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New investment record in the BioRegion and more funds available

Less than one month after the presentation of the 2021 BioRegion of Catalonia Report celebrating another year of record funding, SpliceBio closed one of the biggest rounds of funding in the life sciences and healthcare sector in Spain and the largest in the BioRegion. The startup, which focuses on gene therapy, raised €50 million in a round with six investors led by Ysios Capital and Belgian fund UCB Ventures. Plus, it is the largest round with international participation and the largest with participation from US investors. This figure surpasses the previous record for the largest round by a startup in the BioRegion, previously held by medtech company Impress.

Far behind, but equally notable is the case of Novameat, which has secured a $ 6 million pre-Series A fund to produce more efficiently textured plant-based whole cuts and to fill the gap in the alternative space of the meat. Onalabs and Nanoligent have also raised funding this month: 1 million euros, respectively.

In terms of public funding, Connecta Therapeutics and Loop Dx have both received a Neotec grant from the CDTI. The former will use the funding to expand the therapeutic indications of its drug CTH120. Loop Dx, a startup created out of the Biocat d·HEALTH Barcelona program developing a fast test for early detection of bacterial blood infections, has also been in the news for having recently been granted a european patent

In terms of venture capital managers, Asabys Partners has increased the size of its first fund to €117 million with participation from the European Investment Fund (EIF). With this operation, the company has set up its largest fund to date. Nina Capital has also raised €42 million, which will go to investments in the digital health sector. In the public sector, the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation has announced a Government Plan on biotechnology applied to health, valued at €32 million, funded jointly by the Government of Spain and five autonomous communities, including Catalonia. The Plan will help promote advanced therapies and precision medicine, an area where the BioRegion is working to position itself. This is news worth celebrating as it will help grow the sector!

In news from startups and projects in the BioRegion, we’re celebrating the IPO of  Atrys Health, a medical technology startup that has just started trading on the main market in Spain after six years on the BME Growth, the stock market for SMEs. This medical technology company got the go-ahead from the Spanish Securities and Exchange Commission (CNMV). Regarding adoption of technology, Wivi Visión has been brought into the portfolio of services offered by General Óptica for preventive eye-health care, iSYS Foundation launched a new mobile app (Xemio) for patients with breast cancer, and Biel Glasses won the HIMSS Global Patient Innovator Award. This startup, which took part in the Biocat CRAASH Barcelona, program in 2018, is developing smart glasses that allow people with low vision to get around on their own, without help from other people. This and other healthtech startups in the BioRegion will be presenting their latest news at 4YFN, one of the most important international events for startups that has made Barcelona a benchmark in digital entrepreneurship. The event, from February 28 through March 3, will feature more than 60 health startups from the BioRegion. Currently, Catalonia has 1,900 startups and the biggest chunk of these are in the healthcare sector (16% of the total), according to an ACCIÓ report presented this February. 

New acquisitions in the pharmaceutical sector

In terms of exits, some companies in the BioRegion have been acquired by other international companies. Swiss group Nobel Biocare acquired  Mimetis Biomaterials, a spinoff of the UPC. Nestlé, another Swiss company in this case from the food sector, acquired Catalan dietary company PronoKal for nearly €100 million. 

Esteve purchased an industrial plant for chemical products previously managed by Uquifa in Lliçà de Vall (Barcelona), with 21,176 m² of space, a staff of 89 and the capacity to produce 160 m³ of reaction mixture.  Hefame, a pharmaceutical distributor based in Murcia, announced it will build a new logistics center in Girona, investing over €2 million. The succession of the presidency at Almirall was also announced this month. Jorge Gallardo, who formerly held the position, is leaving the company in the hands of his son Carlos Gallardo Piqué, previously vice-president of the Board of Directors. 

New advances in the COVID-19 vaccine and other discoveries

February also brought us the news that HIPRA has advanced in its COVID-19 vaccine, moving into phase III clinical trials prior to commercialization. If approved, this immunization would be used as a booster. Other news from research centers and institutes included the discovery of a mechanism that some colorectal cancers use to defend themselves against chemotherapy, led by the Center for Genomic Regulation (CRG) and Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute (IMIM). And the study carried out by Rovira i Virgili University (URV), which showed how to predict the degradation or failure (percolation) of any network system, including a neural network. The Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL) took part in a study that revealed a more effective treatment for one type of anemia. 

In the hospital arena, the CAR-T ARI-0001 has been granted eligibility to PRIME by the European Medicines Agency. This makes Hospital Clinic Barcelona the first academic institution to receive this designation for any therapeutic area or indication. That same hospital has shown that changing the moment of administration for a drug already used to treat ischemic stroke increases the patient’s chances of making an excellent recovery with no side effects three months after the procedure by up to 59%. And the Functional Transgender Surgery Unit of the Bellvitge University Hospital (HUB) has carried out the first gender reassignment surgery using a surgical robot in Europe. 

Vall d’Hebron University Hospital has also been in the news with several discoveries. The Vall d’Hebron Institute of Research (VHIR) published a study that will help identify the best treatment for migraines using saliva, and the Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology (VHIO) and its spinoff Peptomyc have developed a therapeutic protein called Omomyc, which has been proven to have the ability to stop metastatic breast cancer. Researchers have analyzed its efficacy with very positive results in mice. 

And, staying on the topic of cancer, February 4 was World Cancer Day and Hospital Clinic Barcelona took advantage to lay the cornerstone of a new satellite building at the Granollers hospital complex, where it will provide oncological radiation care for patients at C17 hospitals (Vallès Oriental and Osona). And on the International Day of Women and Girls in Science (February 11), the Catalan Ministry of Research and Universities announced it will head up measures to foster true gender equality in the knowledge system. Also for the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, Biocat interviewed four female scientists and entrepreneurs in the sector.

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