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With 3 months until the end of 2020, the life sciences and healthcare sector in Catalonia is flexing its muscles, in spite of expectations it would be a challenging year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In just 9 months, startups in the BioRegion have managed to raise €120 million in investment, well above the previous record from 2019, which was €112 million. The main driving force for this growth has been venture capital with international participation, which is up 67.1% to over €50 million for the first time.

This data is from BioRegion of Catalonia Life Sciences and Healthcare Outlook 2020 - Challenges Ahead, the report compiled jointly by Biocat and CataloniaBio & HealthTech and presented this morning by Biocat CEO Jordi Naval and President of CataloniaBio & HealthTech Judit Anido. The event was inaugurated by President of the Government of Catalonia Quim Torra. In his speech, Torra highlighted that, in the “dark hours” of the Covid-19 pandemic, “Catalonia is lucky to have people who are generating light, which are the research teams and healthcare system.” “Which is increasingly international,” he added, alluding to the sustained increase in foreign capital being invested in the BioRegion.

The report presented this year by Biocat and CataloniaBio & HealthTech highlights the challenges the ecosystem is facing to keep Catalonia among the top healthcare innovation clusters on the continent and proposes ways to improve in five areas. In this regard, Torra noted that “there is still a lot to do in terms of technology transfer, attracting investment and talent, and adopting technology and business innovation.” He also added, “Biomedical science has to be one of the driving forces for change in the new society.”


Indicators of success

BioRegion of Catalonia Life Sciences and Healthcare Outlook 2020 - Challenges Ahead shows that one in four rounds this year have had foreign participation, mainly from Europe and the United States. This international participation has spurred on private venture capital investment, the stock market and crowdequity, with a total of €105.37 million, breaking the barrier of €100 million in a year for the first time. The most noteworthy operations were carried out by Ona Therapeutics (€30 million) and Oryzon (€20 million) in biotech, NEOS Surgery in medtech (€4 million) and Qida in digital health (€3.6 million).

Although the biotech and medtech sectors see more investment than others, the report notes the fast growth of digital health in recent years, where the number of companies has doubled in the past 5 years, to 180 in 2019.


Challenges for the ecosystem and proposed actions

One of the main assets that channels investment towards the BioRegion is the quality of its research. A total of 41 therapies are in the clinical phase in the BioRegion. Furthermore, the BioRegion is ranked among the top 15 globally (13) and the top 10 in Europe (7) in volume of clinical trials, with 776 active studies in 2019. In 2020, 82 trials began in the field of Covid-19, more than half of the Spanish total (159).

As Biocat CEO Jordi Naval highlighted, these indicators show that “Covid-19 has only accentuated the importance of a crucial sector that is a driving force for innovation in the country.” He also warned, “We are dropping down the rankings on European innovation maps and have to launch actions and mechanisms to maximize the assets in our research and innovation system, which are extremely competitive.”

For her part, CataloniaBio & HealthTech President Judit Anido noted, “The sector’s success is based on a research model of excellence, education, entrepreneurship and innovation, and we have to take measures so we don’t drop down the European regional innovation rankings.”

This is why the report emphasizes the challenges the ecosystem will have to face to boost its impact on the economy and its role in driving innovation, proposing actions for improvement in five areas: technology transfer, talent actions and development, mobilizing capital and attracting investment, encouraging the public healthcare system to adopt new technology and consolidating businesses.


The press release about the report is available here.

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