Last year was on track to become a record-setter for investments in health technology companies. Instead, 2016 ended with a solid, but not mind-blowing, tally in the state's health-tech sector.
In 2016, 98 Minnesota health technology companies raised more than $420 million in equity investments, including venture capital funding, angel and seed funds, investments by large device companies, public stock offerings and convertible debt, according to data published Tuesday by the Medical Alley Association trade group.
The full-year tally was the lowest in three years. Minnesota's 2016 total was about 8 percent below the record, which was in 2015.
"Investment in the sector across the U.S. is down, so for our community to continue to perform at a fairly highly level is a good story around med-tech for us," Medical Alley Chief Executive Shaye Mandle said.
Last year's slow finish was surprising, given that the Medical Alley Association touted the first three quarters of 2016 as a record tally of fundraising.
But fundraising activity in the fourth quarter didn't keep pace.
Mandle said the fourth-quarter dip was probably related to uncertainty following November's election results, particularly questions about the fate of the Affordable Care Act.
"Whether the ACA is going to continue, or if we're talking repeal-and-replace, there is a big variable there," he said. "I think the fourth quarter slowed up a little bit around health care, in particular for companies with products and solutions that were particularly relevant to the ACA blueprint."
But the group believes the 2.3 percent medical device excise tax included as part of the ACA will be repealed, following the ongoing temporary suspension. Funds freed up when the device tax was suspended in late 2015 were likely channeled into research and development, which could make some companies more valuable to private equity investors in the near term.
In terms of traditional med-tech companies, the largest single investment went to Minneapolis-based CVRx, which received $57.5 million as it continues to commercialize and work to expand the approved indications for its implantable Barostim Neo device.
A bright spot in the report was in the realm of digital health, in which companies sell products that typically use data, analytics and communications technologies to improve health care.
Digital health companies in the state raised $127 million in 2016, more than a sixfold increase since 2012. The largest award went to Minneapolis start-up Bright Health, which received $80 million to launch narrow-network health insurance plans, beginning with plans in Colorado.
"If the digital health revolution has an epicenter, it just might be in Minnesota's Medical Alley," the report opined. "Medical Alley has consistently ranked as one of the world's highest performing medical device clusters and now adds digital health to its leadership ranks."