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Investment is once again in the news this month. May saw one of the most significant rounds of funding in recent months in the biomedical sector in Catalonia –and in Spain. Anaconda Biomed, which is developing a catheter to treat acute ischemic stroke, raised €15 millions in a round led by Ysios Capital with Banc Sabadell. It also attracted international investors like Omega Funds and Innogest Capital.

Devicare, which develops medical devices for home treatment of chronic patients, raised €3 million from family offices and corporate partners. At the same time, the company is also preparing to launch its Lit-Control family of products in France, which is why Dr. François Schutze has recently joined the team. He is a senior executive with more than 35 years of experience at pharmaceutical companies.

Biotechnology firm Pangaea Oncology, based in Barcelona, received a €1.7-millions loan from the CDTI to develop multiplexed (several genes) liquid biopsy diagnostic panels and to expand use of its point-mutation test for monitoring patients with non-small cell lung cancer.

Medcomtech and Mind the Byte opened new rounds of funding to attract investment. Medcomtech hopes to raise €4.5 millions to boost its international growth. The firm specializes in manufacturing surgical materials for orthopedics, traumatology and neurosurgery. Mind the Byte, specializing in computational drug design, has opened a round on the Crowdcube investment platform to raise at least €450,000. The funds will be used to develop and consolidate their business plan.

High-tech life sciences start-ups and spin-offs in Catalonia can obtain funding through a new instrument being prepared by InKemia. The new InKemia Fond-ICO Global will invest €10 millions in several companies. 


New milestones for companies in the BioRegion of Catalonia

Grifols, one of the most important pharmaceutical companies in Catalonia, is beginning a new era led by Víctor Grifols Deu and Raimon Grifols as co-CEOs after Víctor Grifols handed over control from the second to the third generation of the family.

In the business sphere, a licensing deal between SOM Biotech and US-based Corino Therapeutics has been announced. The American company has acquired the global license for the SOM0226 drug to treat transthyretin amyloidosis, with a potential market worth €1.4 billions a year. Additionally, the association of Catalan biotechnology companies CataloniaBio, and the HealthTech Cluster, which aims to promote the competitiveness of companies working in healthcare technology in Catalonia, have begun to merge to form a single body.

Hospital Clinic and the Clinic Foundation for Biomedical Research have signed an exclusive global licensing deal with FreeOx Biotech to develop and exploit technology to treat stroke using two compounds with neuroprotective properties based on reducing the effects of oxidative stress on the body.

Specipig, the Catalan biotechnology firm that breeds and does biomedical research with miniature pigs as an animal model, has received certification of compliance with Good Laboratory Practices (GLP) from the Government of Catalonia. This recognition of quality will allow them to work with companies around the world and prepare to enter the market in the United Kingdom and Italy by 2018.

Biokit, a company in the Werfen group, has also hit an internationalization milestone in receiving FDA authorization to market its reactive in the United States. The company is developing an automatic test to detect heparin-induced thrombocytopenia. This is the first authorization the FDA has granted for a product of this type in the past 10 years.


Advances in research

The world of research now has a new European initiative aimed at opening up research to society to get different stakeholders involved and make research more participative and inclusive. It is called ORION and is coordinated by the Center for Genomic Regulation with nine partners, including the Autonomous University of Barcelona. Biocat is also participating as an associated partner.

Catalan centers were involved in some new advances in science in May. A team at the Josep Carreras Foundation Leukemia Research Institute published a study showing the efficacy of its new treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, which significantly increases survival in adult patients compared to the standard treatment with chemotherapy.

Researchers at the University of Barcelona have discovered an essential mechanism in the regulation process of salmonella virulence. These bacteria are associated with several gastrointestinal diseases, including salmonellosis. The research will allow scientists to delve deeper into the mechanisms bacteria use to regulate gene expression and, in the long term, may help develop new vaccines.

According to the experts that gathered at this event hosted by B·Debate, an initiative of Biocat and the “la Caixa” Foundation, and ISGlobal, Catalonia is at mid-high risk of transmitting tropical viruses like Zika, dengue and chikungunya. As a result of the scientific debate held in Barcelona on 23 and 24 May, the experts assure that the Catalan healthcare system is prepared to tackle this risk and laid the groundwork for a Strategic Research Agenda to coordinate research in the region and address these issues.

The research groups belonging to Hospital Vall d’Hebron will all move to a new building being constructed between the UAB Faculty of Medicine and the Vall d’Hebron Traumatology Hospital. The work will be done in 2019, according to the VHIR.


Big names this month

Carlos Buesa, founder and CEO of Oryzon Genomics, received the award for Best Entrepreneur from newspaper La Razón. Additionally, the biotechnology firm announced that Roger Bullock, international expert in Alzheimer, will be joining them as their new Chief Medical Officer.

IRB Barcelona also announced a new hire. Prestigious scientist Manuel Serrano has joined the center after 13 years at the CNIO to focus on the challenges of regenerative medicine.

Barcelona hosted a large-scale event in May: Health 2.0 Europe, one of the benchmark conferences in digital health in Europe, held from 3 to 5 May. The event featured eight Catalan start-ups, including Mediktor and PlayBenefit which pitched their innovative technology. Over the same period, Healthio was also held, bringing the latest advances in the healthcare industry to the Catalan capital.

In the race to become the new headquarters of the European Medicines Agency when London is no longer part of the European Union, Barcelona continues to work to lay out its plan to be the favorite and Spanish Minister of Health Dolors Montserrat has defended the candidacy in Brussels. Representatives of universities, professional associations, industry and research institutes with ties to the medical and pharmaceutical sectors have also expressed their formal support for the bid. The selection will be made in fall 2017.

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