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Only four startups have received funding to develop novel therapies this year as investment in South Korea’ biotech and healthcare sector weakened.
Among 15 biotech and healthcare startups that have sought to raise funds this year, only four were successful, The VC, a local market tracker, said Wednesday. This is a significant drop compared with last year when 17 companies received investments for pharmaceutical research and development during the same period.
The four startups that received investments for drug development this year are Centenaire Biosciences, Ensol Biosciences, AbTis and AinB.
Centenaire Biosciences, which is developing a breast cancer treatment based on antibody platform technology, received a 21-billion-won ($1.6 million) investment from Bionote. Ensol Biosciences, a KONEX-listed company, received a 5-billion-won investment from Humedix for the development of its osteoarthritis treatment. AbTis, an antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) developer, secured funding from Korea Venture Investment, while AinB, an artificial intelligence-based antibody therapy developer, received investment.
Much of the investments this year came from strategic investors rather than financial investors. Investments from accelerators, venture capitalists and other financial investors in drug development companies have declined significantly. Last year, several financial investors such as SBI Investment and Stic Ventures invested in drug development companies.
The amount of funding that drug developing startups received has also decreased significantly. The combined investment of the two companies whose funding was disclosed this year amounts to 26 billion won, which is less than half of the 545 billion won investment into BIORCHESTRA, the largest recipient of investment during the same period last year.
With a smaller number of successful development cases, the diversity of pipeline investments has also dropped. This year, most of the investments went to biotech companies developing cancer drugs. In contrast, during the same period last year, startups with various pipelines such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s, stroke and Parkinson’s disease treatments received investments.
By Shin Yoo-kyung and Minu Kim
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