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Let’s kick off this wrap-up talking about the advances in the European mega contract with Hipra for their COVID-19 vaccine. Spain has confirmed it will purchase 3.2 million doses for €31 million. Remember: Hipra has a sales deal with 13 EU Member States to sell 250 million doses. Reig Jofre could be the company chosen to package them.

The Ministry of Health has given the green light to fund a breast cancer drug to be manufactured by Esteve in Girona: it is called Tukysa, a drug owned by Seagen, a company recently acquired by Pfizer. In fact, Esteve has reorganized their whole structure, splitting off their pharmaceutical business into joint ventures with third parties and allowing for a potential partner to join its healthcare subsidiary.

Grifols is also reorganizing, starting to close offices under its belt tightening plan and has closed its subsidiary in Argentina. Another of its subsidiaries, Grifols Diagnostics Solutions in California, is ready to sign a deal with Siemens for €40 million to resolve several legal issues with the German company. 


News from the biotech pipeline

In terms of news from their pipeline, Grifols has seen positive intermediate results from their phase III clinical trial on the drug candidate fibrinogen. The AdFIrst trial, which measures the efficacy of treatment with BT524 in patients with serious blood loss due to planned spinal or abdominal surgery, is expected to finish this year.

There is also good news from the Oryzon Genomics pipeline: the company has announced positive results from a preliminary analysis of the Portico clinical trial, a phase IIb study on the drug Vafidemstat in 188 patients to treat borderline personality disorder. 

And in oncology, the Omomyc molecule developed by Peptomyc has been proven to curb the activity of the MYC oncogene in melanoma and modify the gene expression profile in tumor cells, going from aggressive to being similar to ones in patients with good prognosis: the data was published in Genes & Development.

Theriva Biologics (formerly VCN Biosciences) expects to present new data in a few months from the study on VCN-01 in combination with durvalumab in patients with recurrent or metastatic head and neck squamous cell carcinoma, among other milestones. The company has changed locations and opened new offices and laboratories in Parets del Vallès. 

For its part, Spiral Therapeutics, a spinoff of Salvat, has acquired from US firm Otomy the patents and preclinical and clinical data for three drug candidates to treat various hearing related diseases.


Corporate investments and operations

There is news in the medical technology arena, too. Amelia Virtual Care and XRHealth have announced a merger, in an operation led by Asabys Partners that is giving rise to “the biggest therapeutic deep-tech platform in virtual reality and extended reality” (VR/XR). 

Palex Medical has also been out shopping, acquiring Madrid-based company Medicina Técnica Werkstatte (MTW) and the Portuguese group Isótopos y Derivados (Isoder). With these operations the medical technology distribution company hopes to see turnover top €400 million this year.

Loop Diagnostics has closed its crowdequity campaign on Capital Cell with €625,000 raised, 125% of the expected investment. Loop Diagnostics is one of the startups from the Biocat d·HEALTH Barcelona program and is completing industrialization of its quick test to diagnose sepsis.


Historic and future transplants

Vall d’Hebron Hospital has achieved two milestones in transplants, completing the first fully robotic lung transplant in the world, also using a new access route to remove the damaged lung and insert a new one.

And looking back, Hospital Clinic is commemorating the 40th anniversary of its first pancreas transplant, which was the first in Spain. Forty years later, it has done more transplants of this type than any other Spanish hospital: 657. Hospital Clinic is looking to raise €3 million to start CAR-T immunotherapy trials for breast cancer, gliomas and T-cell lymphoma and leukemia.


News in research

Confirmed: Barcelona will be home to the Spanish headquarters of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft Institute, the largest applied research organization in Europe, with 74 research institutes. The Government of Catalonia confirmed the partnership in late March, which expects to launch an applied health bioengineering research center in collaboration with the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC).

For its part, the Agency for Administration of University and Research Grants (AGAUR) has published the final resolution of its call for grants to support research groups in Catalonia, with a total of €38.8 million. The call structures the map of research groups in the Catalan system and recognizes both consolidated and emerging research groups.

Now let’s turn to the advances of some of these research groups, returning to the COVID-19 vaccine. This vaccine generates T lymphocytes in the lungs with a specific memory targeting SARS-CoV-2 and could help protect against new infection, according to a study by the Vall d’Hebron Research Institute (VHIR) published in Nature Communications.

In terms of oncology, a group from IDIBELL, the Catalan Institute of Oncology and CIBERONC has identified new genes predisposing to colorectal polyposis. Another advance in early diagnosis: bioinformatics software developed by IDIBELL and ICO that helps classify genetic variants and will speed up diagnosis of hereditary cancers: the results were published in Bioinformatics.

Researchers at the Pere Virgili Institute (IISPV) and Rovira i Virgili University (URV) have also created new computer tools, in this case for diabetes. It is software that can determine the probability a person with type 2 diabetes will develop diabetic retinopathy, a second program that detects the condition, and two mobile devices that will use the system to obtain images and analyze the retina and back of the eye. Sant Joan Hospital in Reus is doing a pilot program with the new devices.

Researchers at Hospital Clinic-IDIBAPS have found two new biomarkers for portal hypertension: the finding, published in JHEP Reports, will make it possible to develop a fast, non-invasive diagnostic test to identify and monitor patients with this complication of chronic liver disease.

Also good news in infectious diseases: a study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases, in which Vall d’Hebron took part, shows that therapy with bacteriophage viruses, or phages, to treat multi-drug resistant bacteria is safe and effective in more than 50% of cases. 

Regarding minority diseases, researchers at Hospital Clinic-IDIBAPS have validated a cell model to study inclusion body myositis, a minority muscular disease that doesn’t yet have effective treatments or biomarkers. The study was published in the Journal of Cachexia, Sarcopenia and Muscle.

There have also been advances in another minority disease, tyrosine hydroxylase deficiency (THD): researchers at the Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL), Sant Joan de Déu Research Institute (IRSJD), Biomedical Research Institute Sant Pau (IIB Sant Pau) and the UB have generated a model based on stem cells to study an ultra-rare disease that causes childhood Parkinsonism. It was published in EMBO Molecular Medicine Journal.

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