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The first time that BIO-Europe Spring was held in Barcelona, it snowed. “It was 2010, and the snow shut down the city and prevented participants from enjoying an evening of networking at the Museu Nacional d’Arts de Catalunya,” recalled Claire Macht, portfolio director at EBD Europa, at the opening event. After two more editions in Barcelona (2013 and 2017), the capital of Catalonia has once again hosted this prominent conference for the biopharmaceutical community on March 18-20. In this case, the snow wasn't the protagonist, but a record number of attendees, 3,158 professionals from biotech and pharma companies from all over the world. In total, more than 19,000 partnering meetings have been held to exchange ideas, start businesses and establish collaborations.

BIO-Europe Spring 2024 was an opportunity to internationally project Catalonia's life sciences and health sector. Biocat led the local Host Committee along with the Government of Catalonia and the Barcelona City Council, with the support of specialized investors like Asabys Partners, Aliath Bioventures, Invivo Capital, Inveready, and Ysios Capital and the associations AseBio and Itemas.

“Catalonia was well represented with a total of 90 companies and organizations, represented by more than 150 delegates, who networked and held meetings to search for new investments and promote their companies’ international outreach,” said Robert Fabregat, CEO of Biocat. 

zona expositora BES 2024BIO-Europe Spring 2024 exhibition area

Large companies like Almirall, Novartis, and Sanofi presented their pipelines and business areas to international leaders. Others like Abilithy Pharma, Peptomyc, Ona Therapeutics, and Oryzon Genomics participated in a scientific program comprised of more than 100 panel discussions, in which Catalans figured prominently.  Laura Soucek, CEO of Peptomyc, and Marie Eve-Beaulieu, CSO of the same company, spoke with Montserrat Vendrell, a partner at Aliath Bioventures, on the changes the company has undergone since 2017, when it won the Startup Competition at BIO-Europe Spring. “We've grown a lot since then, but we're still ambitious. We want to develop a pipeline and choose a type of cancer to focus on,” said the CEO of Peptomyc, who shared one of the keys of their success: “surrounding ourselves with people who have helped us in hard times, and celebrating each success, no matter how small it may be.” 

The CEO of Ona Therapeutics, Valerie Vanhoorenstated that it is essential to be aligned with the company's investors and to establish a trusting relationship. “If there's something you don't agree with, you have to say it. And you also have to say if you're not reaching your goals. Credibility is important in moving the company forward,” she claimed. On this point, this entrepreneur advised looking at the fund's website before making the first contact: “learning about the biography of the investors or partners before writing to them is essential in order to know whether they have a sound understanding of science.”

Carlos Buesa, CEO of Oryzon Genomics, spoke about the current scene in business development, new strategic prospects in the sector, and new collaboration opportunities which are shaping the future of the life sciences sector. Regarding investment funds located in Catalonia, Clara Campàs, the co-founder and managing partner of Asabys Partners, highlighted the consolidation of the ecosystem of specialized investment funds in Catalonia and the increase in foreign venture capital managers investing in Catalan companies. “This attraction of international investment is phenomenal for our companies,” she said, while she also recalled these companies’ responsibility to change the current health scene and people’s wellbeing. 

 

The future of advanced therapies, debated

But not everything revolved around companies and investment funds. The scientific program also addressed key issues such as the use of new technologies like artificial intelligence in the pharmaceutical industry; new therapies for neuroscience; attracting, retaining, and training talent in the sector in Barcelona; and sustainability and lowering its carbon footprint.

There was also time to talk about advanced therapies. Robert Fabregat moderated a panel discussion on the challenges and opportunities of advanced therapies. The speakers were Manel Esteller, director of the Josep Carreras Leukemia Research Institute; Luis Pareras, founder and managing partner of Invivo Partners; Alessandra Magnani, head of the Advanced Therapies and Immunotherapy Platform at Barcelona’s Hospital Sant Joan de Déu; and Toni Andreu, director of EATRIS. They all shared their perspectives on how to overcome the high cost of these therapies and the need for more professionals who are specialized in this field.

Lluis Pareras expressed his confidence in the power of these therapies and the revolution they will bring about in science. “I am certain that the production costs will drop and the speed of innovation will rise,” he said. This is a hopeful scene for combating many diseases which needs public-private cooperation in order to move forward. Thus, Toni Andreu reminded us that “research can be performed with public funding, but private funding is needed to produce.”

In order for this strategic alliance between both parties to be feasible, Manel Estaller believes that first more public funding is needed in technology transfer, and that the bureaucracy of this funding has to be simplified. In this vein, and as an example of good practices, Alessandra Magnani suggested taking the AGORA Group as a role model, an association teaming up academia and industry that facilitates the safe and effective delivery of new advanced therapy medicines within the framework of the relevant EU regulations.

taula rodona RF BES 2024Participants of the round table "Paving the path for groundbreaking ATMP's"

The Barcelona - Catalonia pavilion attracts thousands of visitors

The life sciences and health innovation ecosystem in Catalonia, spearheaded by Biocat, the Government of Catalonia, and the Barcelona City Hall, had its own centrally-located pavilion which shared the sector’s most important capacities with visitors. “Since the arrival of the first BIO-Europe Spring in Barcelona in 2010, the life sciences and health sector in Catalonia has grown and matured very quickly compared to other regions’ ecosystems,” said Silvia Labé, director of Communications, Marketing, and Competitive Intelligence at Biocat. “In fact, Barcelona has become one of the most competitive health innovation poles which stands out in terms of cutting-edge research, scientific-technological assets, and business growth. That's why Barcelona is constantly attracting international fairs like this one, and the number is growing every year.”

stand biocat BESPavilion of the BioRegion of Catalonia led by Biocat, Generalitat and Barcelona City Council

The pavilion hosted a variety of activities, like the presentation of the European INNAXE project led by Montse Daban, director of Strategic Foresight and International Relations at Biocat, and Anaïs Le Corvec, director of the Council of European BioRegions (CEBR), as well as the piano performance by Josep Sanfeliu, co-founder and managing partner of Asabys Partners, along with Arnaldo de Liso, partner at Catalyst Advisors LP, on the harmonica. They featured in one of the best moments in the fair as they performed huge hits that got the participants to dance and sing. On the last day, the city of Milan picked up the baton as the representative of the future organizational headquarters of BIO-Europe Spring scheduled for March 15-17, 2025. 

imatge piano EBDPerformance by Josep Sanfeliu, co-founder and managing partner of Asabys Partners and Arnaldo de Liso, partner at Catalyst Advisors LP. Image: EBD Group

Relive all the best moments over these three exciting days!

Photo album

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