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In the final round of selection, the European Horizon 2020 has chosen two Catalan start-ups from the health sector: Inbiomotion and Peptomyc, which will receive €50,000 to fund their innovative projects and carry out feasibility studies on new ideas and products.

Inbiomotion, founded by Dr. Roger Gomis (ICREA research professor), is a spin-off of the Institute for Research in Biomedicine Barcelona and ICREA that was founded in late 2010 to develop biomarkers to predict bone metastasis in cancer patients from biopsies of primary tumors.

The company came out of the IRB Barcelona Growth Control and Cancer Metastasis Laboratory, which recently discovered the gene that allows breast tumor cells to nest in bones and create new tumors. This knowledge has been patented and transferred to Inbiomotion, which now has technology ready and is validating the marker in clinical studies with 3,300 patients.

The company has received support from the Ysios Capital venture capital fund and Fundació Vila Casas since 2012 and more recently from Caixa Capital Risc. The investment from Ysios, in a €2-millions round of funding, was not only the first investment the fund made in a spin-off of a public basic research center but was also key to the development of the product and the regulatory and clinical validation process, which was done by analyzing more than 900 clinical samples of primary breast cancer tumors in Barcelona and England.

Peptomyc, a spin-off of the Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology (VHIO) created in late 2014, is developing a new therapeutic option for cancer patients that attacks the Myc protein –the most feared oncogene in cancer- with a cell-penetrating inhibitor peptide. The research group has begun testing the drug compound, called Omomyc-CPP, in the preclinical phases in mice and the results are very positive, as explains co-founder of Peptomyc and group leader, Dr. Laura Soucek.

“We’ve started working with lung cancer and glioblastoma, but our final goal is to use the product with most, if not all, types of cancer,” says Soucek. According to the researcher, the aim of the grant is to develop the scientific results on the Myc inhibitor into a competitive product for the market.

The company hopes to prove the product’s efficacy in the clinical phase, although they still have two years left, and plans to license or sell it after having completed all the phases. “That will probably be in five years,” predicts Soucek. For now, the Horizon 2020 grant will allow them to take their first steps, establish their business plan and strengthen intellectual property.

So far, Peptomyc has also received a €5,000 prize in the Vall d'Hebron Research Institute Health Innovation Contest (VHIR) and got the chance to present its project at the latest Healthcare Investment Forum, which Biocat collaborates on. “After the forum we made contact with business angels and venture capital funds and we’re working to close a significant first round of funding. That would allow us to significantly advance in the regulatory phase,” says Laura Soucek.

Along with these two biotech firms, three other Catalan start-ups were also selected for Horizon 2020 grants: Ecrowd Invest, based in Barcelona and financing profitable investments, Instagreen, a healthy food-delivery service based in Barcelona, and Axeb Biotech, of Lleida, which works with nutritional additives for animal feed to reduce obesity and extend lifespan. In addition to the five Catalan start-ups, 44 other companies have also received European funding. 

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