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“Nothing is possible if you walk alone.” These are the words that Bonaventura Clotet, IrsiCaixa director, cited to highlight the value of partnerships between biopharmaceutical companies and research centers in the development of Covid-19 projects in the BioRegion. The recent winner of the 2020 National Research Award stressed the importance of these synergies when working on vaccines and drugs to combat the coronavirus at a panel discussion organized by Biocat as part of the 44th World Hospital Congress held this month in Barcelona. 

Other participants in the session were Èlia Torroella, R&D and Records director at HIPRA; Sofia Ferreira, co-founder of Heecap; Oriol Roca, ICU medical coordinator at the Vall d’Hebron Hospital; and Marc Dechamps, president of the Council of European BioRegions. They are all prominent stakeholders in these actions which have accelerated innovative and disruptive new proposals for addressing the pandemic quickly and efficiently. 

“The response was quick and collaborative in order to provide solutions in the shortest timeframe possible. IrsiCaixa has worked along with other institutions to find a vaccine and drugs for the coronavirus, and throughout these months it has participated in different clinical trials to lower the number of transmissions and stop the progression of the disease,” Dr. Clotet explained, while recalling that the AIDS Research Institute fostered collective research with the open-source publication of all the research results

Another example of cooperative work was HIPRA, the pharmaceutical company specializing in animal health which saw the opportunity to launch a new business line with the development of a coronavirus vaccine. “We had the resources, and we were familiar with the virus, but partnerships with other scientific colleagues and hospitals were key to developing the solution,” recalled Èlia Torroella, referring to the vaccine which is currently waiting to begin phase IIb of its clinical trial

The implementation of innovation at hospitals was also a chance to forge new alliances. The Vall d’Hebron Hospital is partnering in the development of the startup Heecap, the medical device that stimulates breathing in patients on mechanical ventilators in order to improve their recovery, which came from d·HEALTH Barcelona, the program promoted by Biocat. “During our immersion at the Germans Trias i Pujol Hospital, we detected an unmet clinical need related to Covid-19, and the team was determined to continue developing it once the program was over,” Sofia Ferreira explained.

The crucial role of clusters during the pandemic

Organizations of clusters like the Council of European BioRegions (CEBR) and Biocat played the role of intermediary during the pandemic, thus expanding their purview and helping turn the crisis into an opportunity to address society's challenges. “The creation of a rapid response platform in coordination with the European Commission had a truly positive impact on different ecosystems and value chains in the industry,” said Marc Dechamps. Similarly, Biocat also played a prominent role in 2020 by fostering connections among the different stakeholders and partnering with several initiatives, such as drafting the document entitled “Let's regain initiative, now,” which identified the actions to be taken in order to be better prepared in the event of a new pandemic, and by promoting the network of 19 research and innovation projects which received funding from the Catalan Ministry of Health to prevent and treat Covid-19 and retooling the seventh edition of the d·Health Barcelona program to an online version focused on the pandemic.

Montserrat Daban, Biocat Scientific and International Relations director, also spoke about the crucial role played by clusters during the pandemic at a session this month organized by the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences entitled “Cities under Covid-19: A Systems Perspective”.  


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