Bigger deals mark Europe’s Q1 investments

European VCs put more money to work in each venture deal during the first quarter, as investments remained steady at $1.3 billion despite a 23% drop in the number of deals done, a study shows.

The number of deals dropped to 200 during the first quarter, down from 262 during the same period in 2005, according to the study by Dow Jones VentureOne and Ernst & Young.

Early stage investing is on the rise in Europe as VCs increased their commitments to $415 million, up 44% from the $287 million invested during the first quarter of last year. This is the highest level of investment in this stage since the first quarter of 2002. The United Kingdom led the early stage charge, with nearly half of the 56 deals done in the country going to startups.

The two biggest deals during the quarter were made in health care. Cancer drug maker Chroma Therapeutics, based in Abingdon, U.K., picked up $56.6 million from Essex Woodlands Health Ventures, Abingworth Bioventures and Gilde Europe Food & Agribusiness Fund in its Series C financing. And drug maker Nabriva Therapeutics, based in Vienna, raised $54 million from Nomura Technology, Healthcare Fund, HBM BioVentures and Global Life Science Ventures in its first round of venture investment.

Internet-related deals got a boost in the quarter as the number of deals jumped up to 12, from seven in the same quarter last year, and investments in the sector increased from $36 million to $50 million, a 40% jump.