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New investment record in the BioRegion and more funds available

May saw the largest venture capital round ever in the BioRegion. Impress, a company that specializes in invisible orthodontic treatments, has raised €41 million, the largest Series A investment in healthcare in Spain and southern Europe. This milestone will allow them to expand their operations and consolidate presence in their current markets. 

Far from these astronomical numbers, but no less important, other noteworthy news comes from Quida and Berdac Smart Services, which have received financial injections of over one million euros. Qida was awarded a €1.3 million grant from the Ministry of Social Rights to accelerate their home-care service. This will allow them to continue driving the technological transformation to offer their services around Spain. Turning to Berdac Smart Services, a startup that is developing a smart medication system to prevent mistakes and forgotten pills has closed a second round of investment for €1 million. The company will use these funds to strengthen their sales and marketing department.

Not quite a million, but Predictheon, a spinoff of Hospital Clinic Barcelona, the University of Navarra and University of San Buenaventura - Cali, closed its first round of investment for €840,000, led by the University of Navarra I+D+I Technology Transfer Fund. The company will use these funds to complete the regulatory process in Europe and the United States on their first products and to complete clinical validation currently underway.

Other companies, however, are looking to accelerate their growth, like Time is Brain, a spinoff of the Institute for Health Science Research Germans Trias i Pujol (IGTP) working to develop a medical device to improve the prognosis of acute ischemic stroke (AIS). This medtech firm hopes to raise €640,000 to validate their medical device and get CE marking. 

And speaking of acceleration, Vyrus Biotech and Teladoc Health are good examples of growth, with steadily increasing turnover. Biotech firm Vyrus Biotech grew 40% in 2020, despite the pandemic, exceeding the targets they had set. Teladoc Health, a US company that specializes in virtual medical care and has a corporate office in Barcelona, posted turnover of $453.7 million for January through March 2021, up 151% from the same period the previous year. The biggest provider of telemedicine services in the world has set the goal of reaching $2,000 million this year, double last year. 

In terms of venture capital managers, Ysios Capital has closed their third fund after raising €216 million, which they will invest in the biotechnology sector, mainly in companies in Europe and the United States. This is news worth celebrating as it will help grow the sector! 

Two historical milestones in transplants in Catalonia, cutting-edge research and pharma deals

One example of the excellence of hospitals in the BioRegion is the news from Hospital Clinic Barcelona that they have become the first hospital in Spain to do over 1,000 living-donor kidney transplants. These many examples of altruism are reflected in a campaign titled ’A thousand transplants, a thousand stories’. Vall d’Hebron Hospital has also been in the news for transplants after getting its pediatric liver transplant waiting list down to zero for the first time in 36 years by using split liver transplantation. This technique divides the donated liver into two parts to be implanted into two recipients. Continuing with Vall d’Hebron University Hospital, which is one of the centers that took part in an international clinical trial led by Dr. Ana Oaknin, head of the Gynecological Malignancies Group at the Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology (VHIO). The drug known as cemiplimab has been proven effective at increasing survival in cases of recurrent or metastatic cervical cancer

Catalan companies are also doing research that deserves to be highlighted. In one case, Grífols and the Fight AIDS and Infectious Diseases Foundation have launched a phase III clinical trial to assess the efficacy of a drug that could be used to treat Covid-19 in people who have tested positive and haven’t been vaccinated, immunocompromised individuals and those for whom the vaccine is not advisable.

And an example of successful knowledge transfer: the Computer Assisted Fear of Flying Treatment (CAFFT) research project, the UIB protocol based on visualizing computer-generated environments to treat phobias or other anxiety disorders, has become a practical solution through a collaboration with Psious, a company that specializes in Virtual Reality (VR) applied to healthcare. With this deal, the protocol is leaving the lab and will be available for use anywhere in the world.

Regarding new agreements between companies, a highlight this month is pharmaceutical corporation Esteve announcing a deal with US company Kowa Pharmaceuticals to commercialize E-58425, a drug to treat acute pain. The Catalan company has also been in the news for its collaboration with biotech firm Seagen, with which they hope to market the drug tucatinib for metastatic breast cancer in Spain.

Consolidation of the startup ecosystem in Catalonia

ACCIÓ’s annual update of the indicators for the startup directory shows that in Catalonia there are a total of 1,708 startups, which employ 17,500 people, 66.5% of them in the sector of technology associated with big data, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things. According to the study, the number of emerging companies was 13.5% higher than in 2019 and 60% higher than in 2016. These figures reflect the consolidation of this business ecosystem in Catalonia. It is important to note that the specific sector with the most companies is health, with 289 startups.

An example of this ecosystem consolidation is that four Catalan startups have been selected for the EIT Health Bridgehead program, which helps connect entrepreneurs with incubators or accelerators. The companies selected from the BioRegion are MOWOOT and MJN Neuroserveis (participants in Biocat’s d·HEALTH Barcelona de Biocat), Flomics Biotech (participant in the second edition of Biocat’s CRAASH Barcelona acceleration program) and ZeClinics. Congratulations!

To promote entrepreneurship and innovation in the life sciences and healthcare sector in Catalonia, this month Biocat has launched IGNITE·HEALTH Barcelona, an intensive 4-month hybrid training program where participants will learn how to be successful entrepreneurs in the health sector. 

Changes in the Government, company management and new appointments

This May saw the inauguration of the 132nd President of the Government of Catalonia (and President of the Biocat Board of Trustees) Pere Aragonés, who has appointed new ministers. Josep Maria Argimon will head up Health. The former Catalan Public Health Secretary, one of the most visible figures from these months of the pandemic, has been on the front lines of the ministry and will now take over for Alba Vergés. Former President of the Parliament Roger Torrent will take over the Ministry of Business and Knowledge and current Parliamentary Spokesperson for JxCat Gemma Geis will be at the helm of the Secretariat of Research and Universities.

There have also been changes among the top executives at companies in the region: Melanie Rolli has been named CEO of biotech firm Aelix Therapeutics, replacing José Luis Cabero, who has left the company’s executive team. Also, Almirall has a new vice-president: Carlos Gallardo Piqué, son of current president Jorge Gallardo, 79, is stepping up to ensure the continuity of this family-run business.

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