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International commitment to Barcelona

4YFN, where Biocat coordinated a startup corner, once again reaffirmed Barcelona’s position as a benchmark city in digital and technological entrepreneurship, surpassing all expectations in number of exhibitors and participants. Spoiler: given the numbers, there is already talk of expanding next year with a pavilion exclusively for health.

Beyond 4YFN, the headlines also continue to show international companies choose the BioRegion of Catalonia. AstraZeneca is going to create a huge R&D hub for new therapies in Barcelona, investing approximately €800 million and creating 1,000 new jobs. Another big pharma company, Sanofi, will inaugurate new offices in Barcelona: with 800 employees and the company’s new global supply and financial management unit. Also choosing the Catalan capital is Teladoc Health: the company will hire 60 more workers in Barcelona for its first digital hub in Europe. For their part, Swiss company Siegfred has invested €15 million in a pharmaceutical products development center in Barberà del Vallès.

Corporate operations and results 

Companies are presenting their 2022 results these days. Grifols saw record income in 2022: over €6 billion, up 12.4% from the previous year. The hemoderivatives company continues to advance in corporate operations and paid over €130 million to gain control over Access Biologicals, where it already held 49%, and signed a collaboration and licensing deal with Selagine to develop drops to treat dry eyes. On the other hand, Grifols is considering selling its stake in Shangai Raas, the leading Chinese company in plasma products.

Reig Jofre also saw double digit growth, closing 2022 with turnover of €271 million, up 15% from the previous year. The pharmaceutical company is no longer manufacturing COVID vaccines for Janssen, now focusing on biosimilars. 
Werfen has completed the acquisition it announced in November of US in vitro diagnostic company Immucor. This is the Catalan group’s biggest acquisition ever, at roughly $2 billion.

Almirall keeps growing and expects to open up new subsidiaries this year in Sweden and Norway, key markets for its dermatology business. Here at home, Almirall has opened the doors of its R&D center to ZeClinics: the biotechnology firm that specializes in zebrafish will be using the pharmaceutical corporation’s facilities to accelerate drug discovery. Another example of pharma-biotech collaboration: Gebro Pharma and HumanITcare have signed a deal to launch a solution to monitor asthma patients.

DevsHealth has announced a collaboration with the Foundation for Neglected Disease Research to use artificial intelligence to develop affordable treatments for mosquito-borne diseases like dengue, Zika virus, West Nile virus and Japanese encephalitis.

Advances in the pipeline

This month we’ve read about advances in the BioRegion pipeline. The Hipra COVID-19 vaccine has passed EMA assessment and continues moving towards the market.

Another vaccine advancing: AELIX Therapeutics has presented positive results from their phase IIa therapeutic HIV vaccine and immune modulator combination clinical trial. 

Also good news for Methinks, which has been granted EU approval to market their software that uses artificial intelligence to detect any type of stroke with a simple CAT scan. The company expects to apply for FDA approval this summer and raise funding to begin invoicing and grow in 2023.

Business investment

Asabys Partners and Werfen led a €17 million round of investment in DeepUll, a company created in 2020 that is developing diagnostic solutions to catch sepsis and other acute infections early. This is the first operation Asabys has carried out through its new SAHII II fund. Asabys has also taken a stake in Nuage Therapeutics, where CDTI Innovación also announced a contribution of €450,000.

Loop Diagnostics is looking to close a €3 million round to complete industrialization of their quick diagnostic test for sepsis: they have already raised €2.5 million between Next Generation funds and Cardiolink, and have launched a crowdequity campaign on Capital Cell to raise the remaining €500,000. Loop Diagnostics is one of the startups from the Biocat d·HEALTH Barcelona program.

Qida, which provides home care services for the elderly, closed the biggest round of investment in the senior segment, €18 million, in an operation that brought in Kibo Ventures as a minority partner in the company.

And good news for companies in the funding process: AltamarCAM has launched ACP Aliath Bioventures II FCR, their second fund specializing in the health sector, after Alta Life Sciences Spain I.

News in research and opportunities for researchers

The University of Barcelona has presented a groundbreaking ultra-high field nuclear magnetic resonance device, the first of its kind in Europe and second in the world. Located at the Barcelona Science Park and open to the whole science community, it will be a key tool for precision medicine.

The phase II clinical trial CALYPSO, which the Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology is taking part in, has shown promising results with a combination of drugs in patients with advanced papillary renal cell carcinoma with MET gene mutations: the results were published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. Vall d’Hebron has also registered the first patient for a groundbreaking study on the use of CAR-T therapy for lupus, an international phase Ib/IIa clinical trial led by Novartis.

A type of protein called Cianovirina-N could slow the spread of new variants of SARS-CoV-2, especially Delta and Omicron strains: this has been proven in a study by researchers in the United States, Brazil and at IrsiCaixa, IRBLleida and UdL.

The Girona Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBGI) is taking part in a European study to optimize the use of antidepressants in people diagnosed with major depression.

Far from our borders but also fueled by talent from the BioRegion, a study led by Barcelona-born oncologist Antoni Ribas at the University of California, Los Angeles has shown that cancer immunotherapy is most effective before surgery: published in the New England Journal of Medicine. 

Now let’s talk about opportunities for researchers. Gilead and Esade have kicked off a new innovation hub, called Visionarium, to promote health research and entrepreneurship. The first call, deadline October 1, is looking for research projects on HIV.

For the first time, sexual and reproductive health will be the focus of La Marató this year, on December 17. From last year’s event, more than 400 research teams in cardiovascular health are vying for the funds raised during La Marató 2022.

Another classic among researchers: the Fundació La Caixa has given out 105 new PhD and postdoc scholarships to young Spanish and foreign researchers to carry out their projects at universities and centers in Spain and Portugal.

Hospital cyberattack and ranking

Negative news had all eyes on Hospital Clinic this month due to a serious cyberattack that impacted the center’s activity, though when this was written the hospital was already recovering.

Newsweek published its ranking of the World’s Best Hospitals, which the magazine puts together with Statista based on recommendations from medical professionals, the results of patient surveys and the main medical performance indicators. And Hospital Clinic is ranked the second best hospital in Spain, with Vall d’Hebron in fifth.

Hospital de Bellvitge has inaugurated a unit dedicated exclusively to preparing surgical patients, designed using the Lean process management method. Additionally, the Catalan Ministry of Health is investing €48 million to expand and renovate hospitals in the Alt Penedès-Garraf Health Consortium.

Awards and appointments

Sycai Medical, a medical assistant that helps radiologists detect pancreatic cystic lesions, has won the Premi Emprende XXI Award from CaixaBank.

And we’ll bring this wrap-up to a close with new appointments. New faces in the Catalan Ministry of Research and Universities: Laia Arnal Arasa, previously director of business development at VHIR, is the new director general for Knowledge Society, Transfer and Territory in the Government of Catalonia, and Laura Román Martín has been named general secretary of the Interuniversity Council of Catalonia (CIC).

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