HIGHLIGHTS: Minoryx raises 21M€, controversial resignations, clinical milestones, new drugs and advances in research
<p>Baselga’s resignation serves as a bittersweet counterpoint to a September full of good news</p>
After the summer break, September has once again filled the BioRegion with good news; advances in research, innovation, and investment; and new milestones for companies in the sector. Minoryx Therapeutics, a company specializing in the development of new drugs for orphan diseases, completed a €21.3M Series B funding round. The round was led by Fund+, joined by SFPI, S.R.I.W. and Sambrinvest, in addition to all Series A investors (Ysios Capital, Kurma Partners, Roche Venture Fund, Idinvest Partners, Chiesi Ventures, Caixa Capital Risc and HealthEquity).
Other companies in the BioRegion have also started the race to find financing to continue their developments. One example is AbilityPharma, which has launched a 1-million-euro round of investment through the crowdfunding platform Capital Cell in order to keep developing ABTL0812, a drug that triggers autophagy in cancer cells. This month, the company has recruited its first patient in France in a phase-II clinical study underway with this molecule.
Likewise, Mimetis has opened an investment round for two million euros to make headway in regenerative medicine and enter the sectors of orthopedics and maxillofacial surgery.
ADmit Therapeutics, a spin-off of Idibell which is developing a diagnostic test for Alzheimer, has launched a capital round to attract €200,000.
However, one of the hottest news stories happened far from home and has not been bereft of controversy. The Catalan oncologist Josep Baselga has resigned as the chief medical officer of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York after it was discovered that he had not disclosed payments from industry, which could cast doubt on his research articles. Baselga claims that the hospital was aware of his relationship with the pharmaceutical companies and upheld the independence of his research. The colleagues who have spoken up in his defense include Josep Tabernero, head of Oncology at Vall d’Hebron.
Another controversy, in this case in the Spanish government, featured Carmen Montón, who resigned as the Minister of Health, Consumer Affairs, and Welfare because of the presumed irregularities in her Master’s degree from Univesidad Rey Juan Carlos I University. Maria Luisa Carcedo is the new minister taking over this portfolio.
More new appointments: closer to home, Alba Vergés, the regional minister of Health, has appointed the Health Advisory Council of this legislature. It is presided over by Manel Balcells and its members include David Elvira, Núria Terribas, Carme Borrell, Alícia Granados, Joan Lluís Borràs, Ramón Pujol, Pere Joan Cardona, Xavier Bonfill and Helena Ris.
New clinical milestones
Meantime, the companies in the BioRegion are releasing a new race for investments with new clinical milestones. Spherium Biomed has completed the phase-II tests of a drug to treat atopic dermatitis called Cyclatop. It is the company’s third drug that has completed this phase.
Oryzon has received authorization from the Spanish Medication Agency for a phase-IIa clinical trial to test its drug ORY-2001 on patients with aggressive episodes. The tests will be conducted at Hospital Vall d’Hebron.
Likewise, this month Minoryx has announced the first patient in the United States in its phase-II/III clinical trial of MIN-102 for adrenomyeloneuropathy. The patient received the dose at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Green light for drugs
Almirall has gotten the green light from the European Commission for its drug Ilumetri to treat chronic psoriasis. This news provided an impetus to the company’s actions, which witnessed a 100% increase in its stock this year. Almirall has also signed a cooperation agreement with the German company Evotec to jointly develop dermatological therapies.
Grifols also got good news: the FDA has approved a new formulation of its immunoglobulin to treat patients exposed to hepatitis A and measles. This month, Grifols signed a 20-million-euro loan with the European Investment Bank for its R&D&I activities.
In Indonesia, Reig Jofre has launched an anesthetic called Remikaf with the state-owned company Kimia Farma after a registration process that took more than three years.
Prizes, aid, and agreements with Catalonia in the spotlight
Twenty biomedical research projects, a dozen of which are associated with entities in the BioRegion, were chosen in the last call for applications of CaixaImpulse. Likewise, eleven companies and projects from the BioRegion (from a total of 15 in Spain) were chosen by EIT Health Spain to receive Headstart Funding worth up to 50,000 euros to accelerate their time-to-market and increase their possibilities of attracting private investors. They are Biel Smartgaze, ABLE (Assistive Biorobotic Low-cost Exoskeleton), e-CARER, New Born Solutions, GlyCardial Diagnostics, ADmit Therapeutics, Anaconda Biomed, RemAb Therapeutics, FreeOx Biotech, Braingaze, and HumanlTcare.
On the other hand, EIT Health Spain has chosen the startups that will represent Spain at the European semi-finals of the European Health Catapult 2018, and four of the six finalists from Spain are companies from the BioRegion: GlyCardial Diagnostics, ADmit Therapeutics, FreeOx Biotech and Nanoligent.
Three other companies from the BioRegion (IOMED Medical Solutions, CreatSens and B-Wom) will compete from 3 to 5 October at the South Summit, a gathering where 100 startups from around the world, chosen from among 3,000 candidates, vie for the possibility of earning 1 million dollars in financing from Silicon Valley investors.
Furthermore, Atrys Health, which quotes on the Alternative Stock Market (Mercat Alternatiu Borsari, MAB), will invest six million euros to launch an advanced oncological radiation therapy center in the Hospital Sanitas Cima in Barcelona. Another firm that quotes on the MAB, AB-Biotics, has reached an agreement with the Universitat Internacional de Catalunya (UIC) to pursue joint research in the field of probiotics.
Biocat has launched the new Bibliometric Portal of the BioRegion of Catalonia, which makes data on the scientific production in biomedicine made by researchers working in research entities in Catalonia available to researchers and society at large.
New advances were announced this month. Researchers from the Biomedical Research Institute and the Autonomous University of Barcelona, among others, have published a study in EMBO Molecular Medicine which shows the efficiency of nanoparticles to selectively destroy colon cancer cells.
Sleep apnea fosters the development of lung cancer among youths, according to a study with participation by researchers from the University of Barcelona, Hospital Clínic, and the IBEC, among other entities. The study was published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. Likewise, a study by IrsiCaixa published in Mucosal Immunology demonstrates that the deterioration of the immune system is associated with a decrease in the microbial richness of the intestine.
Researchers from Germans Trias are leading a phase-I clinical trial to stop the advance of multiple sclerosis with cell therapy, and a team from the University of Barcelona has synthesized a new family of compounds with potential advantages over existing antibiotics used to counter multidrug-resistant bacteria.
Beyond our borders, a team from the University of California led by the Catalan Otger Campàs has published a study in Nature that describes how embryos attain the elongated shape characteristic of adults in which they discovered a mechanism that may be crucial in cancer research.
More news in the ecosystem: Vall d'Hebron has opened the first ICU in Spain with smart technology, which entailed an investment of 20 million euros.
Eurecat has opened a new site in Poblenou (Barcelona) and expects to close the year with a turnover of more than 50 million euros. Furthermore, Eurecat will receive 20 million euros through ACCIÓ as part of the National Pact for Industry.
The Barcelona Science Park has kicked off the events to celebrate its 20th anniversary, for the first time with profits, and is preparing an investment of 13 million euros to expand. The Alba synchrotron is also growing, as it will increase its capacity by 50% with four new light lines, three of which are expected to be operating by 2020.
And details are starting to be released about this year’s La Marató on TV3. Gemma Nierga and Ramon Gener will be the hosts of this charitable program which will be broadcast on Sunday, 16 December and will be targeted at cancer.