developer of testosterone replacement therapy Jatenzo, valuing the Northbrook, Ill.-based firm at $379 million. Earlier in April, BCTG Acquisition Corp. announced plans to buy Cambridge, Mass.-based targeted precision cancer company Tango Therapeutics Inc. for $353 million, about seven months after completing its $167 million IPO. Both Clarus and Tango are seeking the public markets by merging with a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, a method that is becoming increasingly popular and an alternative to the traditional IPO.
While biopharma deals are not showing any drastic changes over last year, three areas that continue to dominate the landscape include the pandemic, oncology and cell and gene therapies. The lack of mega-mergers so far this year, specifically those above $10 billion, is also holding M&A values down by about 61% compared to this point in 2020, even though the number of mergers has climbed.
The volume of phase I-III clinical trial data so far in 2021 is a full 26% more than it was by this point last year, yet the proportion of news focused on the COVID-19 pandemic continues at much the same rate.