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If you're looking for funding, here is the most interesting news: don’t miss the advice on raising European funding that we’ve provided in the Biocat blog this month and the new matchmaking platform, Invest BioRegion Portal, which we've launched to bring visibility to Catalan startups and BioRegion projects for investors and corporates.

Some companies have already been successful. D-Sight, a recently founded spinoff of the VHIR, has raised €1 million from Clave Capital to develop its drug to treat diabetic retinal disease and other neurodegenerative diseases of the retina, like glaucoma. This is this venture capital fund's first investment in Catalonia.

Oniria Therapeutics, a spinoff of VHIO, the University of Barcelona (UB), and ICREA, have closed a round of seed capital totaling 1.28 million. The operation, led by the Mind the Gap program of the Botín Foundation, with the participation of BStartup, will enable progress to be made in developing a drug to eliminate tumor cells that are resistant to conventional treatments.

In turn, Eox Sense has raised €125,000 in a round led by Grow Venture Partners: this capital injection will enable it to continue to develop its chemical and biochemical sensor technology for wearables.

Top Doctors has raised €8 million in debt in an operation led by the Singapore-based fund Mars Growth Capital (its first operation in Spain) and the Israeli fintech Liquidity Group. Likewise, Palex Medical is attracting the interest of major international venture capital funds operating in Spain: firms like CVC, Apax, Nordic Capital, and Jacobs Private Equity would have approached its main shareholder, Fremman Capital, regarding their interest in potentially acquiring a majority share in the group.

SocialDiabetes has closed the largest sales agreement in its history with Novo Nordisk so the Danish pharmaceutical company's insulin pens can use its telemedicine platform.

There is also news among investors in the BioRegion. Invivo Capital has participated in the €42 million round raised by the biotech firm Arthex Biotech, a spinoff of the University of Valencia, in an operation led by Columbus Venture Partners. Inveready has initially closed its new Inveready Biotech IV fund with a volume of €45 million provided by its investment core. Spoiler: The fund is planning investments for the company of between €1 and 5 million and expects to earmark 40% to innovative therapies, 40% to industrial research companies and 20% to startups that develop high added-value products or services in the field of medical devices, digital health and consumer health.

The European Commission has published the results of the second WomenTechEU call, which awards €75,000 grants to innovative European high-tech companies founded by women. The 134 companies chosen include 14 from the BioRegion of Catalonia: NIMBLE Diagnostics, Gate2brain, Time is brain, GAT Biosciences, Doctomatic, Exheus, Vitala Technologies, ColorSensing, Sycai Technologies, Succipro, Manina Medtech, Biointaxis, Breaz Medical and KOA Biotech.

Also this month, the CDTI has published its decision on the SME Seal of Excellence grants, which funds R&D projects in European SMEs that have received the Seal of Excellence within the ‘Accelerator’ instrument of Horizon Europe’s European Innovation Council. The companies that received the grant include Aromics, Accexible, Biel Glasses, Rethink Medical and Gat Biosciences.


Capital movements in the companies

The large companies in the BioRegion are in the news yet another month. Almirall plans to invest €400 million in R&D in the next three years. The focus? Launching Lebrikizumab and consolidating Ilumetri.

Grifols has started the last phase III clinical trial to secure approval in the United States for Xembify, a specific immunoglobulin for patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia. The company is recruiting patients in the United States and is getting ready for the selection process in Europe. Not only Grifols’ laboratories but also its offices are in the news after it announced a new restructuring of its leadership: its executive chairman, Thomas Glanzmann, is taking on the role of CEO, replacing Víctor Grifols, who will be the new COO, and Raimon Grifols, who will become CCO. On the other hand, GIC, Singapore's sovereign fund, has started disinvesting in Grifols and has sold back to the hemoderivatives multinational part of its US subsidiary for $52 million.

There are also capital movements in Esteve Healthcare: it has sold 26% of its capital to the German investment group Lubea to promote growth plans and as the first step in a potential IPO. The Esteve family will remain the majority shareholder, with 74% ownership.

The manufacturer of machinery for the pharmaceutical and biotech industry Dara Pharma, headquartered in Granollers, has also agreed to sell 45% of its shares to the German company Focke and expects to surpass the milestone of €100 million in turnover in 2023.


Hospital innovations

The hospitals in the BioRegion continue to innovate: A study led by the Hospital de Bellvitge in conjunction with the Germans Trias i Pujol University Hospital and the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau has managed to lower renal problems in complex heart surgery: the use of a new extracorporeal blood purification membrane lowers cases of acute renal insufficiency after operations from 40% to 28%.

The Hospital de Bellvitge and the Valencia University Hospital Clinic have also spearheaded a trial to improve the initial treatment of acute myocardial infarction in fragile elderly people, which opens the door to possible changes in clinical guidelines.

The Hospital Clinic has successfully tested deep brain stimulation to control cluster headaches. For the first time, the center has incorporated electrodes that report on brain activity to predict episodes and adjust the stimulation in a personalized fashion in order to lower continuous electric stimulation. Regarding patient care, the Hospital Clinic has launched a new care center to treat chronic pain. The center stresses that with the new space, it is also launching a new way to interact with patients based on conversation and greater proximity. In this vein, the Campus Clinic has set up a Steering Committee to track the Patient Experience Observatory, a pioneering initiative to include the patient’s perspectives into all the Campus's activities.


New CAR-T and other advances in oncology

Good news in advanced therapies. The IIB Sant Pau has begun to administer a new CAR-T against B lymphoma manufactured in-house as part of a phase I study in conjunction with the Virgen del Rocío Hospital of Seville.

The Hospital Sant Joan de Déu has also launched a clinical trial of CAR-T ARI, developed with the Hospital Clinic, in children with lymphoblastic leukemia. The goal: to show whether it can replace other treatments associated with higher risks and side effects, such as bone marrow transplants.

Yet more advances in oncology: a study with the participation of the IDIBAPS has identified a new gene related to polyposis and colon and rectal cancer. The study, published in Gastroenterology, found new alternations that lead to a loss of function of the BMPR2 gene, which translates into the uncontrolled proliferation of epithelial cells in the colon and a higher risk of polyposis and cancer.

The VHIO, the Cancer Research UK Lung Cancer Centre of Excellence of London and the Weill Cornell Medicine of New York have developed an analytical tool for liquid biopsies that is 30% more sensitive than the current techniques for patients with advanced pancreatic cancer. The study was published in Genome Medicine.

Two bits of hopeful news on female cancer. First, the IDIBELL, the ICO, the IDIBGI, the Bellvitge University Hospital and the Josep Trueta University Hospital have developed a new method to detect DNA changes that could predict the development of endometrial cancer. The technique, which combines massive sequencing and bioinformatic analysis, has been tested in a pilot study with 93 women published in Modern Pathology. Likewise, the New England Journal of Medicine has published the initial results of the POSITIVE clinical trial, in which the VHIO is participating, which opens the possibility of safe pregnancy for breast cancer patients.


Other advances in research

A study directed by the University of Edinburgh and conducted by the IIB Sant Pau and the Institute for Advanced Chemistry of Catalonia describes how the harmful proteins that accumulate in the brains of individuals with Alzheimer are propagated via the synapses. The study, published in Neuron, suggests that drugs developed against the tau protein may stop the advance of the disease.

Another protein, the glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), may be useful as a biomarker to evaluate the diagnosis and prognosis of Alzheimer in people with Down syndrome, according to a study co-led by the IIB Sant Pau and the University of Gothenburg, with the collaboration of the Hospital Clinic. The study was published in eBioMedicine.

More studies in neurology: ADHD is related to lower life expectancy, according to a study led by the VHIR, the IISPV, the Pere Mata Institute University Hospital and CIBER, published in Neuropsychopharmacology. Another study led by the IIB Sant Pau reveals the existence of different patterns of progress in Huntington's disease. The study, which was published in the European Journal of Neurology, analyses more than 500 people affected by the disease.

Now let’s talk transplants: researchers from the IDIBAPS are leading a study, published in Blood, which deciphers the molecular variability of monomorphic post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorders in pediatric patients. The study may help improve the treatment and care of children and young people who develop this neoplasia after a transplant.

The IMIM has participated in a study published in Cell and led by the University of Birmingham that opens the door to developing better treatment for pain or pathologies like diabetes and heart diseases by making use of the functioning of a specific type of protein found in cell membranes: beta arrestin.

EATRIS, the European infrastructure for translational medicine, has designated seven Expert Centers to provide high added-value services, including two in the BioRegion of Catalonia: the IGTP and IDIBELL.

And we are closing this month by congratulating the winners of the grants from the Daniel Bravo Andreu Private Foundation, researchers from the Hospital Clinic, IQS and the Institute of Research who will be able to spend time at prestigious centers in Canada and the United States, like MIT and the Mayo Clinic. Since 2013, these grants, which are targeted at researchers at public Catalan hospitals and research centers, have supported research in cardiology and noninvasive diagnostic techniques. Congratulations to all!

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