Venture capital and investment funding continue to be tight for emerging companies, but the first glimmers of hope are out there — really BG Medicine, which I had the pleasure to help found, successfully launched their IPO on NASDAQ in February. Granted, they didn’t raise as much as they’d hoped in 2008; but they now have the capital to continue their biomarker/cardiovascular plans. February also saw about $75 million raised by Fluidigm, an emerging leader in microfluidics and genomics. After spending their first few years developing a protein crystallization platform, Fluidigm has wisely moved into the larger RT-PCR genomics market and are peripherally selling into the Next Gen Sequencing area.
Next Gen Sequencing itself has been surrounded by doldrum–defying activity for a while now, and the continuation of this trend adds to the promise of a springtime economic thaw. It started in with Life Technologies spectacular acquisition of Ion Torrents. Will they hit all their milestone payments to earn the $750M? I’d put my money on Jonathan Rothberg any day and so far it looks good. Complete Genomics, a Next Gen Sequencing service provider, contributed to the buzz by successfully raising $54M in an IPO in November.
On the diagnostics side of things, Quest Diagnostics is in buying mode and just purchased Athena Diagnostics, a small diagnostics service, for $740 million in cash. It’s a move that will help make Quest a leader in neurological disorder testing.They’ve also announced they’re buying Celera Corporation for $671 million.
It’s beginning to look like these events are part of a fresh start: an upswing in investments and in exit strategies for new companies with solid technologies and market opportunities. Here’s to spring!