Following a year of dipping public valuations and less venture funding globally, health care startups are looking to preserve sky-high pandemic-era valuations while scrounging up what capital they can.
One way to do that? An extension round.
Biotech firm Aktis Oncology announced Thursday it closed an $84 million extension round partially funded by large pharma companies such as Merck, Bristol Myers Squibb and Novartis. The funding comes more than a year after the company initially raised a $72 million Series A round in March 2021. The startup has raised $161 million to date.
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The Boston-based startup works in the radiopharmaceutical space, pursuing therapies that selectively encapsulate a tumor with radiation instead of washing radiation over the entire body.
Pulling off an up round is rare during these economic times, but Aktis isn’t the only one to do so. Surgical intelligence platform Theator announced in July it closed an extra $24 million after previously closing its Series A round in February 2021.
“We’re an anomaly here because I actually closed in February,” Theator CEO Tamir Wolf said. “Timing is everything. We significantly increased the valuation of the company even though we did that through this vehicle.”
The upround strategy
Health-related companies spent the past two years basking in a sea of funding from old and new investors looking to make big changes in the health care space during the pandemic, leading to overinflated valuations and a flood of IPOs.
Per Crunchbase data, 186 biotech and health care companies made their debut in the public market in 2021, compared to just 23 this year.
While the trickle-down effects of the global markets largely impacted later-stage startups, early-stage companies like Aktis Oncology and Theator are starting to feel the heat as venture funding pulls black globally. Raising a down round jeopardizes a startup’s valuation.
The market fluctuations are also forcing venture firms to consolidate investments. So far, only 1,948 startups in this space received venture funding, a 54% decrease from 2021. Pre-pandemic, upwards of 3,500 startups still received some sort of funding.
Illustration: Dom Guzman
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