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Recent Financings Boost Biotech M&A Returns

This article was originally published in Start Up

Executive Summary

A recent influx of venture capital does appear to place start-ups in an optimal position to negotiate better terms and receive a higher payment.

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Pharmaceutical companies are attempting to solve unprecedented R&D and commercial challenges via business development, emphasizing cheaper, earlier-stage alliances and building up a base in emerging markets. An analysis of dealmaking trends from 2007 to 2010 shows big companies are embracing new kinds of partners, and shifting away from historic areas of interest to pursue hyper-specialty products and generics.

Biotech Backers Are Learning to Live with Exit-by-Earn-out

Despite a few bright spots, the fundraising environment remains difficult for many venture investors. Biotechs that went public during the 2005-2007 window have largely underperformed, despite hitting the stock exchanges with what plenty of CEOs and VCs felt were artificially low prices negotiated by an oligarchy of biotech IPO buyers. Moreover, pharmaceutical companies have been buying fewer, not more, biotechs - even as more companies are seemingly created with acquisition, not IPO, in mind. Meanwhile, the M&A deals that do occur are increasingly risk-sharing affairs that resemble alliances, replete with earn-out payments triggered by development, regulatory, or commercial milestones. In short: good venture exits have been extremely hard to come by. And data from Elsevier's Strategic Transactions analyzed by START-UP suggest that although these risk-sharing deal structures may be a by-product of a miserable economy, they are likely to stick around regardless of any economic turnaround.

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