PHILADELPHIA (April 8, 2021) – The robust venture capital funding the Greater Philadelphia region saw in the life sciences sector in 2020 continued in the first quarter of 2021, with more than $2.9 billion in investment across 16 companies announced as of March 31, 2021, according to research from biopharma database company DealForma and information from company press releases. Among the life sciences deals for the first quarter of 2021 were nine transactions in the cell and gene therapy space totaling more than $980 million.
Those nine cell and gene therapy company transactions in the first quarter of 2021 included: Aro Biotherapeutics ($88 million in Series A financing); CARISMA Therapeutics Inc. ($59 million Series B equity financing round); Century Therapeutics ($160 million Series C equity financing round); Excision BioTherapeutics ($60 million); Gyroscope Therapeutics Limited ($148 million Series C financing); INOVIO Pharmaceuticals, Inc. ($173 million); Passage Bio, Inc. ($154 million); Renovacor, Inc. ($116 million); and XyloCor ($22.6 million).
An additional seven life sciences companies had deals in the first quarter of 2021, including: Helius Medical Technologies, Inc. ($11 million); Locust Walk Acquisition Corp. ($175 million IPO); Onconova Therapeutics, Inc. (nearly $37.5 million); Ortho Clinical Diagnostics Holdings plc (more than $1,485.8 million IPO); Outlook Therapeutics, Inc. ($35 million); Prelude Therapeutics Incorporated ($172.5 million); and Vallon Pharmaceuticals Inc. ($18 million).
The healthy investment follows on the heels of 2020 data from DealForma which indicated 46 investment deals valued at more than $12 billion for the year, with $1.4 billion across 15 deals (13 companies) attributed to the first quarter of 2020. Among the deals in 2020 were 11 transactions in the cell and gene therapy space totaling more than $4.4 billion, of which four transactions, exceeding $243 million in investment, fell in the first quarter of 2020.
In its 2020 Philadelphia Venture Report released on March 2, the Philadelphia Alliance for Capital and Technologies (PACT) noted significant capital was raised in the region to fund innovation, and a meaningful portion of that investment was in life sciences. ”Healthcare has never been more at the forefront of our collective consciousness, and the strength of Philadelphia’s community in life sciences and healthcare continues to shine on a global stage,” Dean E. Miller, president & CEO of PACT, stated in the report. The report can be downloaded via this link: https://philadelphiapact.com/2020-philadelphia-venture-report/.
The robust investment reported by both DealForma and PACT is good news for the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia’s regional CEO Council for Growth as it works to promote the area as a cell and gene therapy hub. Recognizing the promising cell and gene therapy sector, the regional CEO Council for Growth launched the multi-year Cell & Gene Therapy and Connected Health Initiative (The Initiative) in 2019, in partnership with 11 collaborating institutions, organizations and companies in the region.
“There is so much promising science coming out of our region, and funders have taken notice,” said Claire Greenwood, executive director, Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia’s regional CEO Council for Growth. “Cell and gene therapy is one of the fastest-growing industries in Greater Philadelphia. Today, 36 cell and gene therapy R&D companies call the region home. They, along with supporting product and service providers, research institutions and academic medical centers, are sources of sought-after jobs and significant economic contributors.”
The Initiative has been working to put favorable elements in place for the growth of the sector, including launching the Life Science Talent Pipeline Collaborative (The Collaborative) last year to ready the region for a workforce that is expected in the coming decade to grow from 4,900 employees working in the Greater Philadelphia region at cell and gene therapy companies to between 6,500 and 9,300 using mid-range projections, and 7,400 to 11,200 using high-range growth projections. The Collaborative has identified where current critical job gaps are for their organizations and are undertaking a number of steps to begin addressing them. One such action is the review of curriculum at an academic institution that specializes in bioprocessing engineering to advise where additional coursework may be needed to meet specialized job requirements. In addition, Collaborative members are engaging and building relationships with college students for brand identity and future internships and/or jobs. On the horizon, The Collaborative is exploring opportunities to build a longer-term pipeline which could include activities such as mentoring and sponsoring programs for K-12 students to ensure a diverse and inclusive local talent pipeline.
The Initiative has also prioritized the continued development of critical infrastructure that ensures the smooth transition from concepts to products, and is supportive of the growing number of real estate development projects aimed at increasing the amount of wet lab space and complementary facilities designed to meet the specialized needs of the industry.
“As our region’s cell and gene therapy sector continues breakthrough research on discoveries that improve and change lives, we are hard at work building an ecosystem that supports growing and retaining companies, innovators, and expertise in the region,” Greenwood said. “Investing in these activities has the power to transform lives and our local economy.”