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After two years of the pandemic, the presentation of the 2021 BioRegion of Catalonia Report was one of the most anticipated events in the sector. This was clear in the more than 300 people who signed up to attend in person, and the event again highlighted the value of networking for professional and business growth. Furthermore, the data published in this year’s report confirms the ecosystem’s growth and economic impact, as it now accounts for 8.7% of the Catalan GDP, 9% of the working population and €37.7 billion in annual turnover, including companies from the sector and healthcare services.  

Biocat CEO Robert Fabregat and CataloniaBio & HealthTech President Jaume Amat presented the main results from the Report. The event also featured Natàlia Mas, CEO of ACCIÓ and director general of Industry for the Government of Catalonia, and Silvia Ondategui, Life Sciences partner at Ernst & Young. President of the Government of Catalonia Pere Aragonès rounded off the event virtually with words confirming the need to promote “strategic sectors for the future and reactivate those with the greatest potential to create quality jobs, value added and prosperity for society as a whole.”  

Record investment and international participation in operations

In 2021, startups in the BioRegion raised €238 million in investment, the most to date, surpassing the €200-million mark for the second year in a row. Funding through venture capital was the main driver of this growth, with more than €187 million. “Despite the pandemic, the indicators were very positive,” emphasized Biocat CEO Robert Fabregat, referring to investment and other macroeconomic and innovation indicators from the Report. “More efforts have been put into innovation.”

The amount of foreign venture capital being invested in the BioRegion of Catalonia has grown steadily in recent years. In fact, 83% of the capital raised was in operations with international investors. These investors’ interest in local projects is growing, as Ysios Capital Managing Partner Joël Jean-Mairet explained: “Attracting international capital to the BioRegion allows for strong capitalization of companies and is a huge help in attracting top-notch talent.”

According to data from the Report, the sector has an industry that exports over 50% of the products from Spain, and a business fabric of over 1,300 companies. In this regard, the CEO of ACCIÓ and director general of Industry, Natàlia Mas, highlighted that we have to play our cards right and use financial tools wisely, referring to the NextGenerationEU funds, to boost this unique ecosystem in Europe. 

European regulatory models and hub for advanced therapies, up for debate

The agenda for the event included two panel discussions on hot topics for the community: the first, “Hi I’m an SME, where is my fast track?”, was moderated by Biocat Scientific and International Relations Director Montserrat Daban and featured Richard Charter, vice-president for Market Access MedTech Europa and Asia-Pacific at Alira Health; Marco Wendel, CEO of Medical Valley Digital Health Application Center GmbH (DMAC); Nina Bufi, eHealth projects director for the French Ministry of Health; Suzanne Ali-Hassan, deputy director for Commercial and Innovation at UCLPartners; and Ramon Maspons, CIO at the Agency for Health Quality and Assessment of Catalonia (AQuAS).

During the session, they analyzed the models various countries use to facilitate market access for digital health and medical technology. Richard Charter explained market access paths in the European sphere, generally, and the representatives of each country explained local programs. For instance, Marco Wendel explained the German DiGA program as a fast track to digital transformation and how DMAC is working to support companies through a modular network that meets the needs of all digital health innovators. France has drawn inspiration from DiGA, Nina Bufi explained, and in this regard President Macron announced in late 2021 that he wants a fast track to make digital therapies accessible to patients and reimbursable by the public health system. Suzanne Ali-Hassan presented the model used in the United Kingdom, referring to the need to compile proof before accessing the market and to facilitate market uptake. Finally, Ramon Maspons explained public procurement from the buyer’s perspective, and the value of the product in the Catalan system. 

The second panel, “The BioRegion’s Next Generation commitment: a hub of excellence in emerging therapies and personalized medicine”, presented the BioRegion’s goal to position itself as a leading European hub and global benchmark in emerging therapies and personalized medicine, which will capitalize a large share of the NextGenerationEU funds Catalonia receives. Biocat CEO Robert Fabregat moderated the session, which featured Mariona Sanz, general director of European Funds for the Government of Catalonia; Fina Lladós, CEO of Amgen; Toni Andreu, scientific director of EATRIS; Joan Comella, Secretary of ACER (Catalan Association of Research Centers); and Ignasi Biosca, CEO of Reig Jofre.

Mariona Sanz highlighted the Government’s importance in a strategic project like this one to bring about much more universal, personalized and digitalized healthcare, while also calling for public-private partnerships, an opinion Joan Comella and Ignasi Biosca shared. Fina Lladós, for her part, underscored the attractiveness of the hub, as long as the innovations end up reaching patients. “Adopting the technology is one of our challenges.” To be competitive with other European ecosystems, Toni Andreu called on all the players involved to work together to move forward with this project, for all of Catalonia.  

You can watch the presentation of the results from the Report and the two panel discussions in this video: 

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