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This July, the BioRegion has seen numerous news stories in the business and financing arena as well as new research initiatives in the hospital field.

The owners of the Roca group have disclosed their 10% stake in AB-Biotics, banking on the success of this biotechnology company. Reig Jofre has received an €8.5-millions deferred payment from French company Naturex for the acquisition of industrial assets carried out in 2013. The pharmaceutical corporation plans to reinvest this cash mainly in growth projects.

Grifols is continuing down its path to boost R&D with its acquisition of a 44% stake in US company GigaGen for €30.8 millions. With this transaction, the company has now invested nearly €400 millions in innovative companies. It has also increased its participation in the company Kiro Grifols reaching 90%.

On its part, Inkemia continues to move into foreign markets with new patents for its biodiesel in Israel and Hong Kong. The group has now been granted 75 patents.

The upward trend in micro-patronage can be seen clearly in new rounds of funds raised. This time it is Mind the Byte that has raised €300,000 in its second crowdequity campaignThese funds will be used to promote international expansion while developing their SaaS platform.

Besides, the biopharmaceutical company Som Biotech has opened a round of financing for the amount of 10 million in order to boost its international growth.

Catalan companies have also benefited from funding through the European EIT Health consortium. Through Pitch Session Headstart 2017, EIT Health has granted €50,000 to five Spanish start-ups, three of which are Catalan: Aelix Therapeutics, Avizorex Pharma and OnnaLabs Inno hubs.

Transplant Biomedicals continues winning awards. After being named the winner of the HealthTech Start-up Competition organized by Biocat at BIO-Europe Spring this March, the company has now been recognized by the Associació de Joves Empresaris de Catalunya (AIJEC) as the Best Business Initiative. Plus, the company is among the start-ups selected to participate in the South Summit Competition, along with Catalan firms Teckel Medical and Top Doctors.

The last week of July has been held the presentation of the Asebio 2016 Report, which once again highlights the importance of the Catalan biotechnology industry within the framework of the Spanish state. Catalonia is the community with the largest number of companies, where more capital increase operations have taken place (mobilizing almost 75% of the capital of the total invested), and where more international funds are invested.

But it hasn’t all been good news. In late June, Roche announced that, as a result of a portfolio prioritization, it will discontinue the licensing deal it had with Oryzon Genomics to develop the experimental drug ORY-1001. This decision means that Oryzon is regaining the rights to this drug but has caused a fall in the stock market. Pharmaceutical corporation Almirall has also suffered a small setback in its main business line, dermatology, which has lost close to 40% of its value in just two months and with half-year results of more than €70 million losses.

Impact of healthcare research in Catalonia

AQUAS, the Agency for Health Quality and Assessment of Catalonia, has presented the results and impact of healthcare research in Catalonia. This report, which covers the results of research in the life sciences in 2014 and 2015 compared to data from previous reports, analyzed 11 healthcare research institutes associated with a hospital or primary-care center and 9 biomedical research centers not associated with a healthcare center.  

The Catalan Institute of Oncology (ICO) and the Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL) have created a new analysis tool to predict response to pre-op rectal-cancer treatment, which will help prevent unnecessary side effects and offer more beneficial alternatives.

IDIBELL, with the August Pi i Sunyer Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBAPS), has discovered a new ribosomal biogenesis regulation point that could open new roads to treat 5q- syndrome, a rare sporadic genetic disease, and some types of cancer.

From collaboration between Hospital Clinic Barcelona-IDIBAPS and Aarhus University Hospital (Denmark) comes the discovery that a diagnostic imaging technique can be used for early detection of neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson in patients with sleep disorders.

The Center for Genomic Regulation (CRG), with Clínica Eugin, is also preparing a new experimental technique to analyze the fertilization capacity of sperm. The sperm chosen for use in assisted reproduction techniques are currently selected based on their morphological characteristics.

Catalonia and United States join forces in the fight against cancer

In July, Catalan Minister of Health Antoni Comín had an official visit to New York (United States) with Director General for Research Albert Barberà and Director of Healthcare at the Servei Català de la Salut Cristina Nadal.

While they were there, they visited Physician-in-Chief and Chief Medical Officer at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Dr. José Baselga. As a result of the visit, the Catalan Ministry of Health has reached a collaboration agreement with Memorial Sloan-Kettering to do cancer research using liquid biopsies. This technique would be a huge leap forward in the fight against cancer, as it would potentially diagnose everything from tumors before they spread in the body to when a patient may relapse.

They also visited Dr. Xavier Pi-Sunyer, professor of Medicine at Columbia University and noted researcher in obesity, nutrition and diabetes, discussing a study on health and lifestyle in the Bronx. As a result, Dr. Pi-Sunyer accepted his appointment to the Advisory Board for the Catalan Strategic Plan for Health Research and Innovation (PERIS).

Advances and innovation in hospitals

The hospitals in the BioRegion continue to innovate in therapies, facilities and new procedures. Vall d’Hebron, Bellvitge and Carlos III in Madrid have conducted a clinical trial on two drugs to slow ELA, one of the cruelest diseases. The preliminary results show that it could slow the progression of the disease by 20%.

Hospital Sant Joan de Déu and Vall d’Hebron Hospital have both inaugurated new facilities. On one hand, the Daniel Bravo Andreu Private Foundation has created an innovative center for research and diagnosis of minority diseases at Sant Joan de Déu, with the aim of generating a new model of translational research in which high technology comes to the patients. And, on the other, ​Vall d’Hebron University Hospital has inaugurated its new Nuclear Medicine Therapy Unit to treat adult and pediatric cancer patients with radiomedicines. This will make Vall d’Hebron the benchmark center in Catalonia for children needing this type of treatment.

The ARI project, led by Ari Benedé in conjunction with Hospital Clinic, has raised more than €1 million from individuals, companies and associations to kick off CART leukemia treatment


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