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HIGHLIGHTS: Stat-Dx exit, investments, year-end results, research philanthropy, board elections

Firm led by Jordi Carrera hits archetypal milestone for sector amidst effervescent month of February

26.02.2018

February brought an important milestone for the sector: Dutch technology conglomerate Qiagen has acquired Stat-Dx for €154 million, one of the most important operations ever in the Spanish biotechnology sector. Qiagen, which is traded on the New York stock exchange, will pay €118 million up front plus an additional €36 million for later milestones. The deal should be closed in the second quarter of the year. "It is an archetypal case because it is the first company to complete the cycle through to divestment," Biocat Director of Strategy Jordi Naval highlighted in a report on the main operations in the sector in financial newspaper Expansión.

Abac Therapeutics, a spin-off of Ferrer that has developed an antibiotic for Acinetobacter baumannii, has closed its first round of funding, valued at €16 million. The operation was led by Israeli fund Pontifax with participation from Global Health Science Fund, Caixa Capital Risc, the innovation fund of Swiss company Debiopharm and Ferrer itself.

Inkemia, which expects to go from turnover of €6.9 million in 2016 to €140 million in 2020, will invest €23.5 million to build a factory for advanced biofuels in Portugal. Additionally, the company has issued its first round of bonds for €3.8 million. Thrombotargets is also bolstering its finances, having agreed to increase its capital stock with a €5.5 million increase.

ProteoDesign has closed a round of funding valued at €1.7 million, which will be used to advance preclinical development of its immunotherapy candidates. The round was led by Caixa Capital Risc with participation from a private investor. Adan Medical Innovation, focused on devices for patients with severe allergic reactions, is working these days to close a crowd-equity round of funding with Capital Cell. They have already raised 85% of their €440,000 goal and investors can contribute from €980. Spiral Therapeutics, born as a spinoff of Laboratorios Salvat and focused on inner ear disorders, is preparing a €3.6 million round.

Grifols' main global competitor, Australian company CSL Behring, has started litigation in Spain in an attempt to put an end to the Catalan corporation's monopoly on sales of plasma derivatives to hospitals. Regarding the failure of the drug developed by the US company Aradigm, in which Grifols holds a share, the corporation believes it will be offset by Trump's tax reform. Taking into account the impact of these two developments, the Catalan multinational corporation estimates a positive effect of €90 million on consolidated results for the last quarter of 2017.

Furthermore, Grifols has been granted FDA approval to market a new formulation of its HyperRAB immunoglobulin to treat rabies. The FDA has also approved a phase I/II clinical trial on Ability Pharma's ABTL0812 molecule in patients with advanced and metastatic pancreatic cancer.

Minoryx Therapeutics has announced its SEE-Tx platform will be integrated into the new spin-off Gain Therapeutics, founded by private Swiss investors and the TiVenture fund, with its headquarters in Switzerland and a subsidiary in Barcelona. Researchers working in the Minoryx laboratory at the Barcelona Science Park have joined the new spin-off under scientific director Dr. Xavier Barril, an ICREA researcher and co-founder of Minoryx Therapeutics.

Pangaea Oncology has signed a contract for nearly €270,000 to provide services to multinational corporation Merck, while Almirall has terminated the collaboration agreement between Thermi, its aesthetic medicine company, and Sinclair in the United States.

Almirall has reported €303.9 million loss in 2017 versus profit of €75.5 million in 2016. Rove posted net profit of €17.2 million in 2017, down 34% from 2016. Oryzon also posted its results for 2017, with €5 million in losses, down 5% from the previous year. The company invested €5.3 million in R&D projects. Oryzon has taken on Synlogic President and CEO José Carlos Gutiérrez-Ramos as an independent director.

Another company that has strengthened its board is Mind the Byte, which after announcing its acquisition of Intelligent Pharma last month has now made Uriach CEO Oriol Segarra a member of its board of directors. Mind the Byte plans to go public on the Stockholm stock exchange in 2020. On the other hand, FreeOx Biotech has taken on Xavier Luria as its new partner and strategy advisor in a bid to accelerate development and the regulatory process for its main drug candidate, Ox-01, to treat stroke.

Additionally, the platform for second medical opinions Advance Medical has moved its business address to Madrid.

 

Donations and new discoveries

IRB Barcelona is opening the doors to using immunotherapy to treat aggressive colon tumors and metastasis. A team at this center led by ICREA researcher Eduard Batlle explained in a paper published in Nature that the TGF-beta hormone is what makes the immune system blind to colon tumor cells.

Additionally, a couple from Barcelona left IRB Barcelona €1.5 million to be used for research into cancer and metastasis. It is the first legacy donation the center has received.

Also, Biomedical Research Institute of Lleida (IRBLleida) has created a channel on its website for one-off or repeat donations in order to increase its income from individual and corporate donors.

Researchers at the Hospital del Mar Research Institute (IMIM) have created the first proneural cell bank in Spain to facilitate research into mental disease.

ICO and IDIBGI have participated in Concord-3, the largest cancer study in the world, which is showing increased survival among patients with the disease, although with great differences between countries. The study, published in The Lancet, was based on data from more than 3 million individuals provided by 322 cancer registries in 71 countries, including the Girona Cancer Registry.

Nature Communications has published a study conducted by the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC) using data on 70,000 individuals from existing public databases that has identified seven new regions of the genome associated with a higher risk of type-2 diabetes.

Researchers at the Institute of Chemical Research of Catalonia (ICIQ) have published in Nature a method for building large molecules faster and in a more controlled manner, which could have a significant impact on drug design and development.

A study published in The Lancet by Oriol Mitjà, a researcher at Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), warns that Yaws disease is more resistant to antibiotics than previously thought, forcing the World Health Organization (WHO) to rethink its strategy to eradicate it.

A study by the Pompeu Fabra University (UPF) Department of Experimental and Health Sciences has identified a breast-cancer mechanism that leads to brain metastasis. Additionally, fifty patients in Lleida are participating in a study at IRB Lleida to detect the most aggressive endometrial tumors.

A research group at IBEC, in collaboration with Imperial College London, has discovered that oxidation is necessary to recovery after spine injury, which calls into question the commonplace use of antioxidants to treat these conditions. Plus, 80% of mobile health applications put users' personal data at risk, according to a European study in which Rovira i Virgili University (URV) participated.

The first details on this year's Marató de TV3 are starting to come out: it will focus on cancer and be held on 16 December.

 

Connected patients and new hospital units

Vall d’Hebron, in collaboration with Telefónica, has implemented the first automatic system to trace surgical patients in Spain. Patients wear a bracelet with a tag that connects to markers in the surgical area by Bluetooth, giving the medical team and family members real-time information on where they are. The hospital has also reached an agreement with Catalan start-up IOMED to implement their data extraction and analysis technology to improve on-site care.

The Catalan Institute of Oncology (ICO) Badalona has inaugurated new spaces and a new Continued Cancer Care Unit. Germans Trias i Pujol Hosptial has inaugurated a new psychiatric ER and a new in-patient unit for adults that need treatment for mental health conditions and addiction.

Parc Taulí has created a new Minority Diseases Unit to implement a new care model for patients with various low-prevalence pathologies.

After summer, Institut Guttmann expects to launch a new clinical complex and clinical neuroscience institute in La Sagrera (Barcelona). The institute has invested €15 million to build these facilities.

A team at Hospital Mataró, in collaboration with the University of Barcelona and ICREA, has validated the efficacy of a video game that can determine whether a child has ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder).

Hospital Clinic and Hospital Sant Joan de Déu will have a sports medicine teaching and care center where residents can train in this discipline, thanks to an agreement between FC Barcelona and the University of Barcelona (UB).

Hospital Dexeus has used a groundbreaking technique to operate on a young girl with a 65º deviation of her spine, with an intervention through the thorax.

 

Other news in the ecosystem

Jaume Amat, founder and CEO of Specipig, has been chosen president of the new board of CataloniaBio & HealthTech, created from the merger of CataloniaBio and HealthTech Cluster. In addition to Amat, the new board of directors will be comprised of Lluís Chico, managing partner of NEOS Surgery; Maribel Bergés, co-founder and CFO of Spherium Biomed; and Àngel Alonso, CEO of Vecmedical.

The Catalan Ministry of Health has created a Clinical Cancer Genetics Service to concentrate the region's expertise in hereditary cancer and improve diagnosis and treatment.  This Service falls under the Catalan Network of Oncology and is made up of the Catalan Institute of Health (ICS) and the Catalan Institute of Oncology (ICO). Two ICS hospitals -Vall d'Hebron University Hospital and University Hospital Arnau de Vilanova- and ICO (Hospitalet, Girona and Badalona) will participate in this Service.

The Catalan Health Service (CatSalut) will cover blood-sugar monitoring devices for type-1 diabetics starting this year. In the first phase, it will give these devices to children under 7, pregnant women and people with an insulin pump with repeated or undetected hypoglycemia.

The ”la Caixa” Banking Foundation has signed an agreement with the government of Portugal to promote research projects of excellence in biomedicine and healthcare in that country.

Hospital Clinic and BBVA Foundation have launched PortalCLÍNIC, a new website with reliable, corroborated information, with participation from more than 200 physicians and 62 patients. Additionally, Enciclopèdia Catalana has created an online portal for scientific dissemination in Catalan called Divulcat.cat, which will raise awareness of the latest scientific news from renowned experts in Catalonia, the Valencian Community and the Balearic Islands.  

 

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BioRegio Catalunya febrer 2018