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International investors were the big players in May in the BioRegion of Catalonia. Because, for the first time ever, Barcelona hosted BioEquity, the main event for investors devoted to the European biopharmaceutical industry, with 600 delegates from 26 countries and nearly 60 Catalan companies and organizations: don’t miss the report on BioEquity 2019 that we’ve put together and watch the video we made with the highlights of BioEquity: you’re sure to see lots of familiar faces.

This month, Biocat presented the data on investment attracted by start-ups in the sector in 2018, which totaled €106 million. This positive trend was also confirmed in the Study on investment in the Biomedical industry in Catalonia 2019  by CataloniaBio & HealthTech and EY, which was also presented this May. Who is investing in start-ups in the Catalan healthcare and life sciences sector and where are they doing it? We tell you all about it on the Biocat blog: don’t miss this month’s post on international investment in the BioRegion of Catalonia. Nina Capital, the local venture capital firm, has launched a new fund of 18 million euros to invest in digital health.

Also this month was the ACCIÓ 2019 Investment Forum: Venvirotech Biotechnology, creator of a biodegradable plastic from organic waste, won first prize for their potential for innovation and international growth.


New investment operations

Asabys Partners and Caixa Capital Risc led an €8-million round of investment in virtual reality company Psious. Asabys has also invested €1.5 million to launch Ona Therapeutics, the new spin-off of IRB Barcelona and ICREA that aspires to raise €20 million for an antibody for metastatic cancer.

Bionure has kicked off a crowdfunding campaign to raise €1.3 million to fund its Phase II clinical trial on BN201. The company successfully completed a Phase I trial on this compound to treat neurodegenerative diseases like multiple sclerosis and has taken on Lucía Setién-Vélez, previously an executive at Ipsen, as its medical director.

Manremyc, which markets inactivated M.manresensis bacteria for protection against tuberculosis, has also opened a round of crowdfunding with Capital Cell, hoping to raise €250,000. Devicare has also opened a round of crowdfunding to raise €1.5 million with Capital Cell and the company has launched its Lit-Control® device in the United States after reaching a deal with Diem Labs LLC. For their part, BStartup Health and Genesis Ventures have invested €125,000 in CreatSens to bolster research into a chronic kidney disease.

Oryzon Genomics has received €1.5 million from the Alzheimer Drug Discovery Foundation in the US to fund a Phase II clinical study on ORY-2001. Neuroelectrics has opened an €18-million round with the goal of tackling their clinical trial strategy. For its part, DocPlanner, the mother company of Doctoralia, closed an €80-million round of funding to improve penetration in the markets where the company is already present.


Deals and corporate operations

One company opening up new markets is HumanITcare, which has reached a deal with Johnson&Johnson and Medical Valley to move into Belgium and Germany. Additionally, Mediktor closed a deal with Mapfre to join Savia, the company’s digital healthcare services platform.

Now let’s turn to corporate operations. Ferrer has acquired Spherium Biomed and now controls the whole portfolio of drugs the company is developing.

Hungarian investment fund Soros Fund Management has invested €38.4 million to buy Grifols stock. Also this month, Grifols has completed its acquisition of Interstate Blood Bank Inc (IBBI), the largest independent blood bank in the United States, in an operation valued at $100 million. For its part, Labiana Life Sciences signed a deal to acquire a majority share in Turkish company Zoleant Pharmaceuticals.


3,400 clinical trials underway and news from the hospitals

This month was International Clinical Trials Day: a great time to remember that the main Catalan research centers are taking part in 3,400 clinical trials to test new therapies in patients.

Just this month, Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau announced it is kicking off an immunotherapy clinical trial with CAR-T cells to treat non-Hodgkin lymphoma, while Hospital Sant Joan de Déu Barcelona has successfully treated the first child with acute lymphoblastic leukemia using publicly funded CAR-T 19 therapy.

Hospital de Bellvitge has added a second Da Vinci robot, which will allow it to double the number of robotic surgeries it performs within the next two years, and Hospital Germans Trias operated on a hepatocellular carcinoma using robotic surgery for the first time in Spain.

The private healthcare system is also firm in its commitment to innovation. Sense4Care and Quirónsalud Centro Medico Teknon presented their STAT-ON device to improve monitoring of motor fluctuations associated with Parkinson disease, and the Mi Tres Torres clinic inaugurated the first Genomic Medicine Unit in Spain, which will be able to sequence the full genome of healthy individuals. Also, Creu Blanca has invested €12 million to expand its clinic in Barcelona and the HM Hospitales group has acquired Clínica Sant Jordi Barcelona and expects to invest €50 million to renovate the facilities. The group has inaugurated its Comprehensive Cancer Center Clara Campal (Ciocc) Barcelona.


New science publications

This month, Catalan research is once again in some of the top science journals. An international study that included IrsiCaixa confirmed in The Lancet that treatment with retroviral drugs nullifies the risk of HIV contagion through sexual contact.

A clinical trial led by the Multiple Sclerosis Center of Catalonia (Cemcat) and published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that the drug evobrutinib reduces brain lesions in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis patients.

For its part, IRB Barcelona published research in Cell identifying a protein (Mitofusin-2) that protects against non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. The study included the University of Lleida and IRBLleida, which was also re-accredited this month as a Carlos III Health Institute healthcare research institute. The Lleida-based institute has discovered a new pathway for more precise quantification of the EpCAM biomarker to diagnose pleural effusion, which it published in Respirology.

The UAB Neurosciences Institute and the Network Center for Biomedical Research in Neurodegenerative Diseases (Ciberned) have identified a blood biomarker to diagnose early stage Alzheimer.

Also, IDIBAPS has refined and validated a genomic test that distinguishes the subgroups of HER2-positive breast cancer that could be treated with biological therapies, with little or no chemotherapy. The study was published in The Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Vall d’Hebron Research Institute (VHIR) published in Science of the Total Environment a study providing medical proof that particles from diesel motors not only aggravate asthma but can also cause it in healthy individuals.

More research associated with air quality: ISGlobal described in Environmental Health Perspectives the relationship between exposure to air pollution during gestation and the first years of life and reduced basic cognitive skills. Furthermore, another study by ISGlobal in the European Journal of Epidemiology shows that a diet rich in nuts during pregnancy is associated with better neuropsychological development.

There are also hidden benefits to grapes: a study by Roviri i Virgili University in Molecular Nutrition Food Research shows that an extract from grape seeds can help prevent mild intestinal diseases.

The  CSIC Institute of Biomedical Research of Barcelona (IIBB-CSIC) has described a possible new therapeutic target to treat liver toxicity caused by paracetamol. Plus, the Institute of Photonic Sciences (ICFO) and B. Braun Surgical have developed a new technique, published in Nano Letters, that uses light and nanotechnology to prevent bacterial contamination of medical implants.

Also, IDIBELL, which celebrated its 15th anniversary this month, presented the new Clinical Translational Program for Regenerative Medicine in Catalonia with the Center of Regenerative Medicine in Barcelona (CMR[B]), to accelerate translational research in regenerative medicine.


New reports and grants

A couple of interesting reports. The Catalan Foundation for Research and Innovation (FCRi) has published a study analyzing technological innovation through the patent applications from Catalan universities and CERCA centers. VHIR and the Agency for Health Quality and Assessment of Catalonia (AQuAS) presented their Estudi exploratori de l’impacte de la recerca a l’Hospital Universitari Vall d’Hebron, the first in Spain to assess the impact of research on a hospital center.

And let’s finish off with the big names. Researchers at ICFO, ICN2, CSIC and ICREA have been awarded 3 of the 54 Proof of Concept grants in the latest call for grants from the European Research Council (ERC). Here at home, Daniel Bravo Andreu Private Foundation has awarded three grants to do hospital stays abroad in 2019 to researchers at Hospital Clinic, Institut d’Investigació Sant Pau and IDIBAPS.

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