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Massachusetts biopharma firms raised a record $5.8 billion in venture capital last year

The total was nearly double 2019′s investments, according to a trade group report.

Kendall Square in Cambridge, epicenter of the state's robust biotechnology industry.
Kendall Square in Cambridge, epicenter of the state's robust biotechnology industry.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

Buoyed by the industry’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Massachusetts drug makers raised a record-breaking $5.8 billion in venture capital last year, nearly double the sum of 2019 and surpassing the previous high of $4.8 billion in 2018, according to a new report by a trade group.

As biopharma firms had three vaccines cleared for use in the US since the coronavirus emerged in December 2019 ― including one from Cambridge-based Moderna ― investors seemed eager to fund promising startups, said the report by the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council.

“At a time when the world was struck by a global public health crisis, the biopharma industry responded swiftly and demonstrated its value by creating highly effective vaccines in record time and developing therapeutics and diagnostics to protect patients from a novel virus,” said Kendalle BurlinO’Connell, president and chief operating officer of MassBio.

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Twenty-one Massachusetts biopharma companies went public in 2020 and raised $3.9 billion, compared with $910 million raised in initial public offerings by the state’s sector the year before. The firms accounted for almost a third of all US-based biopharma initial public offerings by volume last year.

Massachusetts’ life sciences hub is one of the world’s most robust, but it was no anomaly last year. Overall, 81 biotechnology companies debuted on the stock market, a new high-water mark, raising $13.5 billion.


Jonathan Saltzman can be reached at jonathan.saltzman@globe.com.