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The first month of 2021 brought the first Covid-19 vaccinations in nursing homes and healthcare centers. This January, the vaccines administered were from Pfizer and Moderna, although the European Medicines Agency (EMA) is expected to approve the one from AstraZeneca – Oxford imminently. Also this month, the scientific community provided details on the new variants of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, which has governments and healthcare professionals on the back foot. In the BioRegion, the year got off to a strong start for a good number of startups, which have received funding, and for some local pharmaceutical corporations.

Ability Pharma, which develops oral cancer-fighting compounds, has signed a $3-million investment deal with Chinese company SciClone Pharmaceuticals, which is now a partner in this biotech firm based in Cerdanyola del Vallès. The company also recently closed a successful €2-million crowdfunding campaign through Capital Cell. For its part, RUTI Immune, a subsidiary of Archivel Pharma, has raised €1.6 million, also through Capital Cell, to continue developing its Covid-19 vaccine. Plus, Inbiomotion, a spinoff of the IRB that is developing a diagnostic solution for breast cancer, closed a round of funding led by Alta Life Sciences. The capital increase, the sum of which hasn’t been disclosed, will go towards completing the regulatory process and preparing to launch to market in 2022. And Devicare, which specializes in technological solutions for diagnosis and monitoring in urology, closed a €2.4-million round with Advanced MedTech, owned by Singapore-based Temasek Holdings. With this funding, the company will be able to advance development of Lit-Control, its non-surgical solution for kidney stones. And the newly created Aptadel Therapeutics, a spinoff of IDIBELL and the Alba Pérez Foundation to fight childhood cancer closed a €2.1-million seed round. Others that have closed rounds include Cornea Project (€1M), New Born Solutions (€600,000) and Dive Medical (€300,000, investment led by Bstartup Health).  And congratulations are in order for BrainGaze,which has been chosen for the Pepsico acceleration program, and is the only Spanish startup in the program. The company led by Laszlo Bax will receive mentoring and €20,000, with the potential to get €100,000 more at the end of the program.

Covid-19 fuels local pharmaceutical companies

The Covid-19 pandemic is driving activity and growth in some of the main pharmaceutical companies in the BioRegion. Rovi’s contract to manufacture the Moderna vaccine is expected to push its profits 80% higher ​than pre-pandemic figures (the company expects to see profits of €70 million in 2021, compared to €39 million in 2019). And Reig Jofre has announced that, in May, it will start manufacturing the Janssen vaccine, which is still awaiting approval from the regulatory agencies.  For its part, Grífols has seen stock prices rise thanks to its trials on a drug that could give patients Covid-19 immunity.

Salvat has entered the Chinese market with a drug to treat ear infection, Cetraxal Plus, which has been on the market in Spain since 2002. Almirall has signed an alliance with biotech firm Tyris Therapeutics to develop gene therapies for genetic-based minority dermatological diseases. The company owned by the Gallardo family  now has 100% of the Vithas hospital group after purchasing the 20% that was previously held by Criteria Caixa. And recently, the company has appointed an interim CEO, Mike Mclellan, while continuing the search for a permanent one. On the other hand Galenicum has received a €20 million loan from the European Investment Bank (EIB) that will invest in new therapeutic programs and to grow with new offices at Esplugues de Llobregat.

And the BioRegion got some good news in January when Alliance Healthcare announced it will invest €35 million in Catalonia to kick off a complex in Viladecans that will house its central offices and an R&D center. 

Vall d’Hebron and Bellvitge: on the cutting-edge in transplants

A good example of the health of hospitals in the BioRegion is the fact that Vall d’Hebron Hospital did more transplants than any other center in Spain in 2020 (265). And also that Bellvitge Hospital did the most kidney transplants  (148), leading the ranking for the second year in a row. Plus, Germans Trias i Pujol and Vall d’Hebron published an important scientific study on Covid-19: one in four Covid-19 patients in the ICU develop thrombosis, in many cases asymptomatic. Also, Hospital Clinic has launched an interesting study on Covid-19, with two focuses: firstly, it will research the risk factors that make some patients develop severe respiratory failure and, secondly, it will analyze why some patients have long-term respiratory complications. Early this year, we got the results of the study done at the Apolo concert venue last December: none of the participants caught Covid-19 thanks to the antigen test they underwent before entering the concert hall and the screening afterwards. The trial was organized by Primavera Sound and the Fight AIDS and Infectious Diseases Foundation. For its part, Bellvitge Hospital has kicked off a new telehealth service for ALS patients, LinkELA, to provide better treatment and accompaniment for these patients.

In short, an encouraging start to the year for the BioRegion that we hope will continue throughout 2021!


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