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HIGHLIGHTS: EMA location, new leaders for EIT Health, news from Grifols and Reig Jofre, new investment fund and advances in research

Barcelona will not host the European Medicines Agency, but the BioRegion of Catalonia is still one of the leading regions in healthcare & life sciences

28.11.2017

The long-awaited news in November didn’t have the hoped-for outcome: Barcelona will not host the new headquarters of the European Medicines Agency. Despite starting off as one of the favorites to take over from London after Brexit, the Catalan capital was knocked out in the first round. With 13 points, it was the fifth of 16 bids, surpassed only by Bratislava and the three finalists: Milan, Copenhagen and the winner: Amsterdam. The biopharmaceutical sector was deeply disappointed by this news.

EIT has allocated the maximum amount of 57.3 million euros to EIT Health for the Business Plan 2018, more than expected. The consortium to promote European leadership and competitiveness in Health has announced this month important changes in EIT Health leadership. Sylvie Bove has decided to leave her current position as CEO of EIT Health by 31 January 2018 and Jan-Philipp Beck, currently COO of EIT Health, will be her successor. On the other hand Jorge Juan Fernández García –currently Director of Academics of Moebio at Biocat and Director of E-Health at Hospital Sant Joan de Déu- has been appointed new Director of Innovation of EIT Health.

In the meantime, companies in the BioRegion continue with their growth plans. Reig Jofre is preparing the second expansion of its plant in Sant Joan Despí for 2018 and 2019 in order to support its future move into the US market. Reig Jofre earned €2.3 millions in the first nine months of the year, 53% less than the same period the previous year. The company has named Alejandro García Reig, the third generation of the Reig family to lead the company, the new vice president.

This wasn’t the only new appointment this month at Reig Jofre, which is preparing to relaunch Forté Pharma, its nutritional supplement brand, and has therefore hired back the firm’s first general manager: Alain Boutboul. Plus, the company has established a commercial alliance with Santarome, a specialized bio-phytotherapy company that Boutboul is the main shareholder in.

Mind the Byte has signed an agreement to share technology with Swedish company Prosilico. The Catalan company will add new tools to predict the effects of drugs in human models to its computer drug-design platform.

Mowoot, a company created out of the d·HEALTH Barcelona fellowship promoted by Biocat, has been chosen one of the 21 finalists in the European Health Catapult competition. The final will be held at the EIT Health Summit in London this December.

Dermofarm, the dermocosmetics company with brands like Sensilis and Rilastil-Cum Laude, expects to open new affiliates in Europe to grow its international turnover from 15% to 25% over the coming 5 years. US laboratory Opko Health has launched Vanir, a new food-supplement brand based in l’Hospitalet.

With regard to changes of business addresses, this month Stada announced it will be moving its business address to Madrid, although the company’s corporate headquarters in Spain will remain in Sant Just Desvern (Barcelona). Additionally, Uxa Farma is moving is business and tax headquarters to Seville.

Janssen Pharma, Gilead Sciences and Pfizer are the pharmaceutical suppliers that led billing to the Government of Catalonia last year. In total, CatSalut pharmaceutical spending was €2.374 billion.

 

News from the exchange floors

This month the financial papers have had news on the publicly traded companies in the sector. Grifols closed the first nine months of the year with net profit of €431.8 million, up 6.3% from the same period last year. In the science arena, Grifols has had two products approved this month by the FDA and the EMA: a genetic test for alpha-1 deficiency and a fibrin biological sealant that will be manufactured in the company’s complex in Parets del Vallès (Barcelona). Furthermore, Grifols has been called one of the top 500 workplaces in the world and has invested €16.5 million in a new plant in Brazil that should be operational by 2018 and will employ 150 people.

The numbers were in the red at Almirall, which finished the first nine months of the year with losses of €99.7 million. This is a sharp contrast to the €103 million in profit the company saw over the same period in 2016. Furthermore, Almirall will abandon its research to develop a new drug for nail psoriasis, called P3073, which was in phase 3. In more positive headlines, Almirall will receive $80 million in December for reaching sales milestones from the 2014 agreement with AstraZeneca to transfer its respiratory business. 

Additionally, Oryzon posted losses of €3.89 million through September, 6.26% less than the first nine months of 2016. Regarding the Spanish Alternative Stock Market (MAB), Medcom Tech saw revenue rise 7.7% in the first half of the year, to 15.11 million, while AB-Biotics lost €769,000, 89% less than the same period in 2016. In terms of licenses, AB-Biotics has closed a new sales deal for its product AB-Fortis with Israeli group Frutarom.

 

New funds and investments

News regarding investors in the sector: Genesis Ventures, a new fund specializing in biomedicine was presented this November in Barcelona. Its first fund, Genesis Ventures Fund I, has €610,000 that will fund seven or eight projects that have not yet been established as a start-up or spin-off over two years. CEO Josep Lluís Falcó has worked at large corporations like Sanofi, Ferrer; small biotechnology companies and consultancy firms like Antares and Asphalion.

Ysios Capital has invested €6 million in a €45-million round for Swiss company Xeltis, which specializes in developing artificial blood vessels and heart valves. Ysios has also begun divesting companies it invested in through its first fund in 2008 and is preparing a third fund that could arrive in 2018 or 2019.

GlyCardial Diagnostics has raised €2.4 million in its first round of investment, led by Caixa Capital Risc and HealthEquity. This spin-off of the Catalan Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences (ICCC) is developing a test to detect cardiac ischemia (lack of blood flow) before it is irreversible.

After raising more than €600,000 through a crowdfunding campaign, Vytrus Biotech is taking steps to go public next year. The company, which specializes in plant stem-cell technology for cosmetics and the healthcare sector, aims to devote part of the resources obtained to cover the first costs of going public on the Spanish Alternative Stock Market (MAB) or the pan-European Euronext market.

Additionally, Lleida-based biotechnology firm  Moirai Biodesign has closed a €300,000 round of funding to continue developing its diagnostic kit for leukemia with a reactive strip. Private capital fund Apax has acquired Telemedicine Clinic (TMC), a Catalan company specializing in medical technology.

Tres Torres clinic has closed a capital increase of €900,000 to complete the expansion of their external offices, intensive care unit and build a new day hospital. The company hopes to acquire Clínica de Ponent de Lleida over the coming year and a half.

 

Names in the news

The Botet family, which formerly owned Caprabo, has joined the Healthequity venture-capital fund, managed by the Barcelona Medical Association (COMB) and financial services firm Riva i García.

Asturian researcher Rosa Menéndez has taken over for Emilio Lora-Tamayo as the first woman at the helm of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC). Additionally, Carlos Grau, former director of Microsoft in Catalonia, has been named general manager of the Mobile World Capital Barcelona Foundation (MWCapital). 

 

Money for research and advances in oncology

The "la Caixa" Banking Foundation is offering grants of up to €12 million per year for 20 biomedical research projects. The call is open to university and non-profit research centers and the deadline is 16 March.

In oncology, an international study with Catalan participation has helped map the bladder-cancer genome, which will help provide more personalized treatment for patients with this disease. Director of the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute Dr. Joaquim Bellmunt is one of the authors.

Researchers at the Vall d’Hebron campus have participated in a multi-center study published in Science that has shown the bacteria from the microbiome travel to tumor cells during metastasis.

For their part, researchers in the ProCURE Program at ICO Girona-IDIBGI Metabolism and Cancer group have discovered a new way to regulate the epigenetics of tumor cells through metabolism. This discovery opens doors to develop a new class of metabolic-epigenetic drugs to treat cancer.

Lung cancer is now the first cause of premature death among women in Barcelona, surpassing breast tumors, according to the report on the state of health in the city 2016 presented this month by the Barcelona City Council.

In another arena, researchers from the Neurosciences Institute at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) and the Vall d'Hebron Research Institute (VHIR) have shown for the first time that gene therapy can protect against memory loss and cognitive deficits in humans. For their part, IRB Lleida has led a groundbreaking study that points to the possibility of using oxygen as a biomarker for diagnosing chronic fatigue.

 

Hospital headlines

Institute for Research and Innovation Parc Tauli (I3PT) and Devicare have signed a collaboration agreement to promote R&D projects in the field of medical devices for self-monitoring chronic diseases. They are currently working on a new device for affective pathologies like biopolar and major depression.

Increasingly specialized units at hospitals in the BioRegion: Hospital de Sant Pau has just inaugurated a new space to make more fragile patients more comfortable in the emergency room and prevent confusions that delay their recovery. Hospital Clínic de Barcelona has presented this month the first study from its unit to care for patients having chemsex, a phenomenon (using drugs to sustain long sex sessions, generally without protection) that is growing in popularity, especially among the gay community.

Additionally, Vall d’Hebron has now done more than 2,000 kidney transplants in adult patients.

 

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