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By Biocat

Despite the global crisis and difficulties in accessing funding, Catalonia continues to be one of the most dynamic European regions in the biotechnology and biomedicine sector. With more than 1,100 registered companies, organizations and R&D centers, this Community is the most important biocluster in Spain and a benchmark in southern Europe. One in four Spanish biotechnology companies is located in Catalonia and their combined turnover totals €15,600 millions per year, 29.4% of the national total. Moreover, the sector employs 30,000 people (22,000 in private companies and nearly 8,000 in public research centers), half of which work on R&D activities. Another noteworthy fact is that 25% of these companies devote up to 75% of their budget to R&D.

Catalonia is one of the most dynamic European regions in the biotech and biomedicine sector.

Specifically, the BioRegion of Catalonia has 480 companies (biotechnology, pharmaceutical, innovative medical technology and sector-services firms), 80 research centers, 20 science parks, 15 hospitals with research programs in the biosciences and 12 universities. The hospitals, universities and research centers have 435 research group, which stand out for their work in the fields of oncology and neurodegenerative diseases, the strong points of the Catalan biotech business sector.

While the population of Catalonia makes up 1.5% of the European total, the region’s contribution to Europe’s GDP is 1.69%, its scientific production accounts for 2.98% of the total and in 2011 it received 3.48% of available research funds, twice the European average behind only Switzerland, Israel, Great Britain and Belgium. These are some of the conclusions of the Catalonia Life Sciences Report 2011 presented yestarday by Ernst&Young and Biocat under the framework of the BIO International Convention, held this week in Boston (USA). This study was created from data contributed by the 2011 Biocat Report.

The report reflects that the Catalan community leads in number of start-ups, as well as in the creation and manufacturing of innovative products in this sector, both in the public and private arenas. Catalonia also stands out over other regions for the dynamic creation of new biotechnology companies, with eleven new businesses in 2010 alone, and a sustained increase in the total number of this type of firm at 15% annually in recent years. In total, these companies are responsible for 85% of all patents in the region, which has registered more than 19,000 in the last 10 years according to this study.

The report also reveals that this dominance of Catalonia over other regions of Spain in the biotechnology sector is due, in part, to the promotion over the past 15 years of science parks, research centers and facilities, such as the Barcelona Science Park (PCB) and the National Genome Analysis Center (CNAG), among others. Another influencing factor is the existence of an important network of benchmark public hospital centers, including Hospital Clinic of Barcelona and Vall d'Hebron Hospital.

92% of all capital for biotechnology companies in Catalonia is in the hands of the private sector.

Regarding investment in R&D, this item represented 1.68% of the Catalan GDP in 2009, above the Spanish average of 1.38%. With a total investment of €3,320 millions, this community is ranked fourth in R&D investment behind Navarra, the Basque Country and Madrid. The report points out that investment in Catalonia in R&D for biotechnology (€384.9 millions in 2009) makes up 27% of the Spanish total, which was €1,414 millions or 9.7% of all R&D investment.

Another significant fact reflected in the report is the total estimated capital for biotechnology companies operating in Catalonia, which combined reaches €2,357 millions, 92% of which is in the hands of the private sector. In the case of smaller companies, public subsidies make up more than 40% of their capital.

Among the companies operating in this sector in Catalonia, there is a noteworthy presence of large pharmaceutical companies such as Esteve and Almirall (which is traded both on the Spanish stock market and those in Frankfurt and Berlin), or Grifols, the biopharmaceutical company specializing in plasma derivatives that, in addition to being publicly traded in Spain, also does so on the Nasdaq, NYES and AMEX indexes. Alternative formulas for raising funds are also beginning to be significant among companies in the sector, including the Alternative Stock Market, which AB-Biotics chose to go public in 2010 and is currently being considered by many others. The section of the report devoted to funding points to the scarcity in venture capital in the Spanish biotechnology sector, but also to the fact that Catalonia concentrates the majority of this type of operations and is home to specialized biotech VC companies.

According to Silvia Ondategui-Parra, partner in charge of the Health and Pharmaceuticals sector at Ernst&Young, “The biotechnology industry today is dealing with challenges such as the reworking of the traditional business model as a result of the situation currently facing the national health systems, changing demographics and the demands of today’s consumers, as well as growing regulatory pressure from both local and transnational authorities.” As a result of all this, in her opinion, “There is a need to promote collaborations between traditional companies and the new players on the market in order to create new opportunities in a sector like biotechnology, which has enormous potential.”

In the words of Biocat CEO Montserrat Vendrell, “It is essential to promote cooperation in a sector like biotechnology, which is key for our economy, in order to tackle the large-scale challenges our society is currently facing and guarantee, over time, both economic growth and social wellbeing.” In this sense, “Biocat continues to make a huge effort to position Catalonia as a benchmark in the biotechnology sector and to make it a key player in southern Europe."

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