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This month, Catalonia has been the focus of more international headlines than ever before, for several reasons. In our sector, Nature has once again turned its attention to the BioRegion, in this case with an article comparing scientific excellence in Barcelona and Madrid. Entitled Spain’s science rivalry, the article compares areas like scientific production and highlights Barcelona’s dynamism and ability to attract international talent compared to Madrid’s more bureaucratic structures.

More good news: Biomedical companies in Catalonia attracted a record €153.1 millions in private investment in 2016, according to the first “Study on investment in the Biomedical industry in Catalonia 2017” compiled by CataloniaBio and EY, with collaboration from Biocat, presented this month.

Continuing on with the latest regarding funding, Inveready has created a new fund endowed with €40 millions to invest in companies traded on the MAB and French Alternext through convertible bonds. Next year, the firm is considering launching another capital instrument for start-ups and one for biotechnology companies.

Inkemia will issue corporate bonds for a total of €20 millions to cover the costs of the strategic plan. Also seeking funding, Made of Genes  is preparing a series-A round for €5 millions to further internationalization of its tools. At the same time, the company has also opened a €500,000 bridge round of funding to cover expenses. Ability Pharma hopes to close a €2.5-millions round before the end of the year to finance its drug ABTL0812 for endometrial and lung cancer.

Vytrus Biotech has closed a €550,000 round of funding through Capital Cell, and the online platform Farmaconfianza has closed a €345,000 round through the Crowdcube investment platform.  In the fourth quarter of this year, Aniling also hopes to close a round of funding to validate their prototype for a new standard for genetic analysis on the market.


New markets and corporate headquarters moved

This month, the political situation has been the subject of many headlines, even in business papers. Oryzon Genomics was the first to announce it would move its corporate headquarters to Madrid in early October with the aim, according to the company, of approaching investors in Madrid after its deal with Roche came to an end. Days later, CaixaBank and Banc Sabadell announced they would also be moving their corporate headquarters.

In the sector, the Indukern group has moved its corporate headquarters to Madrid, as has Inkemia, while Pangaea Oncology has chosen Zaragoza and Laboratoris Ordesa, Huesca. Grífols, however, has confirmed it will remain in Barcelona.

Beyond the political context, companies in the BioRegion continue with their work. This has led to good news for hearing from two companies: Reig Jofre has expanded its otorhinolaryngology line with the launch of Otospray, a product it has developed for ear hygiene, and Mitelos announced a deal with OC Farma to market its OTIBLOCK Ear Spray in Turkey.

Also searching for new markets, Devicare has reinforced its team with two country managers to introduce a medical solution for recurring urinary diseases in the United Kingdom.

More news: start-up BioEclosion has created Celifast, a patented system to detect gluten intolerance that can be used in doctors’ offices. Additionally, GoodGut has just launched its new website explaining its pipeline of non-invasive and prebiotic systems to improve diagnosis and treatment of colon cancer, Crohn disease, ulcerous colitis and more. Archivel Farma presented Ruti®, its therapeutic vaccine for tuberculosis, in a meeting called by the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva.

New stakeholders join the sector: Repsol will move into the healthcare market with special plastics that can be used to manufacture masks, serum bags or medical packaging. To do so, Repsol has adapted the facilities at two of its industrial complexes, including the one in Tarragona.

The names in the news this month include Thomas Hecht, named chairman of the Aelix Therapeutics board of directors. Hecht is the head of Healthcare Consulting and also sits of the board of directors at other companies, including Affimed, Cell Medica and Vaximm. He has taken over in this position for Karen Wagner, who has ties to Ysios Capital.


Clinical trials beginning and ending

Oryzon Genomics expects to begin phase IIa clinical trials on Ory2001 for Alzheimer and multiple sclerosis before the end of the year. After appointing a new CSO, Almirall has discontinued phase III clinical trials in the United States on new drugs for onychomycosis and nail psoriasis because this Catalan pharmaceutical corporation says they didn’t meet their criteria for development in the USA. Development of these drugs in Europe, however, will continue.

Spiral Therapeutics has received positive feedback from the FDA on its LPT99 program to prevent hearing loss caused by chemotherapy in pediatric patients. This feedback supports the plans of this company led by Hugo Peris to start phase I trials.

Also in the realm of clinical studies, Pangaea Oncology has just closed its first deal to conduct a clinical trial on lung cancer. The contract with Bioven is worth €870,000.


Final sprint for the EMA, public-private partnership and advances in oncology

Despite the political tension, Barcelona publically submitted its bid to host the European Medicines Agency (EMA) this month in Brussels, just weeks before the European Union decides where to move its headquarters after Brexit.

Here at home, scientific excellence continues to bear fruit. An international team of scientists led by Rafael Rosell, of the Catalan Institute of Oncology (ICO), has uncovered how one common type of lung cancer becomes resistant to drugs a few months after starting treatment. This opens doors to make therapies more efficient by combining several drugs.

Advances in another of the most common types of cancer: A study published in Lancet Oncology by an international team co-led by Roger Gomis of IRB Barcelona has identified breast cancer patients that would benefit from preventative metastasis treatment.

Also in oncology, researchers from the Oncobell Program Hereditary Cancer group at Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL) and the Hereditary Cancer Program at the Catalan Institute of Oncology (ICO) have found a new genetic market that accounts for up to 1.4% of hereditary colon cancer cases not related to the mutations currently associated with this disease.

A success story in collaboration between research and industry: Researchers at IDIBELL have successfully tested a new drug, developed by Esteve, to prevent the onset and pain of chemotherapy-induced neuropathy in cancer patients, especially those with colon cancer.

Additionally, a team led by Pere Santamaria, researcher at the August Pi i Sunyer Biomedical Research Institute (Idibaps) and University of Calgary, has published a paper in Cell with a new mechanism through which the microbiota interacts with the immune system and regulates the onset of autoimmune disease, which opens the door for new drugs to treat autoimmune diseases.

What happens to our memories while we sleep? A study led by the University of Barcelona has delved deeper into the mechanism the brain uses to clean up the memories encoded during the day for long-term storage


Hospitals adapted for the little ones

Vall d'Hebron University Hospital has launched its new Nuclear Medicine Therapy Unit that, among other things, allows patients to have visual contact with their family while in the hospital, making them more comfortable during radiotherapy treatments, especially children.

Also with children in mind, this hospital has launched a campaign called ‘"Amb tu, com a casa" ("With you, like at home") which aims to raise €880,000 for a new Advanced Neonatology Center. This project, which currently has €250,000 donated by the “la Caixa” Foundation, will help put the newborns and their families at the center of the care provided and promote the Neonatology Service as a global benchmark.

Hospital Josep Trueta de Girona has become the first hospital in Catalonia and the third in Spain to implant a latest-generation heart valve, which is more durable that other biological prosthesis on the market and can last up to 20 years in optimal conditions.

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