As of 2023, the life sciences sector boasts 900 biotech VC firms, over 13K startups, and 108 life sciences unicorns globally. In the first half of 2021, 34 companies achieved unicorn status.

Despite long development cycles and delayed returns, investors are willing to take risks and fund early-stage life sciences startups. In 2023 alone, nearly 45% of life science venture capital funding was deployed into early-stage (seed and Series A) companies.

Having helped hundreds of startups and funds find their perfect investors, we compiled a verified list of the top life science VC firms with contacts (with many of them we worked directly).

Devise a smart investor outreach strategy to target the most relevant VC firms with the most effective message. 

SOSV
2691 investments
Focus:
  • Sports & Fitness
  • AI & Deep Tech
  • +34
Stage:
  • Pre-Seed
  • Seed
  • +3
Check:
  • $100K-$500K
  • $500K-$1M
  • +2
Menlo Ventures
774 investments
Focus:
  • Sports & Fitness
  • AI & Deep Tech
  • +31
Stage:
  • Seed
  • Series A
  • +2
Check:
  • $100K-$500K
  • $500K-$1M
  • +2
ARCH Venture Partners
472 investments
Focus:
  • Hardware, Robotics & IoT
  • VR & AR
  • +16
Stage:
  • Seed
  • Series A
Check:
  • $100K-$500K
  • $500K-$1M
  • +2
RA CAPITAL MANAGEMENT
0 investments
Future Planet Capital
371 investments
Focus:
  • Sports & Fitness
  • AI & Deep Tech
  • +22
Sofinnova Partners
investments
Stage:
  • Seed
  • Series A
  • +2
SV Health Investors
307 investments
Focus:
  • Social media
  • Software & Apps
  • +24
Stage:
  • Seed
  • Series A
  • +1
Check:
  • $3M-$10M
  • Over $50M
  • +1
MPM Capital
294 investments
Focus:
  • AI & Deep Tech
  • Pharma
  • +6
Stage:
  • Seed
  • Series A
  • +2
Casdin Capital
221 investments
Focus:
  • Hardware, Robotics & IoT
  • Natural Resources
  • +14
Stage:
  • Seed
  • Series A
  • +2
Industrifonden
192 investments
Focus:
  • AI & Deep Tech
  • Pharma
  • +22
Stage:
  • Seed
  • Series A
  • +2
Check:
  • $500K-$1M
  • $1M-$3M
  • +2
BioAdvance
0 investments
5AM Ventures
191 investments
Focus:
  • Natural Resources
  • Hardware, Robotics & IoT
  • +11
Stage:
  • Seed
  • Series A
Check:
  • $0-$100K
  • $100K-$500K
  • +3
Avalon Ventures
0 investments
Third Rock Ventures
132 investments
Focus:
  • Natural Resources
  • AI & Deep Tech
  • +6
Stage:
  • Seed
  • Series A
Check:
  • $0-$100K
  • $100K-$500K
  • +3
Longitude Capital
0 investments

Life sciences startup ecosystem

For decades, the life sciences industry has been heavily backed by governments through research funding, tax breaks, and faster approval processes. In the US alone, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) invests over $41 billion annually in biomedical research. In comparison, the European Commission’s Horizon Europe program has allocated €95.5 billion for research and innovation from 2021-2027. Notably, the FDA’s RMAT designation and streamlined approval procedures — have made a more supportive regulatory framework for life sciences startups.

Historically, academic research institutions and universitiesthe birthplace for  innovations in the life sciences. Thus, MIT boasts 4,542 alumni-founded companies, and 56 reaching unicorn status, while Stanford University thrives on its proximity to Silicon Valley, fostering a vibrant ecosystem of funding and innovation — have launched a staggering 7,177 companies, with 114 achieving unicorns. Finally, Harvard University tops the list with a whopping 7,536 alumni-founded companies, of which 3,736 are funded and 81 have reached unicorn status.

The life sciences industry is tightly regulated. Among the most notable regulatory bodies are the FDA and EMA. They enforce stringent approval processes with preclinical testing, multi-phased clinical trials, and post-marketing surveillance. 

A geographical breakdown of top life sciences ecosystems reveals a North American and European dominance. Silicon Valley, biotech incubator Boston, New York City, London, and San Diego are at the forefront, while Asia, MENA, and Oceania are on the rise.

Most active VC funds in life sciences

The volume of VC deals in life sciences has significantly increased, growing by 115% over the past five years compared to the previous five-year period. This reflects the high level of interest and investment potential within the sector​. Currently, there are over 400 VC funds focused on life sciences globally. Some well-known include:

  1. Flagship Pioneering: Known for its hands-on approach, creating and funding startups from the ground up, with a focus on breakthrough technologies.
  2. Sequoia Capital: A prominent player with a strong track record in early-stage investments in biotech and healthcare.
  3. Third Rock Ventures: Specializes in building and launching companies that develop innovative healthcare solutions.

Most notable startups in life sciences

With 900 active life sciences startups in sub-sectors such as biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, and digital health, established giants like Illumina (genetic sequencing) and Moderna Therapeutics (mRNA vaccines and gene editing tech) — dominate the landscape. 

But innovation thrives on fresh perspectives  — here are three notable life sciences startup newcomers: 

  1. Insilico Medicine — utilizes AI for drug discovery.
  2. Mammoth Biosciences — brings back extinct species with gene editing.
  3. Tempus — leverages AI and data analytics to revolutionize cancer care through personalized treatment plans and genomic analysis.

Startup accelerators in life sciences

From wet lab space to industry connections, life science accelerators back young biotech startups with much-needed resources; 150 to 200 global accelerators focus on the life sciences industry. Some well-known startup accelerators in the life sciences sector include Y Combinator, with $500K in seed life sciences funding for a 7% equity stake, and notable companies in its sciences/biotech portfolio, like Gingko Bioworks, Recursion Pharmaceuticals, and Synthex. Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson Innovation spans multiple JLABS locations across North America, Europe, and Asia Pacific, provides lab space, funding opportunities up to $1M, and mentorship from J&J’s scientific experts.

San Francisco-based, IndieBio, usually pools around $300K for an 8% stake and nurtures startups with lab space and guidance from over 200 experts. Since 2015 it has funded over 125 biotech startups in synthetic biology and gene editing.

Angel investors in life sciences

In addition to institutional VC funds, and grant opportunities for life science startups, many early-stage startups benefit from angel investors. The co-founder of PayPal and Palantir,  Peter Thiel, has backed Stemcentrx, Halcyon Molecular, and Modern Meadow. A seasoned healthcare investor, Beth Seidenberg focuses on impactful life sciences startups. Robert Nelsen, the co-founder of ARCH Venture Partners, provides life science investment and mentorship in the very early stages.

Recent VC exits in life sciences

Despite investor caution in 2023, the life sciences market is stabilizing with signs of a recovery. Recent VC exits paint a promising picture, with a rise in IPO activity expected for life sciences companies. 

Here are some key insights:

  • Biopharma thrived in 2023 with 19 IPOs in later-stage companies — the highest score in healthcare.
  • Q3 2023 saw a significant $13.6 billion in PE and VC investments across 209 deals, with  $8.6 billion across 85 deals.
  • Acquisitions like Roche’s $1.9 billion purchase of Flatiron Health in oncology data analytics exemplify the sector’s vibrancy.

Among other notable exits, Merck acquired Sisu Pharma, a cancer-focused biotech, for $5.8 billion in 2024, while Enzo Biochem’s 2023 IPO raised $200 million. Even funding methods are evolving—AI drug discovery company Insitro secured a massive $400 million Series D round in 2023. This activity highlights the industry’s strength, attracting big pharma and venture capital.

Top 3 life science conferences and summits

  • San Francisco’s invitation-only JPMorgan Healthcare Conference — connects over 8,000 investors with biotech, pharma, and medical devices leaders. It fosters deal-making, networking, and staying on top of industry trends;
  • Bio International Convention — is the largest biotechnology event in the world. It brings over 18,500 attendees and covers many life science fields, including biopharmaceuticals, drug discovery, genomics, and biofuels.
  • DIA Global Annual Meeting — a premier life sciences forum held annually in June. Brings together industry leaders to discuss and solve pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical device development challenges.

So, what does it take to raise funding in life sciences?

With breakthroughs in genomics, AI, and gene editing promising personalized medicine and targeted therapies, according to life sciences market research it is poised for a $24.5 billion growth by 2032.

However, capitalizing on this growth requires you to be investment-ready. Here’s what makes startup attractive to investors:

Feeling overwhelmed? Contact our team to help you navigate these investment criteria.

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Anastasiia

CONTENT WRITER

Hey there! I'm Anastasiia, a Content Writer at Waveup. With my marketing expertise and storytelling magic, I turn complex data and industry insights into your startup playbook, making the business world a breeze for you! At Waveup, I work with brilliant folks who make insights a never-ending flow. So, join, read, and enjoy!