A piece of news
Difficulties in finding funding, above all venture capital —mainly due to the lack of specialized companies— and the need to incorporate executives with international management knowledge and experience that can drive business development are the main challenges facing the biotech sector in Catalonia and Spain. Carlos Buesa, CEO of Oryzon Genomics and vice-president of Asebio, highlighted these issues in his presentation to the Spanish Business Forum, held yesterday at the Instituto Cervantes in Chicago. This was just one of the many events prior to the official inauguration of the BIO convention, the most important international fair in the biotech sector, which will be inaugurated this morning (9.45 am, local time) in the capital of Illinois.
A number of conferences and round tables, noteworthy among which include the presentation of the Ernst & Young Beyond Borders 2010 report, were held prior to the opening of the convention, during which time the Catalan delegation to BIO, made up of 90 people and headed by the vice-president of the Government of Catalonia, Josep Lluís Carod-Rovira, completed its arrival. Carod-Rovira met with the prime minister of Quebec, Jean Charest, and is scheduled to visit the fair this morning and visit the stands of the 31 companies and 16 organizations that make up the Catalan delegation, which occupy more than half of the Spanish pavilion, which with more than 1,000 square metres is the largest in this year’s BIO convention. In the afternoon, a collaboration agreement is scheduled to be signed between Biocat and Biopolis, the organization that brings together the three bioregions in Quebec, to foster joint training and business promotion projects.
Yesterday, the majority of the extensive delegation attended the Spanish Business Forum, which was presided over by the Spanish minister of Industry, Tourism and Trade, Miguel Sebastian, who highlighted the growing importance of companies in the healthcare and life sciences sector for the international presence of Spanish companies. As an example, he pointed out the development of Catalan company Grifols, one of the first companies in the world to develop and market hemoderivatives. In the debate following his talk, Brian F. Scullion, from William Blair & Company’s Healthcare Investment Banking Group, pointed out that the funding difficulties Spanish biotech companies experience, as mentioned by Buesa, are directly connected to an international trend in venture capital (VC) to reduce investment and seek out more short-term returns.
The Ernst & Young report presented at BIO yesterday, to nearly 2,000 of the total 17,000 accredited delegates, shows that while total investment in this sector held steady in 2009, the trend was to concentrate investment and 20% of the companies received 78.5% of the capital invested, 4% more than in 2008, and companies with less access to funds received even less funding than the previous year.
The Beyond Borders 2010 report shows that the most pessimistic previsions, for a significant decrease in the number of biotech companies in 2009, did not come true and that, in general, the sector has been able to face the recession effectively.
Good expectations for Catalan companies
Likewise, Catalan companies participating in the BIO fair believe that their presence in Chicago will allow them to significantly drive their international projection, both to market their products and services and to identify strategic partners. In addition to the new contributions to BIO by Archivel Farma, Dr. Healthcare and Telstar Technologies, discussed in previous news, a number of companies and organizations are taking advantage of the fair to present new treatments and therapies. Specifically, Neurotec Pharma will present the preclinical safety and efficacy results for their new oral multiple sclerosis treatment, which have allowed them to plan a phase II clinical trial that will be carried out in the second half of 2011.
Ferrer inCode will present, among others, their Cardio in Code service, a recent creation that uses an integrated system to analyze genetic data, medical records and patient habits to detect long-term cardiovascular risk. This Catalan company, created by the Ferrer pharmaceutical group and Gendiag, specializes in genetic analysis for predictive medicine in diverse fields such as oncology (detecting risk of metastasis in breast cancer) pharmacogenetics (predicting reactions to specific medications) or neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer.
In their participation at the BIO fair, the Barcelona Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB) seeks institutional and business agreements to develop technology fine-tuned by researchers in their center, in particular drug-delivery systems in the brain (Ernest Giralt), compounds to treat degenerative diseases (Joan J. Guinovart) and advanced bioinformatics applications (Patrick Aloy).
Tomorrow, Wednesday 5 May, Lluís Ruiz, CEO of Archivel Farma, will give a press conference before international media accredited at BIO about the RUTI tuberculosis vaccine produced by this company from research developed by two researchers from the Germans Trias Hospital. This vaccine has successfully completed the first phase of clinical trials and will soon begin a new phase in South Africa.