New Invest Europe report highlights venture capital’s role in supporting pioneering European life sciences start-ups

  • VC invested €13.5bn in over 2,600 Biotech & Healthcare start-ups in the last five years
  • Late-stage Life Sciences start-ups increased employment by 20% in 2021

Invest Europe, the association representing Europe’s private equity, venture capital and infrastructure sectors, as well as their investors, today published VC Success Stories Across Life Sciences in Europe. The new study shines a light on investment and employment in the sector at the heart of public health in Europe, and presents a large library of case studies of Biotech start-ups breaking new ground in the fight against cancer and other life-threatening conditions.

  • Venture capital firms backed 2,634 start-ups with €13.5 billion of capital over five years to the end of 2021, accounting for almost 25% of all VC investment. VC investment in European Life Sciences increased for ten successive years from 2012, rising four-fold to €3.9 billion in 2021.
  • All private equity and venture capital backed Biotech & Healthcare companies in Europe employed almost 1.3 million people in 2020. The late-stage VC segment employed 56,867 people and was one of the fastest growing, increasing employment by 20% between 2019 and 2020.

The digital report combines comprehensive Invest Europe data with real-life studies into European start-ups past and present that are reshaping the Life Sciences sector across the continent. It presents a wide-ranging library of case studies, covering segments from Biotechnology Therapeutics and Medical Devices to Diagnostics and Digital Health, to demonstrate the power of venture capital investment and expertise in the fight to save lives and improve health outcomes for millions of people in Europe and across the globe.

The report highlights Europe’s long history in Biotech innovation, thanks to leading universities and research institutes, a strong focus on R&D, and world-beating talent. It includes Ablynx, the ground-breaking Belgian start-up pioneering treatments with nanobodies, acquired by Sanofi in 2018 for over €3.9 billion and which created over 450 jobs. It highlights BioNTech, the German champion that led the development of the first COVID-19 vaccine to be approved for use in Europe and the US, and which listed on the Nasdaq in 2019 at a valuation of €3.1 billion.

Young companies that are still developing life-changing treatments and technology are also included. Thanks to its late-stage VC backing, Denmark’s Ascendis Pharma, which produces improved patentable versions of existing drugs, almost tripled employee numbers in just three years. And SOPHiA GENETICS, headquartered in Switzerland, is using AI and machine learning to revolutionise how healthcare practitioners devise treatments for patients. The company now employs over 500 highly skilled staff.

Eric de Montgolfier, CEO of Invest Europe, commented:  

  • “The pandemic lifted the lid on the European Life Sciences sector. Yet despite the recent attention, this has always been a sector with a rich history of ground-breaking start-ups. Our latest study highlights the role venture capital has long provided in backing innovative European Biotech companies and creating high-skilled jobs across the continent.”

Rainer Strohmenger, Managing Partner at Wellington Partners, added:

  • “European biotech start-ups are devising new treatments for cancer, life-changing medical devices, and ground-breaking technology. Venture capital is essential to help these companies develop their products and become world leaders in their fields. European Life Sciences is a dynamic sector that is making a difference to millions of lives around the world.”

Invest Europe’s Life Sciences report joins an extensive library of research that highlights European private equity and venture capital’s cornerstone role in Europe’s economy and society. It was created thanks to the input of Invest Europe’s Venture Capital Platform Council, led by Rainer Strohmenger.

Click here to read VC Success Stories Across Life Sciences in Europe and browse our online case studies.