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Highlights: Stat-Diagnostica gets €20 millions, BIO San Diego 2017, new BIST center and general director, and Albert Barberà heads up R&D in Health

Companies in the BioRegion of Catalonia worked on internationalization in Asia and America in June and awards were granted to Catalan researchers, including those from Banco Sabadell Foundation and Francisco Cobos

29.06.2017

June has left us with great headlines regarding operations in companies in the BioRegion of Catalonia, as well as new advances in research, new funding, and developments in Barcelona’s candidacy to become the new home of the European Medicines Agency, among others. This is the summary of the most noteworthy news of the month.

Biotechnology firm STAT-Diagnostica, which is developing a diagnostic tool for decentralized molecular diagnosis and immunoassay, has secured a €20-millions loan from the European Investment Bank (EIB). These funds will go towards developing devices that can detect infectious gastrointestinal, respiratory or meningitis-causing agents and the company hopes to launch its product to market this year.  

Top Doctors, an online platform to schedule appointments with private doctors, has secured €3 millions from Russian fund Addventure to expand into Europe and South America and implement a new product created by Mediktor (also a Catalan firm) that will improve the service provided through the platform using artificial intelligence. Transplant Biomedicals, which makes coolers to better preserve transplant organs during transport, has sublicensed a new organ-preservation liquid to a European company. This is the most significant international deal the company has closed to date and will bring in more than €6 millions the company says.

IMIM spin-off Chemotargets, which works in computational drug discovery and development, also attracted attention this month in signing an investment agreement with Prous Institute for Biomedical Research, although the details haven’t been made public yet. And the Uriach group has licensed its antihistamine rupatadine to Pfizer (to treat hay fever and hives) to sell in 14 countries in the Middle East and northern Africa. Anapharm Europe, which provides bioanalytics services, has changed its brand to Anapharm Bioanalytics and expanded its facilities in Barcelona.

Catalan companies take new steps in internationalization

Over the past month, several companies in the BioRegion have announced new steps taken in their internationalization process. LinkCare, a collaborative medicine platform created at Hospital Clinic, is moving its headquarters to China (Guangzhou business park) after closing a deal with Guangzhou Global Star Investment to join the company’s shareholders. The fund will inject approximately €5 millions in the company, taking a majority share.

Pharmaceutical company Reig Jofre has focused its growth in Asia because Japan, where they started marketing products last year, has become the company’s fourth largest market. They have also created a subsidiary in Indonesia to act as a gateway for selling its drugs in other countries in the area, like Vietnam, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia and Myanmar.

Devicare is looking to Colombia, where they have closed a deal with local distributor Inmave to introduce the company’s Lit-Control device, which allows patients to monitor urological conditions on their own from home. Plus, 30 Catalan companies and organizations participated in the BIO International Convention, the top partnering fair in the biomedical sector, for which Biocat coordinated the BioRegion’s delegation once again this year.

Studies in diabetes, research grants from la Caixa and MIT, and news at BIST

June also brought big headlines in research. Researchers at the Vall d'Hebron Institute of Oncology (VHIO) have developed a new antibody that triggers immune responses in tumors that had previously been resistant to immunotherapy, like those that cause colorectal cancer, for example. Another study co-led by IRB Barcelona and IDIBAPS has revealed the connection between a group of neurons called POMC, which inform on the state of energy in the body, and the amount of insulin the pancreas must produce. This study helps better understand the physiopathology of diabetes.

Additionally, la Caixa has opened a new call for proposals for research grants along with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT): the MIT-Spain “la Caixa” Foundation Seed Fund. This call for projects aims to encourage research groups of excellence in Spain and at MIT to work together. Researchers interested in this grant of up to €30,000 per project may submit applications through 18 September.

Regarding Catalan research centers and institutes, the Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology (BIST) is the main focus of news this month, as it has appointed a new general director, Gabriel M. Silberman, who will be taking over for Miquel A. Pericàs, who was doing double duty heading up both BIST and the ICIQ. Silberman holds a PhD in Computational Sciences. Additionally, a new center has also joined BIST: the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC), for a total of seven member centers. The aim is to bring Catalan research of excellence under the same umbrella.

Hospital de Bellvitge has opened a cutting-edge Coronary Unit for patients who have had a serious heart attack or have heart failure, with 10 private rooms and the most innovative personalized monitoring and care systems, as if it were an ICU.

The University of Barcelona and DTI Foundation have kicked off a new project called KeTLOD, funded by the European Commission, to design the first postgraduate degree in organ donation in China and roll it out in seven universities in that country. The Open University of Catalonia (UOC) will have the first academic center specializing in digital health in southern Europe, with the aim of tackling challenges in health and improving quality of life with ICT. 

Big names this month: nominations and awards

In June the news also broke that Albert Barberà has been named the new director general for Research and Innovation in Health, taking over for Dr. Antoni Andreu, who requested to be replaced in order to join the selection process for scientific director of EATRIS, the European infrastructure for translational medicine. Barberà was previously CEO of Biocat and in taking up this new post hopes to consolidate Catalonia’s global position in the healthcare and life sciences and strengthen the key role Biocat must play in facilitating the transfer and valorization of research and entrepreneurship in Catalonia.

Computational biologist Núria López-Bigas, an ICREA research professor at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona), has been chosen to join the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) for her research of excellence. Sergi Audivert, co-founder and CEO of AB-BIOTICS, has been named general director of the company. In February, Audivert and Miquel Àngel Bonachera, the other co-founder, resigned their positions as co-CEOs and are now beginning a new era in which Bonachera will continue working on business development.

The 2017 Banco Sabadell Foundation Awards have recognized the work of two young researchers. Dr. Romain Quidant, a researcher at the Institute of Photonic Sciences (ICFO), won the 1st Award for Science and Engineering for his contribution to nanophotonics with applications in biomedicine, and Dr. Borja Ibáñez, a physician and researcher at the Spanish National Centre for Cardiovascular Research in Madrid, won the 12th Biomedical Research Award for his contribution to the fight against cardiovascular diseases.

Eduard Batlle, a researcher at IRB Barcelona, won the 11th Francisco Cobos Foundation Award for his work of excellence in the field of colon cancer. Additionally, the Lilly Foundation granted its Biomedical Research Awards to Francisco Martínez Mojica (who works in genome editing and CRISPR) and Luis Paz-Ares (clinical and translational research in oncology). Finally, the life-sciences crowdfunding platform Capital Cell has been shortlisted for the Best International Growth Business Award by the UK Business Angels Association Investment Awards 2017.

#BCN4EMA

Barcelona’s candidacy to host the headquarters of the European Medicines Agency has received a significant push from general society, with a manifesto coordinated by Barcelona Global that has received the support of Biocat, among many others. The Council of the European Union has said the decision will be announced in November.

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