HIGHLIGHTS: Origin of metastasis, pharma acquisitions and advances at start-ups
<p>Implants, transplants and rounds of funding round out the January headlines in the BioRegion</p>
QMenta has opened a €1.35-million round to open up markets in the US, and GoodGut has raised €1.1 million to kick off their groundbreaking project to detect colorectal cancer. Minoryx Therapeutics has been granted FDA Fast-Track designation in the US for their drug to treat X-ALD, which will allow them to continue research on the drug. Also, Som Biotech has made the Sifted ranking of top Spanish start-ups, published in the Financial Times.
Som Biotech, Minoryx and GoodGut are three of the 20 companies that are on our list of 20 companies that will be in the news in 2020. Don't miss the full list in this month's Biocat blog post.
And still on the subject of funding: Inveready has set up GAEA Inversión, their first private equity vehicle focusing on investment in SMEs, which hopes to get €110 million in investment commitments.
More business news: Transmural Biotech has developed a test based on artificial intelligence that can predict the risk of neonatal morbidity. Additionally, Devicare continues to expand internationally, having moved into the market in the Philippines with Cathay Drug to distribute their product Lit Control.
VHIR will do testing in humans with the thrombectomy system developed by Anaconda Biomed to treat ischemic stroke. Also in the medtech world, Barcelona Science Park and IESE have joined forces to promote the entrepreneurial ecosystem in medical devices.
Catalan pharmaceutical corporations bolstered by acquisitions: Esteve has purchased German firm Riemser, in another step to strengthen their position in Europe. For their part, Almirall will pay €56 million for Bioniz Therapeutics to move into oncodermatology. Also this month, the Catalan pharmaceutical corporation announced an agreement with US firm 23andMe and Chinese firm WuxiBiologics to reinforce their position in dermatology. Additionally, Laboratoris Salvat has invested nearly €9 million to develop a drug for ear infections that they expect to launch in Europe and the United States within a year.
Innovation in cardiology in hospitals
Catalonia beat its record for number of transplants, with 1,296 in 2019, up 12.6% from the previous year: this figure has risen for the past six years in a row. This milestone is possible thanks to donors and hospitals in the BioRegion, who this month announced new innovations.
For example, Vall d’Hebron has done femur implants that allow patients to put on or take off prostheses with just a click: unlike classic prostheses, they allow users to better coordinate the force on the femur while walking. Vall d’Hebron also successfully completed the first triple transplant of heart, kidney and liver in the country, on a 10-year-old patient with a minority disease. In terms of facilities, the Government has promoted construction of a new building for the Vall d'Hebron Research Institute and announced they will be finished in March 2023. The building will have more than 16,000 m2 of space for research and house the latest technology for advanced therapies.
Catalan hospitals announced numerous innovations in cardiology this month. Germans Trias i Pujol Hospital used the first procedure of its kind in Catalonia to operate on a patient with mitral insufficiency without open-heart surgery, Hospital del Mar has cut the number of cardiac emergencies and re-admissions with a program that has patients share their info every day, and Sant Pau has proven that lung ultrasounds are a key tool in preventing future complications from acute heart failure. Also, Hospital Trueta and the Daniel Bravo Foundation have set up a new advanced cardiac imaging unit considered highly specialized excellence.
The origin of metastasis and other advances in research
The Catalan researcher who gave the most interviews this month was Joan Massagué, who has found the origin of metastasis at the Sloan Kettering Institute in New York: hacking one of the body's natural repair mechanisms. These findings open the door to new therapies to prevent and cure it. More big news in oncology, ISGlobal has discovered the reason why men have a higher risk of cancer: the loss of functions in key genes on the Y chromosome. Also, IRB Barcelona has discovered that inhibiting the p53 protein curbs growth of lung tumors.
In neurology, a study by BarcelonaBeta Brain Research Center shows that people with insomnia have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer. Another study, coordinated by Hospital Clinic-IDIBAPS, shows that a diet rich in walnuts can help improve cognition and perception in the elderly.
Another study published in The Lancet, with participation from Hospital Clinic, showed the efficacy of a monoclonal antibody to treat chronic rhinosinusitis with serious nasal polyps, which will allow doctors to administer an alternative treatment when the standard treatment with corticosteroids doesn't work.
Research at CIBERDEM and Pere Virgili Institute has found that gestational diabetes leaves the baby prone to metabolic diseases. Also, the Catalan Institute of Health and IDIAPJGol have joined forces with the Gasol Foundation to fight childhood obesity: the goal is to pilot and validate a community intervention model that can prevent it. Exercise plays a key role, and not just in weight: a study at IMIM has shown that physical activity changes the way our DNA acts, influencing its structure without change the sequence.
Roundworms helped IDIBELL researchers discover the factors that modify some genetic diseases: this could also help study possible treatments.
A UAB study has identified the mechanisms that allow Mycoplasma genitalium bacteria to survive in the urogenital tract, a key step towards developing therapies for it. Another university, the UB, published a catalog of experimental models to promote transfer: it is a tool that allows scientists to search for and identify the right experimental model depending on the disease or process they want to study.
And, speaking of universities, URV Rector María José Figueras has been named president of the Catalan Association of Public Universities (ACUP).