A piece of news
When the doors of Chicago’s McCormick Center closed on this year’s BIO convention, the Catalan delegation returned to Barcelona with their bags full of possible clients and potential partners, key contacts to develop new therapies and innovative drugs, and preliminary purchase agreements for cutting-edge technology developed in Catalonia.
Satisfaction among companies and organizations that made up the delegation was extremely high after the second day of the conference. Heidi Sistiaga, of Palau Pharma, highlighted the boost this company received thanks to the presentation of satisfactory results of the clinical trials (phase II) carried out by North-American company Afectis Pharmaceuticals on Cimicoxib, a molecule discovered and developed by this biotech company from the Uriach group. “This is a drug to treat depression that we licensed to Afectis. The statistically relevant results of the trial are an important step for this product, created by Palau Pharma, towards reaching the market”.
Jaume Mir, of Arquebio, pointed out that, in addition to various international contacts, he is also taking away from BIO Chicago contacts at top specialized media outlets, like Bio Pharm International, which will soon publish a report on the company, which has recently changed name and completed a second round of funding (Neotec II).
Additionally, Francisco Javier Fernández, from CRC–Molecular Imaging Center, stressed the interest many American companies showed, “with whom we expect to sign agreements over the next weeks”, in their technology, which uses imaging to diagnose diseases like Alzheimer 10 years before patients show symptoms or to “follow” micromolecules through the body with isotopes to prove drug efficacy without adverse effects to the patient.
Carlos Buesa, CEO of Oryzon Genomics, was also satisfied with the company’s participation in the fair: “We’ve seen that multinational pharmaceutical companies are very interested in our preclinical programs and value our new approach. We have tried to carry on with negotiations we started months ago at other fairs, like BioEurope Spring in Barcelona, and hope to close an important deal in the near future”.
The heads of Grifols Engineering, likewise, held meetings in Chicago with potential partners to develop a new system of aseptic packaging for biotech products, which is currently in the final phase. The engineering department of this Catalan multinational is also closing negotiations with an American company to supply two plasma-emptying lines —two ABO (Automatic Bottle Opener) systems patented by Grifols. “We’ve signed a letter of intent and are finishing up the final specification”, explained Sergi Roura, CEO of Grifols Engineering.
Likewise, Telstar, one of the main medical technology companies in the country and first-time participant at BIO, expressed positive reactions. “We came to present the first bio-reactor to screen cell cultures, which is the first product of its type on the market, and we’re very happy with the reactions we have received”, explained Roser Dalmau, representative of the company at the Chicago convention. “The international companies we have contacted are have had positive reactions to this new technology, as it cuts the screening time in half and completely eliminates risk of contamination between samples, and we’re sure that we can transform that into sales over the next few months”.
Not only the companies had positive things to say about their experience at BIO. Valentí Llagostera, head of the Department of Promotion at the Parc de l’Alba science and technology park —home to the recently inaugurated synchrotron— said “here at BIO we’ve met science parks from the USA and Canada with companies that may be interested in expanding their activity to Europe and told them about all that Parc de l’Alba has to offer. We’ve also made important contacts with two of the largest real estate developers here in the United States that manage construction and adaptation of buildings for bio companies. These management companies play a key role in selecting the location for companies they work with and can be decisive in attracting international companies to our park”.
According to some of the entrepreneurs in the Catalan delegation, like Lluís Ribas of Omnia Molecular and Marco Pugliese of Neurotec Pharma, this was still a “transition” convention, in which they once again felt the effects of the recession, with less participants than in previous years (17,000 delegates in 2010 vs. nearly 25,000 at BIO 2008). Nevertheless, they expressed positive impressions of the Spanish and Catalan presence. “The companies we contacted were surprised by the potential of the Spanish, and particularly the Catalan, biotechnology sector. The dimensions of the stand (with 1,000 square metres, Spain had the largest state-sponsored pavilion at the fair) and the number of companies and organizations present surprised delegations that are not familiar with our country”, explained Pugliese, who also believes that institutional support is very important, like the presence of vice-president of the Government of Catalonia, Josep Lluís Carod-Rovira, and the visit of Spanish minister of Industry, Miguel Sebastian.
Lluís Ruiz, CEO of Archivel, expressed similar sentiments after his meeting with the Catalan Vice-President to update him on the status of their RUTI© vaccine project, which protects against latent tuberculosis and is currently starting phase II clinical trials in the Republic of South Africa.
For Biocat, which has coordinated the delegation of more than 80 people from 47 companies and organizations, the positive feedback from Catalan delegates and the large number of requests for information about the BioRegion and its stakeholders are an excellent return on the effort invested. More over, BIO has made possible the signing of a collaboration agreement between Biocat and Biopolis, the organization that represents the three Quebec bioclusters (Montréal InVivo, Pôle Québec Chaudière-Appalaches and Innovation et développement économique de Sherbrooke, IDES). The agreement aims to drive start up of a virtual school of medicine, foster partnering among organizations and companies in Catalonia and Quebec, and share experiences and ideas.
Montserrat Vendrell, CEO of Biocat, who brought Catalan participation at BIO to a close this afternoon at a round table on European and American bioclusters (Beyond the Horizon-Tearing Down Borders to Forge Alliances Between Biotech Clusters), concluded that “one of the great benefits of participating in this fair, in addition to the essential boost to the sector’s internationalization, is that it allows the different stakeholders in the BioRegion to meet, strengthening relationships between our companies and organizations to create optimum conditions for productive long- and mid-term collaboration”.