Cell Therapy may have just raised $1M, but will crowdfunding have a lasting place in biotech?

Posted: February 10, 2015 at 5:51 am

Biotechs may be flush with cash, thanks to the ol bullish IPO market and an uptick in venture funding. But startups remainon the lookout for alternative funding models with crowdsourcing front and center.

This makes British biotech startup Cell Therapyparticularly interesting,itjustraised 689,246 or a bit over$1 million to launch a stem cell therapy for heart failure. This is one of the highest life sciences-related crowdfunding efforts topped only by Scanadu, whose handheld consumer diagnostic tool raised $1.6 million in Indiegogo.

Cell Therapy, which was founded by 2007 Nobel Prize winner Martin Evans, raised the funding on thesite Crowdcube exceeding its goal of 250,000 with backing from nearly 300 investors. It ceded a mere 0.39% in equity to the backers thatinclude investment bankers, hedge fund employees and scientists, CEO Ajan Reginald said.

It was very fast and very efficient, Reginaldtold Reuters. We have spent 5 percent of our time on fundraising, which enables me to spend 95 percent of my time on the business.

Crowdfunding is increasingly becoming an option for early stage biotechs that want to sidestep the traditional venture-backed approach. On one hand, its a relatively simple means to raise a large amount of seed capital but on the other, there are many more (potentially irate) investors to answer to when a companys in its nascence.

New York-based Poliwoggs entire premise is on bringing crowdfunding to healthcare with aims to help companies raise fundsfrom accredited investors beyond the seed stage, with rounds ranging from $2 million to $10 million mark.Notably, ithas its own regenerative medicine fund.

Part of the idea here is that people want to invest in the things they care about, but they havent always had the opportunity to invest in them, CEO Greg Simon told MedCity News.Were giving people the opportunity to put their money where their passion is.

Thats all fine and good to have a passion for a cause, but the traditional accredited investor whos enmeshed in a crowdfunding effort may still not understand the intricacies of what it takes to get results or a return in a tricky field like regenerative medicine.

John Carroll over atFierce Biotechopined that crowdfunding wont make a significant dent in the approach to life sciences crowdfunding. Stem cell therapy, after all, generated tons of media pomp and flair a decade ago, but has yet to deliver on many of its curative promises from back then. VCs are often burnt and reticent, and investors on crowdfunding sites will likely be, as well. Carroll says:

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Cell Therapy may have just raised $1M, but will crowdfunding have a lasting place in biotech?

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