Venture capitalists favor biotechnology over medical devices

Venture capital funding in the life sciences sector, which includes the biotechnology and medical device industries, increased 21 percent during 2011, according to a new PricewaterhouseCooper’s  report, “Zigzagging Upward.”

Venture capitalists invested a total of $7.5 billion in 785 life sciences deals during the year, topping 2010 performance despite a drop from the third to the fourth quarter of 2011.

Compared with the prior quarter, life sciences venture funding decreased 8 percent in Q4 of 2011 to $1.7 billion. Deal volume was also down, dropping 4 percent compared to the prior quarter to 184 deals. When compared to a year ago, dollars invested into life sciences companies during the fourth quarter of 2011 increased by 34 percent, while the number of deals declined 5 percent from the $1.3 billion invested in 194 deals during the fourth quarter of 2010.

“Life sciences investments in the fourth quarter outperformed total venture investment, when compared with the same quarter of 2010,” said Tracy T. Lefteroff, global managing partner of the venture capital practice at PwC. “We did see the IPO window crack slightly during the fourth quarter of 2011 and life sciences companies claimed three of the 11 venture-backed IPOs. However, at this point in time, M&A deals continue to offer more exit opportunities for life sciences companies than IPOs.”

In 2011, biotechnology investing grew by 22 percent in dollars but declined 9 percent in deals, with $4.7 billion going into 446 deals, second only to the software industry. On a year-over-year basis, biotechnology investments increased 46 percent, and the number of deals was flat, with $1.3 billion going into 111 deals during the last quarter of 2011.

Medical device investments rose 20 percent in dollars from 2010 to 2011 and finished relatively flat in terms of deals. With $2.8 billion going into 339 deals, the medical device industry ranked behind software,biotechnology  and industrial/energy in dollars invested.