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Ona Therapeutics, Aortyx, Glycardial, ABLE Human Motion and Pebble Analytics are the 5 startups chosen as the finalists in the Àlex Casta Awards, which were created to recognize the best pitch in the BioRegion and promote talent, raise awareness and incentivize entrepreneurship in the life sciences and healthcare ecosystem in Catalonia. The final will be held on September 28 at the presentation of the BioRegion of Catalonia Life Sciences and Healthcare Outlook 2020: Challenges Ahead, compiled by Biocat and CataloniaBio & HealthTech, with support from Amgen -at a Forum that will receive support from the European platform EATRIS

The Àlex Casta Awards are for startups in the life sciences and healthcare arena set up between 2015 and 2020 and based in Catalonia. The panel of judges that selected the finalists features representatives of the organizations promoting the awards, including Biocat, Genesis Biomed, UPF Ventures and CataloniaBio & HealthTech, plus other professionals from the sector. The companies were chosen taking into account aspects like the innovative and differential advantage of the project, potential market and social impact.


Growing the ecosystem

The Àlex Casta Awards are a joint initiative of the ecosystem in memory of Dr. Àlex Casta, a renowned professional in the Catalan life sciences and healthcare sector who died in December 2018. Casta was the director of UPF Ventures and had previously held leadership positions at Biocat and Caixa Capital Risc, as well as founding the startup RadisMed.

“Alex had one guiding philosophy: giving to get back. Giving to the ecosystem so it would grow and give back to everyone. He was an extremely generous person and always willing to guide any entrepreneur who asked him for help,” explains Esther Riambau, Life Sciences director at UPF Ventures, who worked side by side with him. “He also said the expression ‘3Fs’ was wrong, that it’s really 4: friends, family, fools and founders. And that if the founders don’t put all of their resources and hard work into the project it means they don’t really believe in it,” she adds.


Training for finalists

The 5 finalists will be invited to two virtual training and feedback sessions with experts from the participating organizations to help prepare their pitch for September 28. The event will bring together professionals from the sector, connected online, who will vote in real time.

The winning company will get a prize worth €5,000: €2,500 in cash and €2,500 in consultancy hours, thanks to the support of Genesis Biomed. They will also get a commemorative trophy provided by UPF Ventures, a 1-year membership to the CataloniaBio & HealthTech association and visibility in the communication materials of the organizers.



  • Ona Therapeutics. A spinoff of ICREA and the Barcelona Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB) founded by researchers Salvador Aznar-Benitah and Valerie Vanhooren in 2019. The company, based at the Barcelona Science Park, is working to develop a new drug to treat metastatic cancer. This June, the company closed a €30-million round, the largest series-A round by a startup from the sector in Spain. The judges highlighted the team’s solid scientific foundation and excellent communication skills, as well as the highly innovative approach and social impact, which could improve quality of life for many patients.
  • Aortyx. Founded by professors Dr. Salvador Borrós and Jordi Martorell of the IQS School of Engineering, with collaboration from Dr. Vicenç Riambau, head of Vascular surgery at Hospital Clinic Barcelona. The company is working to develop a new generation of grafts to repair blood vessels, the first of which aims to repair aortic dissections using a biomaterial that can regenerate damaged tissue. The judges highlighted the startup’s potential and social impact, as well as the tech transfer of the team, which developed the technology in the academic arena.
  • Glycardial Diagnostics. A spinoff of ICCC-IR-Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau and the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) that is working to develop a new in vitro diagnostic device to detect cardiac ischemia early and predict patients’ evolution after an ischemic event. The judges highlighted the solid team, good scientific development and unmet need it addresses.
  • ABLE Human Motion. A spinoff of the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC) that is designing, developing and working to market robotic exoskeletons to augment and improve human mobility. The company was chosen for the potential of its device, which could improve quality of life for numerous people, and for the team’s dedication to communication and media.
  • Pebble Analytics. A startup created in January of this year that is working to develop new technology to prevent and manage epidemics. The judges highlighted the communication skills of founder and CEO Natalia Adler, and the fact that the project is highly pertinent in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.







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