Conventional wisdom says VCs don't fund research-stage companies, but the numbers - and investors who play in the space - tell a different story. Since the financial meltdown, companies with a lead program in discovery or preclinical development have secured about 20% of all venture dollars, or more than $1 billion on average annually.

Investors active in the early stage space believe this is sufficient to fund most of the great and many of the good ideas, particularly those that have managed to dispense with some initial technology risk.