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This June and the beginning of summer have brought good news for the healthcare sector: research into the coronavirus continues advancing and some start-ups in the BioRegion have seen an increase in funding and investment. Research has also started to make way for other fields of biomedicine not related to SARS-CoV-2. Let’s look at the latest news.


New data on SARS-CoV-2

Ahead of publishing results in a scientific journal, Oriol Mitjà advanced some data from a clinical trial underway at Germans Trias i Pujol Hospital in an interview with the journal Science. According to the physician and researcher, hydroxychloroquine does not reduce the risk of people exposed to the virus of developing Covid-19. However, a study by Hospital Clinic and IDIBAPS concluded that ultraviolet light from the sun could mitigate the spread of SARS-CoV-2.

Hospital Clinic is also leading a European consortium on immunotherapy for the virus, while the WHO has included two vaccines being developed by IDIBAPS on its list of global initiatives to fight Covid-19. Another study scientists from Hospital Clinic and Vall d’Hebron participated in points to genetic differences, including blood type, as making some patients more prone to serious cases of Covid-19.

In pediatrics, Hospital Sant Joan de Déu has advanced the first results of its Kids Corona study, indicating that the number of children infected is similar to the number of adults but the cases are less serious.

Regarding people who have survived the virus, Hospital Parc Taulí in Sabadell has created a new functional unit for patients with after-effects from Covid-19, and Hospital de Bellvitge and IDIBELL are leading the first multi-center trial to reduce post-coronavirus pulmonary fibrosis.

In private business, Grifols has begun producing the first plasma therapy for the virus and Aigües de Barcelona (Agbar) has launched a tool called Covid-19 City Sentinel to monitor wastewater and quantify the presence of the coronavirus. Plus, the Catalan Ministry of Health has identified Reig Jofre and Rovi as possible options for manufacturing a Covid-19 vaccine in Spain, when the time comes.

Finally, the BBVA Foundation has launched a €2.7-million call for 20 research projects on SARS-CoV-2.


Other research in the BioRegion

One of the most significant studies this month in the BioRegion is the one led by IrsiCaixa that has described the first case of HIV resistant to all combinations of oral antiretroviral drugs currently in use.

Research teams at IRBLleida and UdL have confirmed the validity and reliability of several qualitative measures to assess sleep quality in adults with fibromyalgia, which could help determine the effectiveness of treatments in the future. The same centers are taking part in a European project to develop new-generation technology that provides monitoring solutions for people with dependency. Also in Lleida, the Cognitive Disorders Unit has shown that 30% of people with Alzheimer or mild cognitive decline saw symptoms worsen after five weeks of lockdown.

Two studies on obesity: one led by ISGlobal has shown that certain chromosomal alterations help explain why obese individuals tend to develop other diseases like asthma or diabetes; and Eurecat has kicked off a study it is leading on the benefits of the Mediterranean diet in reducing childhood obesity.

And we’ll round out this section with some good news: a child has recovered mobility in his hand, which was extremely limited due to being born without a radius, thanks to a transplant of cartilage from his foot using microsurgery. This has made Hospital HM Nens de Barcelona the first center in Spain to use this technique.


Biopharmaceutical companies continue booming

Let’s kick off this section on companies with two very positive news stories for the BioRegion. This June, Ysios Capital launched its third investment fund with €200 million. Additionally, Ona Therapeutics has closed a €30-million round of funding to develop a cancer metastasis drug, in an operation that included Sabadell Asabys, Alta Life Sciences, Ysios Capital, Belgian FundPlus and French fund BPI France.

Oxolife raised €5 million in its first round and Inbrain Neuroelectronics closed a €1-million round led by Sabadell Asabys and Alta Life Sciences. Plus, Werfen has increased its financial cushion 50%, to €300 million. Pangaea Oncology has received €477,000 from the EU for its project to discover tumor biomarkers in blood, and Miwendo Solutions and ADmit Therapeutics have received over €3 million through the EIC Accelerator. This has allowed Miwendo to close a €4.1-million round. Plus, the Government of Catalonia and European Investment Bank have joined the AbilityPharma shareholders, with €3.2 million.

And some news from outside of Catalonia that is very important for the sector: Astrazeneca and Gilead have started considering a possible merger, which would create one of the biggest pharmaceutical corporations in the world. Plus, Pfizer has announced it will invest $500 million to support innovation in biotechnology companies. For its part, Almirall has announced it is now listed on the Ibex 35 index and PharmaMar also has good news: its stock has gone up 70% in 2020, it has signed a deal with TTY Biopharm to market the Yondelis tumor drug in Asia, and it has gained approval for its lung cancer drug in the US.

Regarding new investments, the Grifols group announced it will earmark €130 million for the first stage of expanding its factory in Parets del Vallès, Menarini has invested €150 million in a new pharmaceutical plant in Italy and AtrysHealth closed a €35 million capital increase to acquire Chilean telemedicine firm Itms.

There has also been new research in private companies. Oryzon kicked off a project with Vall d’Hebron Research Institute to explore the efficacy of vafidemstat in treating schizophrenia and Pangaea has signed a deal with Roche to do a phase Ib/II clinical trial on a lung cancer treatment.

Let’s finish off with the names in the news: Catalan Public Health Secretary Joan Guix has stepped down, citing health issues, coinciding with the downward trend in the Covid-19 pandemic in Catalonia. Mediquo has named Lorena Jané, founder of the Dicus platform, its new head of Business Development after launching its telematic platform; and Oryzon Genomics has hired Robert Soliva, from Nostrum Biodiscovery, to head up Innovation and Drug Discovery.

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