There was no shortage in funding for healthcare and biotech startups in 2017.
By the end of the year, a new crop of unicorns were born, while others increased their already billion-dollar valuations.
From companies harnessing the plant microbiome to buzzy biotechs working on cutting-edge technology, here are the unicorns to keep an eye on in 2018, ranked by valuation.
Unless otherwise noted, valuations are according to PitchBook.
15. Flatiron Health — $US1.2 billion
Flatiron Health, a New York-based healthcare technology startup, collects clinical data from cancer patients – such as what medications patients have taken and how they have responded to them.
The hope is that with that information, healthcare professionals can have a better idea of how cancer drugs work in the “real world” – in hospitals and cancer centres – as opposed to during clinical trials. The company has partnered with the Food and Drug Administration over this data, which could one day influence how we treat cancer.
The company most recently raised $US175 million in January 2016.
14. Clover Health — $US1.2 billion
The venture-backed Clover Health sells Medicare Advantage health-insurance plans. When seniors in the US turn 65, they can choose to be part of either traditional Medicare or Medicare Advantage, which is operated through private insurers like Clover and often provides additional healthcare benefits. The hope for Clover and other technology-based health insurers is to use data to improve patients’ health.
In January, CNBC reported that the company had hit some rough patches, including upsetting patients and missing financial targets.
Founded in 2014, the company most recently raised $US130 million in May.
13. Auris Surgical Robotics — $US1.28 billion
The surgical-robotics company has been relatively quiet about its work in relation to its valuation.
“We are developing targeted, minimally invasive therapies that treat only the diseased cells in order to prevent the progression of a patient’s illness,” the company said on its website. To start, the company is going after lung cancer.
The company most recently raised $US280 million in August.
12. Ginkgo Bioworks — $US1.3 billion
Ginkgo Bioworks is a startup that designs microbes to produce things like fragrances or to create medications. The company sends the programmed bugs to partner companies that put them to use. And in September, Ginkgo formed a $US100 million joint venture with Bayer to develop microbes that could lead to more sustainable agriculture practices.
In December, the company raised $US275 million at a reported $US1.3 billion valuation.
11. Indigo Agriculture — $US1.4 billion
Indigo Agriculture is harnessing the plant microbiome to try to make plants more likely to survive. Indigo does this by coating seeds with certain microbes, with the hopes that the plants will better withstand poor soil conditions, drought, and insects.
The company raised $US203 million from investors including the Investment Corporation of Dubai in December, valuing the company at $US1.4 billion, according to Indigo’s CEO, David Perry.
10. Proteus Digital Health — $US1.5 billion
Proteus Digital Health is developing what is known as digital therapeutics: Pills with built-in chips designed to communicate that a patient has taken his or her dose. When ingested, the pill communicates with a patch worn on the patient’s body, which in turn sends signals to an app that collects the information for the patient and whomever the patient chooses to share it with.
In November, the company’s first drug – a version of Otsuka’s schizophrenia drug Abilify – was approved.
Founded in 2001, the company most recently raised $US50 million in a private-equity round in 2016.
9. 23andMe — $US1.75 billion
23andMe is best known for its genetics tests that tell you everything from how much Neanderthal DNA you have to potential health risks. The company, founded in 2006, has millions of customers, and it has branched out into partnerships with major pharmaceutical companies and is even getting into drug development.
The company most recently raised $US250 million in September.
8. Zocdoc — $US1.8 billion
Zocdoc helps patients book doctor’s appointments and check in for them – everything from primary care to dental, to optometry appointments.
The platform can help users all over the US, and users can search based on procedures, conditions, or even a particular doctor they might want to book an appointment with.
Zocdoc most recently raised $US130 million in a series D round in August 2015.
7. Human Longevity — $US1.9 billion
Human Longevity, cofounded by the genomics pioneer J. Craig Venter, wants to get a comprehensive view of your health through an extensive, $US25,000 physical exam with the hopes that along the way doctors may be able to catch diseases sooner and keep you alive longer.
The company has raised $US300 million for the endeavour.
6. Grail — $US2.4 billion
Since it got its start in 2016, Grail has raised more than $US1 billion from the likes of Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates along with big names from the pharmaceutical, tech, and healthcare industries, including Johnson & Johnson Innovation, Arch Venture Partners, Amazon, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Celgene, and Merck.
The idea behind a cancer-screening test is to identify the tiny bits of cancer DNA that are hanging out in our blood but are now undetectable. If companies like Grail are successful, they would be the first to pull off a cancer-detecting blood test that works proactively. The concept is similar to liquid biopsy tests, which use blood samples to sequence genetic information in that blood to figure out how tumours are responding to a certain cancer therapy. In May, Grail acquired Cirina, a Hong Kong-based company that is also looking at early cancer detection.
In December, the company said it had plans to bring products onto the market in 2018.
5. Oscar Health — $US2.7 billion
Founded in 2012, Oscar Health is a health-insurance startup that got its start operating on the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchanges, offering insurance to individuals. The goal is to be a more consumer-friendly insurance option by integrating technology.
For example, in 2017, the company put its members’ healthcare data onto a single platform that may be accessible to doctors treating a patient. The company has also built out concierge healthcare services available to all its members.
As of December, the company planned to cover 250,000 people in 2018, nearing $US1 billion in premiums revenue.
4. Intarcia Therapeutics — $US4.1 billion
Intarcia Therapeutics, a Gates Foundation-backed biotech, is developing implantable devices intended to treat conditions like Type 2 diabetes and to prevent HIV.
In September, the company received a response letter from the Food and Drug Administration for its diabetes implant. The response from the FDA means that based on the data the company presented to the agency, the treatment couldn’t be approved. Intarcia has the chance to respond to the FDA’s letter and file for approval again after changes are made. “We remain confident in the approvability of ITCA 650 and we look forward to working very closely with the FDA on next steps,” CEO Kurt Graves said in a letter on the company’s website.
In September, the company also said it was raising a Series EE round of more than $US600 million.
3. Moderna Therapeutics — $US4.7 billion
Moderna Therapeutics, a company developing treatments based on messenger RNA, has raised eyebrows in the biotech community for its high valuation along with its secretive nature. The goal of the treatments is to use synthetic mRNA to get cells to make proteins the body needs to treat the condition, essentially transforming cells into drugmakers. For example, the company is testing personalised cancer vaccines that are tailored to just one person’s tumours.
The company was founded in 2010 and has raised more than $US1.9 billion, Bloomberg reports.
2. Outcome Health — $US5.5 billion
Outcome Health was the highest-valued healthcare startup to come on the scene in 2017. In May, the company raised $US500 million at a $US5.5 billion valuation from investors including CapitalG, Pritzker Group, Goldman Sachs, and Leerink Transformation Partners.
The Chicago-based Outcome Health delivers educational health footage alongside advertisements from pharmaceutical companies to doctors’ offices and waiting rooms. But in October, The Wall Street Journal reported that the company misled its advertisers about how well the ads were doing. The report led to the investors suing the company, accusing Outcome of committing fraud to secure the large amount of funding. Outcome’s plans to move into a new headquarters were put on hold in December.
“The company is well-positioned for success with its customers, is signing up new customers, and is committed to the ongoing expansion of its network of more than 145,000 devices at medical offices around the country,” a company spokesman told the Chicago Tribune on January 2.
1. Samumed — $US12 billion
Samumed, the highest-valued private biotech on this list, is a company you’ve most likely never heard of.
The San Diego-based company has attracted $US300 million in funding and a heady valuation thanks to a pipeline of what could be revolutionary treatments to regenerate hair, skin, bones, and joints.
The company’s science hinges on something called progenitor stem cells. What Samumed hopes to do is manipulate the pathway that makes these progenitor stem cells spring into action, so that they don’t cause conditions like hair loss or osteoarthritis.
Theranos is prepping itself for a rebound in 2018. In 2015, the embattled company managed to skyrocket to a massive $US9 billion valuation. But in October of that year, The Wall Street Journal published an investigation that questioned the accuracy of its signature blood test. Over the next 18 months, one of the company’s lab-testing locations was shut down, and its CEO, Elizabeth Holmes, was barred for two years from running a clinical lab. The company later settled with the Centres for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the government agency responsible for regulating blood-testing labs, by agreeing to not own or operate a clinical lab for two years.
But in December, the company told investors it had raised $US100 million in a secured debt financing transaction from Fortress Investment Group.
“Based on our present projections, we believe we will have sufficient liquidity through 2018, by which point we hope to have secured regulatory approval for miniLab testing for the Zika virus and begun submissions for additional assays,” Holmes wrote in the investor letter reviewed by Business Insider in December.
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