Life sciences was the second largest sector for VC deals advised on by Fieldfisher in 2019 (15% of the total deal value).
In the UK, 2019 proved to be attesting year for VC investment in biotech in particular, with industry commentators blaming the high profile collapse of Neil Woodford’s venture fund – Woodford Investment Management – in October 2019, for the decline in confidence in the sector.
Figures from the UK BioIndustry Association (BIA), a trade body for the life sciences sector, highlighted the decline in biotech investment, with VC funding falling from £1.1 billion in 2018 to £679 million last year.
Although Fieldfisher experienced some pullback in VC appetite for opportunities in life sciences, and an ebb in available US capital, North American actors remained visible in this sector with some eye-catching deals, while UK and European investors took positions in business areas including personalised treatments and medical devices. This sector was also notable for the range of deal sizes, which varied from early stage spin-outs of €100,000(£85,100) to later stage development capital and venture debt rounds of up to £4.6 million.
Commenting on Fieldfisher’s VC deal activity in 2019, Tom Ward, a partner in Fieldfisher’s corporate M&A and VC group and one of Legal Week’s 40 under 40 Rising Stars in Private Equity 2019, said:
“Our cross-sector VC team continued to advise and support high-growth innovative companies and investors throughout 2019.
“Interest was noticeably buoyant in fintech and e-commerce, while we also saw noteworthy deals in artificial intelligence/automation and security technologies, especially cyber-security.
“Video games also continued to be a strong part of our practice, with AR/VR and mobile gaming emerging as areas of leisure-focused tech innovation that are increasingly attracting the eye of VC investors –a trend we expect to develop positively over the coming 12 months.
“US investors continued to feature in our deal activity, particularly on the venture debt side, as did Asian investors, testifying to the increasingly international scope of our VC practice.
“With the UK’s exit from the EU now decidedly in motion, we expect some pent up deal activity to play out in 2020.”
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