Five challenges facing the BioRegion of Catalonia today and tomorrow
Biocat is kicking off the year with a new Strategic Plan for 2024- 2027, an instrument with the five challenges that are having and will continue to have an impact on the BioRegion of Catalonia, which have been identified by various stakeholders in the ecosystem.
The recent outbreak of social, economic, geopolitical and environmental crises has created a complex context for the life sciences and healthcare sector. These changes, in addition to new technologies and therapeutic strategies, as well as the implementation of more integrative, patient centered healthcare models, have led Biocat to review and update its strategy to tackle these challenges of today and tomorrow in the BioRegion, which has culminated in the new Strategic Plan for the coming four years.
To compile this document, Biocat worked with key stakeholders in the ecosystem, both public and private, that identified the main challenges facing the ecosystem in the coming years. Biocat has used these challenges to lay out the strategic lines it will start implementing this year to strengthen the sector, boost its position internationally and contribute to the advancement of science and healthcare from a place of social responsibility and commitment to the wellbeing of society as a whole.
Below are the five main challenges facing the BioRegion of Catalonia identified by the ecosystem.
CHALLENGE 1: Transforming the healthcare system
Taking advantage of innovative therapeutic strategies and technologies, the healthcare system must undergo a transformation to integrate innovative technologies, products and services that ensure implementation of a new public, universal, fair, sustainable, quality model, incorporating a gender perspective and respect for the environment regionally, and, in short, putting people and the community at its core.
According to the ecosystem, this transformation of the healthcare system focuses on adopting value-based innovation, the digital transformation, training and skills for expert professionals, and economic and environmental sustainability. The Catalan Ministry of Health is working in this line, promoting the Departmental Commission on Innovation and Transformation of the Healthcare System to speed up consolidation of innovation adoption models, and the Strategic Plan for Health Research and Innovation (PERIS), a tool to ensure development of a comprehensive research and innovation of excellence system to come up with solutions to Catalan society’s healthcare needs.
In the words of Catalan Minister of Health Manel Balcells, “As benchmarks in innovation and research, with great clinical expertise, quality research and a healthcare system that has a comprehensive vision focused on people, quality, equity and effectiveness, we are working to drive innovative projects that will help improve people’s quality of life and have a real impact on the public.”
Tools that can transform the system, such as the Center for the Integration of Medicine and Innovative Technologies in Catalonia, the Social and Health Innovation Hub, the Advanced and Emerging Therapies Hub of Catalonia and the Artificial Intelligence in Health program. “Instruments that are already generating programs that will be global benchmarks, like CRITIC.Cat, the digitalization of omic data to advance the roll out of personalized medicine, the roll out of the epidemiological intelligence network, and artificial intelligence initiatives focusing on improving primary care,” the minster highlighted.
CHALLENGE 2: Business growth and consolidation
The BioRegion of Catalonia is clearly an entrepreneurial region, as reflected in the business creation data for recent years, number of rounds of funding and business acquisitions, which haven’t stopped growing. Nevertheless, the number of startups that manage to scale up and get their products or services into clinical practice or the market is still lower than it should be.
Boosting the consolidation and success of these companies would have a very significant impact on the BioRegion. It would not only generate new jobs, increase sector turnover and grow foreign direct investment (FDI), it would also give the public better access to new products and cutting edge therapeutic strategies.
“Right now, the main goal is to get new drugs out there. We’re proud that so many companies have been established, but we want to take it all the way to the end of the process. To do this, we have to work to feed the innovation funnel in Catalonia, growing dealflow for startups and companies in the sector. We can do this by promoting relationships among stakeholders in the ecosystem and committing to strategic sectors like advanced and emerging therapies and clinical data use,” noted Reig Jofré CEO Ignasi Biosca.
CHALLENGE 3: Implementing new therapeutic strategies
The exponential increase in chronic pathologies among an increasingly aging population, infectious or genetic diseases, conditions arising from the climate emergency or antimicrobial resistance, among others, are a challenge and a priority for the healthcare system, which must continue working to promote equitable, egalitarian health and quality of life for all.
In this regard, expert professionals in the sector have determined that the BioRegion needs to work to ensure the development, production and implementation of these new therapies, particularly focusing on personalized medicine, advanced and emerging therapies and digital health.
For Fina Lladós, general manager of Amgen Iberia, “In recent years, therapeutic innovation has reached an unprecedented rate, for common serious diseases as well as rare conditions where it has historically been harder to see progress. The precision of these new treatments requires a new way of working, for innovative companies and the healthcare administration, working together to find formulas that ensure the system’s sustainability while also making sure patients can benefit from these therapies. Clearly, the artificial intelligence boom and implementing telemedicine and digital health can help us tackle this promising new horizon opening up ahead of us.”
CHALLENGE 4: Attracting and retaining talent
The transformation the sector has undergone in recent years, accelerated by the many crises mentioned in previous points, has uncovered important shortcomings that need to be addressed throughout the value chain, including the availability of expert professionals. Experts believe this need for talent will only grow with the arrival of innovative technologies, requiring new specialized technical profiles not only in companies and research centers but also in the healthcare system.
“Digitalization is the future, and one of our biggest challenges. As is the maturity of the entrepreneurial sector and of talent. So, we have to train more young people or foreigners and build community,” noted Laia Arnal, director general for Knowledge Society, Transfer and Territory in the Catalan Ministry of Research and Universities.
Taking into account that talent is the most important resource in any healthcare ecosystem that wants to be a world leader in research and innovation, the BioRegion must work not only to train and attract these profiles, but also to retain and entice highly qualified professionals to return.
CHALLENGE 5: Improving the positioning of the BioRegion
The BioRegion of Catalonia is the most dynamic healthcare innovation ecosystem in Spain and one of the most active and renowned in Europe, topping international rankings in scientific publications, clinical trials and competitive funding thanks to the capacities and excellence of its centers, hospitals, companies and talent.
Nevertheless, the BioRegion must continue to attract the best and brightest professionals and scientists, participate in the main international sector-wide consortia, drive investment and the creation of new companies, boost international visibility, help drive exports, attract innovation centers and the headquarters of European and international institutions, and promote the internationalization of companies in the ecosystem.
In this regard, Tech Barcelona CEO Miquel Martí believes “we must be able to attract more European projects and resources. We can and should get many more. It would help us have a greater presence in Europe and get a reputation as a reliable partner. That’s why we need an interlocutor that can act as a playmaker when there are calls for projects and initiatives. Someone that can galvanize the country internally.”