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HIGHLIGHTS: Innovative pharma, new biotech milestones, Catalan research in ‘Nature’ and ‘Lancet’

New licenses, business plans, clinical studies and papers in the BioRegion this December

20.12.2017

2017 in the BioRegion is drawing to a close in the same way it started: with loads of new business and scientific activity, showcasing our dynamic healthcare and life sciences ecosystem.

Grifols and Almirall are among the 1,000 publicly traded companies that invest the most in the R&D world, according to the recently published PwC study Global Innovation 1000. In fact, Grifols has taken out a loan from the European Investment Bank (EIB) for €85 million to support the company’s investment in R&D.

For their part, Almirall has closed a licensing agreement in perpetuity with US biotechnology company Athenex to develop and market a drug for actinic keratosis. The Catalan pharmaceutical company will spend $55 million to get the rights to the product in the United States and Europe and take it to market by 2021.

Esteve has got €60 million for returning to Janssen one of its historical licenses in Spain: Fortasec. Esteve will continue manufacturing the drug as part of their production services for third parties and put the one-off earnings from the sale towards new strategic goals.

AbilityPharma has been granted FDA authorization for a phase II clinical trial on patients with endometrial or squamous lung cancer. Since November of last year, the Catalan biotechnology firm has been recruiting patients at the Vall d'Hebron Institute of Oncology, the Catalan Institute of Oncology, Incliva in Valencia and Hospital Universitario Virgen del Rocío (Seville). In 2018, they will begin supplying the drug to three French hospitals.

Oryzon Genomics has concluded the pre-clinical phase on its third molecule, Ory-3001, to treat sickle-cell anemia, a genetic mutation that hinders blood flow.

Laboratorios Rubió is preparing to move into the United States: the company has gained FDA approval for its plant in Castellbisbal (Barcelona) this year and expects to begin sales in this market in 2019. The company’s turnover was up 25% last year, for a total of €25 million, and profits were up 50%, to €1 million. By 2021, the company expects to double turnover, to €50 million, through its strategic plan based on new licenses, internationalization, external collaborations and new galenic formulations.

Continuing with internationalization, three companies in the BioRegion participated in a reverse mission with the Australian region of Adelaide promoted by Biocat. The BioRegion also welcomed a delegation this month from Toyama Pharmaceutical Association, the third largest pharmaceutical association in Japan.

Inkemia has presented its new business plan, which aims to boost turnover from the €6.9 million it posted last year to €140 million by 2022 by promoting its business in biofuels and solvents. Additionally, Inkemia and the Parets del Vallès City Council have reached an agreement to create a new space for business acceleration and training in the life sciences.

Cebiotex has launched a €650,000 crowdequity campaign on Capital Cell to ensure its first drug, CEB-01 for local post-surgical treatment of soft-tissue sarcomas, makes its way to pediatric oncology as well. The campaign is part of a €1.6-million round of funding that would allow the company to begin phase I/II clinical trials.

Consultancy Gesaworld has begun insolvency proceedings to restructure its liabilities after several clients have defaulted on payment. Additionally, the general assemblies of CataloniaBio and Health Tech Cluster have agreed this month to merge into one business organization, representing more than one hundred companies and institutions in the sector.

 

Hospitals training entrepreneurs

Vall d’Hebron Barcelona Hospital Campus has joined the d·HEALTH Barcelona program promoted by Biocat to train future health entrepreneurs and innovators following the Stanford University biodesign methodology. A team of fellows from the program will do a clinical immersion in the Cardiology Department at this hospital, as well as at Hospital Clinic and Hospital Sant Joan de Déu, to identify unmet clinical needs and develop a business plan. d·HEALTH Barcelona is geared towards candidates with degrees in business, design, engineering and the life sciences. The next edition will kick off in January 2018 and applications are still being accepted. 97% of d·HEALTH Barcelona alumni start up their own project or find work in the sector after graduating. Some of the start-ups that have come out of previous editions triumphed this month at an international pitch competition in Stockholm.

Additionally, in 2018 Sant Joan de Déu will break ground on its SJD Pediatric Cancer Center Barcelona, the largest children’s oncology center in Europe. Through the campaign “Para los valientes”, they have already raised €14.5 million for the work, half of what they need.

 

High-impact research

The process that allows cells to perceive their surroundings is regulated by the detection of forces and the precision of these sensing methods is nanometric: these are the conclusions of a study published in Nature and led by IBEC researchers. IBEC researchers have also created a bioreactor or small laboratory that reproduces the behavior of a patient’s muscle cells on a tiny scale and allows them to test the effectivity of drugs to treat diseases.

A study led by Hospital Clinic and Idibaps published in The Lancet Infectious diseases shows that a new antibiotic can treat 60% of cases of hospital-acquired pneumonia.

The Vall d'Hebron Institute of Oncology (VHIO) and the BBVA Foundation have presented a Comprehensive Cancer Immunotherapy and Immunology Program that, with a budget of €2.5 million over the next four years, will research the natural mechanisms through which T lymphocytes react to cancer, and how to predict and use these anti-tumor responses to create more personalized treatment.

A blood sample can be used to choose the best treatment for patients with advanced colorectal cancer, according to a study led by the Catalan Institute of Oncology (ICO) and the Institute for Health Science Research Germans Trias i Pujol (IGTP). The study opens the doors to choosing one type of chemotherapy or another based on two genetic variants that are seen in a blood sample.

In the chapter on first names, Lluís Torner, founding director of the Institute for Photonic Sciences (ICFO), has been recognized by Nature as an outstanding mentor for other scientists.

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