Update 22/10/2015: I added Galapagos from Belgium and Basilea from Switzerland, they deserved it …

Talking about billon-dollar companies in the US is such a hype. Even the Wall street journal has its own start-up club (which btw is stunning). By looking at it, I wondered which European Biotechs were worth over €1Bn in Europe. Not so many actually, but here is my now top 9 with data from our map and my personal comment for each.

N°1: Cellectis – the French CAR-T miracle


Cellectis CEO & Founder André Choulika, Rights to EY

Market cap: €1.03Bn

Founded: 1999

City: Paris, France

Mission: Cellectis develops innovative cancer products based on engineered T cells armed with a Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) to target liquid and solid tumor.

Comment: Great entrepreneurial success-story that almost died two years ago. It was saved by Servier, and is now one of the leaders of the CAR-T field. Even more, it’s actually the only major CAR-T player which tries to industrialize its therapy by being able to give engineered lymphocytes to any patient instead of taking the patient’s own cells.

N°2: Immunocore – Europe’s largest private biotech round ever

immunocore headquarter

Immunocore’s headquarters

Value (private): around €1Bn

Founded: 2008

City: Oxford, UK

Mission: Immunocore is developing biological therapeutics for the treatment of serious diseases. Its world-leading T cell receptor technology exploits the body’s own immune system to kill diseased cells.

Comment: The most impressive thing about Immunocore is the last private round it raised: $320M. That’s simply the biggest private financing round for a European Biotech company ever!

N°3: Morphosys – Germany’s mature anti-cancer Biotech


Market cap: €1.57Bn

Founded: 1992

City: Munich, Germany

Mission: MorphoSys is a biopharmaceutical company with a rich pipeline of future therapeutic antibody products and a sustainable dual therapeutic business model.

Comment: The company is the oldest of my top 7. It not only survived for over 23 years but it also grew to become the biggest German red Biotech. And it has exciting products in development, as illustrated by the recently signed partnership with another leading German Biotech: Immatics.

N°4: Oxford Nanopore – DNA sequencer as small as your smartphone


Yes, this is really a DNA-sequencer!

Value (private): around €2Bn

Founded: 2005

City: Oxford, UK

Mission: Oxford Nanopore is a platform that lead applications in DNA sequencing, protein analysis for diagnostics and drug development and identification of a range of other molecules.

Comment: Oxford Nanopore has an extremely interesting piece of technology. Using nanotechnology instead of fluorescence could simplify DNA sequencing and help the sequencing price go under the $1000 threshold. The challenge will be market access and reliability of the devices, which up to now, is at 60-70% precision comparing to Illumina’s sequencer reaching over 99% precision.

N°5: DBV – Why couldn’t allergies be cured?


Pouce en l’air! – Pierre-Henri Benhamou, Founder and CEO in the middle

Market cap: €1.58Bn

Founded: 2002

City: Paris, France

Mission: DBV Technologies is developing innovative epicutaneous treatments for food and pediatric allergies.

Comment: It’s the first company trying to cure allergies, mainly peanut and milk. And it is doing extremely well so far. It IPOed on the NASDAQ in October 2014 to start conducting a Phase 3 in the US, raised an additional €255M (!!) and finally hopes to access the US allergy market, the biggest worldwide.

N°6: Adaptimmune – CAR-T isn’t the only solution


Source: Adaptimmune

Market cap: €1.1Bn at the IPO, now €780M

Founded: 2008

City: Oxford, UK

Mission: Adaptimmune develops T cell therapies to treat cancer, human immunodeficiency virus, and infectious diseases.

Comment: Very interesting way of using our body’s own T Cell that differs from the classical CAR-T system. It may even work better!

N°7: Actelion – THE European Biotech success story

Andreas Schwarzkopf

Actelion’s headquarters in Basel – Andreas Schwarzkopf

Market cap: €15,18Bn

Founded: 1997

City: Basel, Switzerland

Mission: Actelion is a leading biopharmaceutical company focused on the discovery, development and commercialization of innovative drugs for diseases with significant unmet medical needs.

Comment: Actelion is the European version of Genzyme, Genentech or Amgen. A huge success-story which started very small, delivered a product on the market and is now worth over €15Bn. Shire even tried to acquire the company for €16,8Bn last June (close to the $20Bn Sanofi paid for Genzyme in 2011) but the shareholders of the Swiss company refused. They seem confident in the future as an independent… or were maybe expecting a bigger check.

Special comment: I love the headquarters of Actelion and would love to visit it (if someone from Actelion read that, feel free to invite me 😉 )

N°8: Galapagos – the biggest EU IPO ever done


Market cap: €1.98Bn (on 20/10/2015)

Founded: 1999

City: Mechelen, Belgium (not to far north of Bruxelles)

Mission: Galapagos is a clinical stage biotech company focused on developing novel mode of action medicines.

Comment: Galapagos is in the spotlights this year. Why? Simply because it did the biggest IPO ever made by a EU Biotech. It raised “only” €277M on the NASDAQ in May 2015. Since September, it faced a major drawback with Abbvie stopping a big collaboration but it should recover soon.

N°9: Basilea – the Roche antibiotics spin-out 


Market cap: €1.04Bn (on 20/10/2015)

Founded: 2000

City: Basel, Switzerland

Mission: Basilea Pharmaceutica is a Switzerland-based company engaged in the research, development and commercialization of pharmaceutical products (mainly antibiotics).

Comment: The company spinned-out from Roche 15 years ago and has got a great development so far. Last milestone it has planned to reach soon: a monster €167M IPO on the NASDAQ to move US Phase III clinical trials of its promising antibiotics.

These now 9 companies are really impressive. And interestingly, they are well spread throughout Europe (three in the UK, two in France, two in Switzerland, one in Germany and one in Belgium). I could have added a few other companies that could be considered as Biotech, such as Stallergenes, bioMérieux, Novozymes, but those are way older companies.

I would be interested in hearing from you. Did you know these 9 companies? Which other one would you have added?

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  1. Antoine
    22/10/2015 at 10:36 — Reply

    Good article! but you forgot to update the conclusion… repartition of the companies in Europe, it is missing two companies in brackets. Same for your last sentence.

    Have a good day!

    • Philip Hemme
      22/10/2015 at 11:02 — Reply

      Thanks Antoine for your compliments. Indeed, the conclusion if updated now 😉

  2. 22/10/2015 at 17:01 — Reply

    Unicorn are startups. Most companies on your list are not, and already IPOed, thus not Unicorns.


    • Philip Hemme
      22/10/2015 at 19:16 — Reply

      Hi Marie-Alice,

      Thanks for your comment. If you read carefully, I don’t mention the term Unicorn in the text, because I know the definition. The image of an unicorn just illustrates well the article and the 2 companies that matches this definition.


      Ps: And Unicorn is more classy than Billion-euro company/start-up.

  3. Peter
    27/10/2015 at 10:58 — Reply

    I don’t know how you’ve missed out the biggest European biotech IPO story in the last 5 years – Circassia. It IPO’d last year raising £200m, it then raised another £200m this year to finance two acquisitions. Its current market cap is £800m (€1.1B).

    • Philip Hemme
      27/10/2015 at 11:10 — Reply

      Thanks Peter for your comment. Circassia could definitely appear in the ranking. Maybe in an update coming soon 😉

  4. frank
    23/12/2015 at 15:38 — Reply

    “The challenge will be market access and reliability of the devices, which up to now, is at 60-70% precision comparing to Illumina’s sequencer reaching over 99% precision.”

    Not true, more like spin. There are significant portions of genomes that Illumina can’t but ONT can do as well as what Illumina can do. If these portions were included in the Illumina figures it would be closer to ONT but without the capabilities of ONT’s long reads.

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