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Top 10 Biotech & Life Science Startups


Key Takeaways

Carl Niedbala - Founder Shield
Carl Niedbala

COO & Co-Founder

Update: We’ve released a new whitepaper examining the Biotech industry. We dive into the insurance landscape, funding, legal climate, and how to approach risk management for companies in this sector. You can download the report here!

When it comes to thriving up-and-comers, startups in the biotech and life science industry frequently drive the numbers. In this post, we share ten of the top, most innovative startups in the space—and none were even launched before 2018!

Biotechnology Industry Overview

Before we hit the ground running, however, let’s back up and review the biotech industry as a whole. In short, biotech uses life forms to help solve problems through technology. Biotechnology consists of three main branches: medical, agricultural, and industrial—often referred to as “red, green, and white,” respectively. 

Many companies combine branches to create products and generate revenue. But the two main subcategories making up this round-up list fall under the medical branch and include:


Exploring the realm of top biotech cities, this specialized field is dedicated to uncovering, advancing, and overseeing medications that contribute to the well-being of individuals. It encompasses crucial aspects such as clinical testing, trials, drug research, and ensuring the safety profiles of specific pharmaceuticals.


Navigating the realm of therapeutics involves addressing the treatment of diseases, centering on the science of healing. In the domain of biotech cities, this specific subcategory places a predominant emphasis on the utilization and administration of drugs for effective disease treatment, surpassing the mere creation of pharmaceuticals.

With this information in mind, here is the round-up.

1. Cerevel Therapeutics

Industry: Therapeutics

Location: Boston, MA

Employees: 300 

Funding: Bain Capital Private Equity and Bain Capital Life Sciences dedicated $350M to Cerevel—with the capacity to invest more if needed.

Bain Capital and Pfizer launched Cerevel Therapeutics to develop drugs for central nervous system (CNS) disorders, such as Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s, and epilepsy. Shortly after starting, Cerevel began a Phase I clinical trial for psychosis and two separate Phase II clinical trials for Parkinson’s and also epilepsy. Its epilepsy trial produced encouraging results involving the drug lorazepam.

2. Anthos Therapeutics

Industry: Therapeutics

Location: Cambridge, MA

Employees: 13

Funding: Anthos was launched with $250M by Blackstone Life Sciences and Novartis. 

Helping high-risk cardiovascular patients is the goal of this startup. Anthos prides itself on developing and commercializing life-preserving therapies. Its primary asset is MAA868, which is an antibody currently in Phase II development.

3. Century Therapeutics

Industry: Therapeutics

Location: Philadelphia, PA

Employees: 30

Funding: Bayer, Versant, and Fujifilm Cellular Dynamics invested $250 to Versant Ventures for the creation of Century Therapeutics.

Century Therapeutics develops iPSC-derived immune effector therapy, or otherwise known as “off-the-shelf” therapy, for cancer treatment. This company’s goal is to overcome the limitations of first-generation cell therapy.

4. Cyclerion Therapeutics

Industry: Therapeutics

Location: Cambridge, MA

Employees: 100

Funding: A private placement deal of nearly $175M helped Ironwood Pharmaceuticals to launch Cyclerion Therapeutics. 

Cyclerion’s biotech pipeline features five various sGC stimulator programs, which each target specific issues. The company’s goal is to address a broad range of serious and orphan diseases, such as sickle cell disease and diabetic nephropathy. The development of treatment for the two conditions is currently in Phase II. Also, IW-6463 is in Phase I for serious and orphan CNS disease, and two programs targeting liver and lung diseases are in late-stage discovery programs. 

5. Mirum Pharmaceuticals

Industry: Pharma

Location: Foster City, CA

Employees: 24

Funding: With a late-2018 launch of $120M, Mirum Pharmaceuticals raised another $75M when it announced its initial public offering (IPO) in July 2019.

Mirum’s tagline is, “creativing transformative medicine for rare liver disease,” such as Alagille syndrome (ALGS) and progressive familial intrahepatic cholestasis (PFIC). 

For both diseases mentioned, Mirum reported positive Phase II data in April 2019. In July 2019, it launched a Phase III trial of the PFIC-focused drug. The company is currently recruiting patients for clinical trials.

6. Passage Bio

Industry: Pharma

Location: Philadelphia, PA

Employees: 11

Funding: OrbiMed Advisors, Frazier Healthcare Partners, Versant Ventures, New Leaf Venture Partners, Vivo Capital, and Lilly Asia Ventures launched Passage Bio in a Series A with $225.5M. In September 2019, the company closed a $110M Series B with several more investors. 

Passage Bio is a genetic medicines company primarily focused on developing treatment therapies for rare monogenic CNS diseases. The company has collaborated (in a licensed deal) with the Gene Therapy Program (GTP) at the University of Pennsylvania as well as Penn’s Orphan Disease Center.

With a hefty five-product development portfolio, Passage Bio has the potential to license up to seven more. Some of the company’s current programs include GM1 gangliosidosis, frontotemporal dementia (FTD), and Krabbe disease. These programs will likely hit clinics in 2020. 

7. Qpex Biopharma

Industry: Pharma

Location: San Diego, CA

Employees: 20

Funding: New Enterprise Associates, Adams Street Partners, LYZZ Capital, Hatteras Venture Partners, and Stanford University Draper Fund helped to launch Qpex Biopharma with $33M Series A financing.

Qpex Biopharma is a spin-out of The Medicines Co., acquiring preclinical-stage anti-infective assets. These assets include proprietary beta-lactamase inhibitor technology. The investment company focuses on developing a pipeline of agents for the treatment of infectious diseases. 

Initially, the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) made $132M available to The Medicines Co. in 2016. Assuming stipulations are fulfilled, Qpex Biopharma can move forward, developing a portfolio of new antibiotics to battle drug-resistant, gram-negative infections.

8. Thrive Earlier Detection

Industry: Pharma

Location: Cambridge, MA

Employees: 25

Funding: Thrive spun out of Johns Hopkins University with $110M Series A funding from Third Rock Ventures, Section 32, Casdin Capital, Biomatics Capital, BlueCross BlueShield Venture Partners, Invus, Exact Sciences, and other investors. 

Thrive’s goal is to cure cancer through early detection programs. Currently, the company is gaining momentum on its liquid biopsy test, CancerSEEK. This test, which has received Breakthrough Device designation from the FDA, works to detect multiple cancer types during the early stages of the disease. 

9. Maze Therapeutics

Industry: Therapeutics

Location: South San Francisco, CA

Employees: 64

Funding: Third Rock Ventures, ARCH Venture Partners, Google Ventures, Foresite Capital, Casdin Capital, Alexandria Venture Investments, and other investors helped to launch Maze with $191M. 

Maze aims to “decode the mysteries of genetic modifiers in a range of severe diseases.” By using advanced algorithms and data science, Maze studies natural human genetic variation. Its goal is to identify genetic markers that protect individuals from specific diseases.

10. Ribon Therapeutics

Industry: Therapeutics 

Location: Cambridge, MA

Employees: 50

Funding: With $95M of Series A and Series B financing, Novartis Venture Fund, JJDC, Celgene Corporation, Takeda Ventures, and other investors worked to launch Ribon Therapeutics.

Ribon targets cellular stress pathways to block the survival of cancer cells. More specifically, it attempts to treat cancer via small molecule monoPARP inhibitors. During a Phase I clinical trial in September 2019, Ribon used RBN-2397 in attempts to address advanced-stage solid tumors.

In the wake of promising startups emerging in 2018 and 2019, 2020 is poised to be the year when biotech companies secure fresh funding and gather momentum. This vibrant life science sector is ready for the taking. To dive deeper into this exciting development, don’t miss our post on the “Sequoia Investment Memo,” which sheds light on these ten companies and many more in the space.

Understanding the details of what coverage your company needs can be a confusing process. Founder Shield specializes in knowing the risks your industry faces to make sure you have adequate protection. Feel free to reach out to us, and we’ll walk you through the process of finding the right policy for you. 

Want to know more about insurance for biotech companies? Talk to us! You can contact us at ​info@foundershield.com​ or create an account ​here​ to get started on a quote. 


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