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European Biotech begins to show Big Ambition

Author: Karl Simpson

Much of the criticism European biotech companies receive (here) is about the ambition of the companies to go big. A seemingly successful science base is very good at discovering new technologies which spur the global innovation environment but seldom evolve into commercially successful companies of scale. This year has already seen successful start-up companies from the UK get snaffled by global powerhouses, such as Covergence (here) and Heptares (here), although these are not alone. The UK biotech sector is historically littered which such companies, who got started but didn’t push on. There are many reasons for this; capital provision; lack of specialist public market investors; entrepreneurial and leadership talent, investor pressure for exits and so on.

However, a few things are changing and in a sector as hot as it is right now, the rhetoric and the activity is ratcheting up to a more ambitious goal. One such company in Oxford-based Immunocore, steered by CEO Eliot Forster (also Executive Chairman of MedCity) it has just banked a $320m investment round, with Woodford Investment Management, Malin Corporation and Lilly among the investor roster. This is a truly impressive investment by a European biotech and speaks to the increased commitment there is here now. Commenting on the over-subscribed investment round, Forster said: “This funding will be invaluable in assisting us to continue the rapid advancement of IMCgp100 in the clinic and the further development of our internal portfolio of ImmTACs. This supports us in our mission to build a premier biotech company based on our ImmTAC technology platform.”

Immuno-Oncology is clearly the hottest area in biotech right now, with US companies Juno Therapeutics and Kite Pharma garnering investor interest and pharma partners. Immunocore really has shown other European biotechs that if you have a technology that is compelling, corporate validation and good management team, you can find the capital to go-big. Presumably their next goal will be taking the company public and deepen their financial resources further.

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