You are here

20 Catalan start-ups to watch in 2020

We have a sneak peek at some of the companies in the BioRegion of Catalonia that we’ll be hearing a lot from this year

AddToAny buttons: 
29.01.2020

NÚRIA PELÁEZ 

There are 1,200 companies in the BioRegion of Catalonia, the Catalan healthcare and life sciences sector. We’ve chosen twenty that you won’t want to lose sight of in 2020. Clinical milestones, advancing to market, rounds of investment, new subsidiaries... we’ll give you a sneak peek at some of the companies that, for one reason or another, will be in the news this year.

AbilityPharma: autophagy in oncology

AbilityPharma is a biopharmaceutical company in the clinical phase that is developing first-in-class targeted oral cancer treatments. These cause selective cytotoxicity through autophagy (self-digestion) in cancer cells. The company ended last year with a €3.5-million round of funding and has clinical milestones programmed for 2020: to complete the phase-II clinical trial underway on endometrial cancer and lung cancer in Spain and France in the first half of the year, and to start a new trial on another indication in oncology. Spoiler alert: the company expects to reach a licensing deal with a pharmaceutical company in 2020 or early 2021 for further development and future commercialization of the drug.

ABLE Human Motion: the lightweight exoskeleton ‘made in Barcelona’

ABLE Human Motion has developed the first lightweight exoskeleton, that is easy to use and affordable for people with paraplegia caused by a spinal injury. Their project has matured quickly after completing the CRAASH Barcelona acceleration program: after closing a round of funding to finish development of the exoskeleton, this year ABLE will begin a multi-center clinical validation with 30 users with spinal injuries at two benchmark centers: Heidelberg University Hospital and Institut Guttmann. With the results, the company expects to get CE marking and begin marketing the exoskeleton in 2021.  

Aelix Therapeutics: the Catalan HIV vaccine

AELIX Therapeutics is working on a therapeutic vaccine, based on the immunogen HTI, which allows people with HIV to keep the virus under control by reeducating their immune system. The company expects to complete their first clinical trial in late 2020, and hopes to get results from another phase-II study that is administering the HTI vaccine in combination with a drug from Gilead by the end of next year.

Archivel Farma: tuberculosis vaccine

Archivel Farma has one of the few therapeutic vaccines for tuberculosis being developed in the world, in the clinical phase: RUTI, which has been designated an orphan drug in Europe. The vaccine is being tested in a phase-IIa clinical trial for which results are expected in early 2021. Another phase-IIb trial will begin this year. The company is also studying whether the vaccine can be used for other indications, like bladder cancer, with a phase-I trial underway that expects to see results by mid-2020.  

Biointaxis: gene therapy for Friedreich ataxia

Biointaxis is currently working on a gene therapy to treat a minority neurodegenerative disease: Friedreich ataxia and other neurological diseases. The company only got its start in 2018, as a spin-off of the Institute of Research Germans Trias i Pujol (IGTP), and has already received public and private grants and is negotiating its first round of investment with several local and international funds.

Bionure: research into multiple sclerosis and optic neuritis

Bionure is currently developing therapies for multiple sclerosis and acute optic neuritis, a rare ophthalmologic disease for which their first drug, BN201, is designated an orphan drug in Europe and the United States. After closing a round of funding last year, the company hopes to launch phase-II trials in early 2020 to prove the efficacy of BN201 in patients who have suffered episodes of optic neuritis.

GoodGut: a test to detect colon cancer

GoodGut develops support systems for diagnosing and treating digestive diseases through the study of the intestinal microbiota. The company is developing a new non-invasive system that is quick and affordable to diagnose colon cancer, working as a biomarker to detect this disease early and effectively: RAID-CRC. After closing a €1.1-million round of investment, in 2020 the company hopes to obtain CE marking and launch its product on the Spanish market as a colon-cancer screening for patients who test positive on fecal occult blood tests through PALEX Medical. At the same time, they will finish clinical validation in 2,800 asymptomatic individuals over 55, in collaboration with DKFZ in Germany, that will allow the test to be used in the whole screening population.

Greenaltech: the potential of micro-algae

Greenaltech is a biotechnology firm that focuses on research and industrial exploitation of micro-algae. To reinforce its business development and growth plan, the company has set up three new subsidiaries in Barcelona: Algaktiv, which specializes in designing and manufacturing active ingredients derived from micro-algae for the cosmetics market; GAT Therapeutics, which focuses on developing drugs for fibrosis and age-related diseases; and GAT Biosciences, which harnesses the potential of micro-algae to make recombinant proteins. 2020 promises to be exciting: Algaktiv will expand facilities by the summer, and GAT Therapeutics will seek capital to accelerate the development of GTX-003 in myelofibrosis and NASH.

Methinks: artificial intelligence for stroke diagnosis

Methinks uses deep learning for faster, more precise diagnosis and treatment of stroke victims, automatizing analysis of neuroimages. This year, the company expects to launch a round of investment to bring its tool to market. Keep an eye on them: they have other plans they hope to reveal in the coming months.

Minoryx: clinical milestones in rare diseases

Minoryx develops innovative therapies for patients with minority diseases. In 2018, the company closed one of the largest rounds of funding in the sector (€21.3 million), which it has used to advance its pipeline. By the end of 2020, they hope to have results from two clinical trials on their drug MIN-102 (leriglitazone): one phase II/II to treat adult-onset X-ALD (Adrenomyeloneuropathy; AMN), and one phase II to treat Friedreich ataxia (FRDA). Plus, they will be kicking off a new phase-II study to treat cerebral X-ALD (cALD) in pediatric patients. Minoryx has been granted orphan drug designation in Europe and the United States for X-ALD and FRDA, as well as FDA Fast-Track designation for X-ALD.

MJN Neuroserveis: wearables for epileptic seizures

MJN Neuroserveis is developing a wearable device that is constantly on the lookout for epileptic seizures, to make these patients safer and more self-sufficient. The company hopes to get CE marking this year and begin marketing their product in Spain and the Netherlands. They are also starting negotiations with international funds for a series-A round of investment to bring their product to the US market. At the same time, they are launching two clinical studies: one multi-center study in Spain and Germany to test the use of the device in hospital settings, and the other in real-life conditions, both funded through the Horizon 2020 program. Highlight: in March, they’ll be in Vienna for the World Summit Awards finals as one of the best solutions in the world in digital health aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Ona Therapeutics: €20 million to fight metastasis

Ona Therapeutics is developing a new drug to treat metastatic cancer. It is the youngest company on the list, created in 2019 as a spin-off of IRB Barcelona and ICREA by researchers Salvador Aznar-Benitah and Valerie Vanhooren with investment from Sabadell Asabys. This month, they have hired a new head of operations from Almirall, Mercè de Frias, to strengthen the pre-clinical and clinical development team. They will be in the news soon: they expect to close a €20-million round before summer. 

Oxolife: infertility technology

Oxolife is developing a new treatment for female infertility derived from their patented technology (OXO-001). The treatment improves the success of endometrial implantation and restores ovulation in infertile women. They will soon close a crowfunding round that will be topped off with venture capital funds. In 2020, they will be launching a clinical development program with a phase-I study and studies to define the mechanism of action in the endometrium.

Peptomyc: open round to attack Myc

Peptomyc is working on an innovative oncology therapy: Omomyc, a mini protein that penetrates cancer cells and attacks the Myc gene, which is key to development in most tumors. The goal? To come up with treatments that are more effective and less disruptive than chemotherapy. After successfully completing pre-clinical validation and industrial scaling, the company hopes to begin clinical trials in January 2021. You can help make it happen: the company has a €16-million round of funding open to national and international investors interested in joining current investors (Alta LS, Healthequity and BAs).

QREM: osteoarthritis therapy with cytokines, already on the market

QREM develops medical devices for patient-side autologous regenerative therapies. In 2019, they began marketing Q-Cytokine, a device to treat osteoarthritis and other musculoskeletal pathologies using cytokines (proteins taken from blood cells). In 2020, they expect to expand sales to all of Spain and, by the end of the year, have their first sales abroad. They are about to close a €1-million round.

Retinset: new treatment for diabetic retinopathy

Retinset develops new drugs for neurovascular ophthalmologic diseases. A spin-off of Medical Mix, in late 2019 the company began a clinical trial with its first candidate BSL01, eye drops to treat the early stages of diabetic retinopathy. In 2020, the company hopes to present positive results of the phase-I clinical trial and start designing a first phase-IIa clinical efficacy trial. After getting a Horizon 2020 SME1 grant in 2019, this year they are applying for EIC Accelerator funding from the European Union and expect to begin approaching the pharmaceutical sector.

Senolytic Therapeutics: delving deeper into cell senescence

Based in Boston and Barcelona, Senolytic Therapeutics (Senolytx) develops drugs to eliminate senescent cells in age-related diseases. They have already validated a senolytic target and identified a candidate for clinical development. This year, they will start pre-clinical programs with several diseases associated with fibrosis. Their top priority for 2020? Pre-clinical development of their candidate for kidney fibrosis, for which they expect to get orphan-drug designation this year, and begin the first clinical trial in 2021. This year, Senolytx will also create a spin-off called CellSen Oncology, focusing exclusively on a target associated with the immune system and oncology.

SOM Biotech: minorities go public

SOM Biotech specializes in drug discovery and development for minority diseases. After raising €7 million last year, the company will complete a phase-IIa study this year on an innovative treatment for choreic movements associated with Huntington disease: the SOM3355 compound. This year they also expect to apply for two new patents and start a new clinical study. The company’s growth strategy will focus on completing a B round of investment, expanding its management team and going public on an international stock exchange.

Thrombotargets: hemostasis product nears market

This year, Thrombotargets will have news on TT-173, a topical hemostasis product that drastically reduces bleeding time of hemorrhages in surgical settings. The company expects to get the results of a phase-II/III study in total knee replacement this year, and will then begin phase III in liver surgery to complete registration in Europe and the United States.

ZeCardio Therapeutics: from zebrafish to cardiovascular therapy

In summer 2019, ZeClinics, a service CRO focusing on zebrafish, created their own pharmaceutical spin-out: ZeCardio Therapeutics (ZeCardioTx), which specializes in discovering cardiovascular drugs using their zebrafish model and proprietary analysis platform. ZeCardioTx has compounds in several phases of development, based on experiments with zebrafish, and this February they will be opening a crowdfunding round with Capital Cell to fund new testing in mammals. Once they have reached their experimental milestones, the company hopes to open a second round to advance towards licensing its compound to a large pharmaceutical corporation.

 

PD.- Have a look to all the health companies of the BioRegion of Catalonia at the Catalan Life Sciences directory.