Biotech companies lead venture dollars raised by Florida companies in first quarter
By Marcia Heroux Pounds
This year there will be an estimated 1.69 million new cancer cases diagnosed and 600,920 cancer deaths in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society.
In South Florida, there are two biotech companies targeting cancer that are receiving money to do something about it.
F1 Oncology in West Palm Beach and Altor Bioscience Corp. in Miramar led Florida venture capital deals in the first quarter, according to a new MoneyTree report releasedWednesday by PricewaterhouseCoopers and CB Insights.
An early-stage biotech company, F1 Oncology raised $37 million from F1 BioVentures, Sinobioway and SunTerra Capital. Later-stage company Miramar-based Altor Bioscience raised $30 million from Sanderling Ventures.
“The climate is improving,” said Jane Teague, chief operating officer of the Florida Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research in Boca Raton, which works to commercialize technology developed in the state. “Florida has some great talent and universities. There’s money out there to be invested, waiting to be put to work.”
F1 Oncology, a biotech venture capital firm that recently moved into 625 N. Flagler St. in West Palm Beach, was founded by Gregory Frost. He was co-founder and CEO of Halozyme Therapeutics, a publicly held company based in San Diego that develops oncology therapies.
Altor Bioscience was founded by Hing Wong in 2002. The clinical stage biopharmaceutical company has been developing immunotherapies for the treatment of cancer and viral infections.
Teague said Altor is one of the more mature biotech companies in South Florida whose “management team has been very talented.” She said Altor has attracted federal grants as well as venture investment.
As of last year, Altor had raised a total of $97.10 million in 10 rounds, according to Crunchbase, an online platform that tracks entrepreneurs and deals.
Florida saw 24 venture capital deals worth $156.9 million in the first quarter of the year. That compares with 25 deals worth $855.3 million in the same quarter a year ago.
But the year-ago numbers are unusually high because Magic Leap received $793.5 million in investments in the first quarter of 2016, which was the second-highest amount in the United States at that time. Magic Leap, which is developing mixed-reality products, maintains offices in Plantation and Dania Beach.
When comparing first quarter numbers to two years ago, Florida had 17 deals worth $90.8 million.
Other South Florida companies that saw deals during the quarter were: Nearpod, a mobile application company in Aventura that raised $21 million; Nymbus, a software company in Miami Beach that raised $16 million; iguama, an e-commerce company in Miami that raised $5 million; Aeropost, a software company in Miami that raised $4 million; and Biscayne Pharmaceuticals, a clinical-stage biotech company in Miami that raised $3 million.
Across the U.S., investors put $13.9 billion into 1,104 startup deals, an increase of 15 percent in dollars and an increase of 2 percent in deals over the fourth quarter of 2016. In the first quarter of 2016, investors put $15.6 billion into 1,247 deals.
An increase in “mega-deals,” those more than $100 million, helped boost the 2017 quarter. There were 17 mega-deals during the first quarter, rebounding from a five-quarter low of 12 in the fourth quarter of 2016, according to the report. The top deal in the U.S. during the quarter was $900 million raised by Grail, a life science company working to detect cancer, in Menlo Park, Calif.
“We’re starting to see a rise in venture capital investments after the lowest level of investing in two years,” said Tom Ciccolella, U.S. venture capital leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Members of the BioFlorida network include emerging and established life science companies, universities, research institutions, hospitals, medical centers, incubators, economic development agencies, investors and service providers.