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Coinciding with the signing of the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce framework agreements with Biocat and CataloniaBio, these three entities held a work session to identify collaboration areas where joint action could provide solutions and create a multiplying effect. Biotech companies’ access to funding, their internationalization and active communication to foster wide-reaching social support for the sector are the three areas that have been identified as top priorities.

The meeting, led by the presidents of these three entities —Miquel Valls (Chamber of Commerce), Antonio Parente (CataloniaBio) and Manel Balcells (Biocat)—, also included participants from the management teams of all three organizations and representatives from companies Archivel and Starlab.

Both companies and organizations agreed that the lack of funding sources and the inadequacies of existing instruments are the main problems facing the sector. On one hand, "venture capital funds don’t understand the biotechnology sector " —the long time-to-market involved, peculiarities regarding risk, the requirements of each stage of a project, etc. On the other hand, public financial instruments are overly conditioned and oriented in such a way that they are not suitable to the first stages of development in these companies. “They ask start-ups to carry out research using public funds with zero risk [most aid is tied to a bank guarantee]. The entrepreneur takes on the risk but the venture capital fund must also do so if we want to drive this sector”, explained participants.

Taking a drug through phase 3 clinical trials (the last phase before applying for authorization to the health authorities) can require an investment of between 8 and 10 million euros, well above the latest rounds of funding in the sector that have ranged from 3 to 5 million euros. Biocat, the Chamber of Commerce and CataloniaBio are committed to creating a worktable to drive initiatives to meet the financial needs of the sector, such as joint-guarantee societies with public/private participation. The need to move beyond the overly restrictive project-based financial model towards a more wide-reaching view in order to ensure the viability of biotech companies was also highlighted in the meeting.

Regarding internationalization, the three entities have agreed to collaborate in driving the Catalan bid to lead the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) life sciences KIC (Knowledge & Innovation Community). 2011 will be key for this bid headed by Biocat —with the explicit support of the Governments of Catalonia and Spain, through the Ministry of Science and Innovation— as the call for proposals is expected to be announced to select the life sciences / health network.

The heads of Biocat, CataloniaBio and the Chamber of Commerce also pointed out the need to coordinate efforts regarding communication in order to raise awareness of the biotech sector’s specific needs and its potential economic and social impact among economic and political decision-makers and society as a whole. They have committed to working on the elaboration and diffusion of a list of the Catalan biotechnology and biomedicine sector’s top ten needs, based on documents Biocat has already started to prepare.


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