Good start to the year in investment and advances in projects at science facilities
<p>The year has kicked off strong in the BioRegion, not only in terms of <strong>investment, but also new science initiatives and foreign companies’ growing commitment to our region</strong>. Plus, the sector has been recognized for its <strong>solid</strong>, <strong>consolidated science and business arena</strong> with the Catalan capital being chosen to host <strong>BIOSPAIN 2023</strong>. This congress, which will be held from September 26 to 28 in Barcelona, was presented in January and is supported by the Government of Catalonia, Barcelona City Council and AseBio, the event organizer. If you missed the presentation, <a href="https://www.biocat.cat/en/news/asebio-and-biocat-present-biospain-2023-… about it in this article</a>.</p>
Year kicks off with great expectations for investment
The year got off to a strong start with a handful of startups from the BioRegion getting funding, including Spiral Therapeutics, a spinoff of Salvat based in San Francisco (USA) that has closed a €7.6 million round of funding to develop a therapy for Ménière’s disease, an inner-ear condition with a potential market worth $1 billion. Also, Science4Tech Solutions (S4T), a startup that provides value-added services based on SaaS technology and apps to get the results of clinical trials to patients faster, which raised €2 million in its first round of funding. Another was NIMBLE Diagnostics, a spinoff of the Institute for Health Science Research Germans Trias i Pujol (IGTP), Polytechnic University of Catalonia – BarcelonaTech (UPC) and University of Barcelona (UB) that has successfully closed a round of funding for over €1 million.
In terms of public funding, it is worth noting Time is Brain, a startup from the Hospital and Institute for Health Science Research Germans Trias i Pujol (IGTP) to help professionals decide what to do at every stage of a stroke, which received nearly €6 million in EU funds to manufacture and market their product BraiN20®. And also Eodyne Systems, a company that has created a virtual reality device to cut ICU patient recovery times, which has received a €70,000 grant from ACCIÓ.
Others include Som Biotech, with confirmation they are putting the finishing touches on a €40 million round for R&D after deciding not to go public last year. The company will bring one Spanish and one US bank on board, injecting €32 million, and negotiate an €8 million loan with the EIB.
Despite this positive start to the year, investment last year is expected to be an all-time high, as announced recently in the newspaper Expansión with collaboration from Biocat. To learn about these and other sector indicators, join us for the presentation of the 2022 BioRegion of Catalonia Report on February 13. You still have time to sign up!
In news on startups in the ecosystem, this month the following stand out:
- Biotech firm Ability Pharmaceuticals, led by Carles Domènech, has begun preparations to go public on some of the Euronext alternative markets.
- GeninCode has signed a deal with the Health Service of Extremadura to implement CARDIO inCode® genetic testing to identify patients with a high genetic risk of cardiovascular disease in primary care. It would be the first personalized medicine project in cardiovascular prevention at the primary care level.
- Continuing on the topic of adoption, Wivi Vision has closed a deal with ClaraVisión to bring its technology to 160 opticians. Plus, CEO and co-founder Eva Garcia Ramos was recently named one of Forbes’ 23 changemakers.
- Biel Glasses, a startup that took part in the Biocat CRAASH Barcelona acceleration program, has joined forces with Panasonic to present a scalable technological alternative to guide dogs.
- Digital health firm Onalabs has opened a new subsidiary in Andorra.
Steps forward in Mercat del Peix project and expansion of Hospital Clinic, plus other research advances
Barcelona has laid the first stone for the future Mercat del Peix research complex. There will be three buildings, over €104 million invested, 1,200 researchers and it is expected to be fully operational by 2026. Also, the year also kicked off with an agreement to expand Hospital Clinic Barcelona in the sporting grounds of the University of Barcelona. These are two examples of new science initiatives that will strengthen the ecosystem, but there are others that were announced last year, which we compiled this month in this article.
Regarding advanced therapies, five projects at Catalan centers have received funding through the ISCIII-CDTI €10 million call for public-private partnership projects in personalized medicine and advanced therapies. The Catalan centers that have received part of these funds are VHIR, Hospital Clinic, IGTP and Hospital de Reus.
In terms of research advances, Hospital del Mar has moved forward with a treatment for one type of leukemia by showing that a combination of chemotherapy and drugs that inhibit a key protein is helpful in eliminating resistance to therapy. Also Parc Taulí and Hospital Clinic, which have moved forward in leading clinical application of 3D technology. For their part, the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia and University of Barcelona have cultivated mature neurons for lab research for the first time. The team, led by a group of Catalan scientists with participation from international scientists, have cultivated mature neurons in the lab from stem cells, growing them using a synthetic material of their own design. Another scientific breakthrough has come from the Centre de Regulació Genòmica (CRG) and the company Pulmobiotics, who have designed a "living pill" that includes a modified bacterium and has been found to overcome antibiotic resistance, as well as reducing lung infections that cause severe pneumonia.
In terms of scientific training, the Daniel Bravo Andreu Private Foundation has posted its 2023 call for the Daniel Bravo Grants for short stays to do biomedical research in cardiology at prestigious North American or European centers. And to finish off, we’re celebrating a new record in organ transplants in Catalonia with 1,346 in 2022.
Foreign companies continue choosing our region and other business news
The Barcelona City Council and AstraZeneca have signed a collaboration agreement to promote innovation, scientific talent and the local entrepreneurial ecosystem, focusing on health and international projection of the city. The agreement is part of AstraZeneca’s commitment to Catalonia, where the company invested over €93 million last year.
Regarding pharmaceutical firms in the BioRegion, Grifols has obtained positive preliminary results from a phase 3b trial on its fibrin sealant to treat surgical bleeding in pediatric patients. The market received the news with optimism and the company’s stock rose 4.07% yesterday. In fact, the pharmaceutical corporation’s outlook for 2023 shows a clear recovery of its main business, blood plasma, that would put it among the top ten companies in sales increase this year.
At Almirall they’re counting the days until they can start selling the drug that will lead their portfolio over the coming years. The company expects to get the green light from the European Medicines Agency by the final quarter of 2023 and will put the drug on the market immediately after, but it won’t be rolled out simultaneously across the continent: Germany and the United Kingdom will be the first to get it. In Spain, however, it won’t be available until one year after commercialization.
New year, new appointments
And with the new year come professional changes and organizational shuffles. For example, at Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau, which started 2023 with a new medical director, with Alfons Torrego taking over for Xavier Borràs. In healthcare, it was also announced that Lidón Millá has been appointed the new territorial director of HM Hospitales in Catalonia.
At the business organizations, Marc Pérez Pey has been re-elected president of Fenin Catalonia and, at investment funds, Ysios Capital has hired Joan Perelló, co-founder and CEO of Mallorcan company Sanifit. Congratulations and much success in this new stage!