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HIGHLIGHTS: Corporate operations, rounds of funding, calls and advances in research

Awards, science publications and healthcare innovations round out the November headlines in the BioRegion

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25.11.2019

While consumers are preparing for Black Friday, the life sciences sector has gone shopping this month: corporate operations took a good handful of headlines in November. Let’s look back at some of them: pharmaceutical company Aerie Pharma, traded on the Nasdaq, paid more than €10 million for start-up Avizorex Pharma, based at the Barcelona Science Park and specialized in ophthalmology. Tibidabo Ventures acquired Abac Therapeutics, the Catalan biotechnology company that specializes in antibiotics that saw the second largest round of funding in the sector in Spain last year (€16 million).

Palex is growing again: the healthcare technology company has acquired Madrid-based Bemascé. Atrys Health closed its deal to acquire the Medical Institute for Radiation Oncology, an important step forward in its positioning in radiotherapy services in the country. Labiana Life Sciences acquired Serbian veterinary company Veterinarski Zavod Subotica and Japanese company Kaneka now holds 86% of AB-Biotics, as part of its process to stop trading on the MAB. For its part, the Uriach family once again holds 100% of Palau Pharma, a spin-off of Uriach that specializes in prescription drugs.

More news on funding. OxoLife is looking for €8 million to advance embryo implantation: the company is finishing a round to complete phase I studies and preparing a second for phase II. Mimedicus needs €2 million to develop its app that allows patients to receive medical care at home. For its part, Qmenta has opened a €1.35-million round  to take its algorithms to the US market and Made of Genes has opened a €1-million round to do the same with its new personalized medicine service.

Good news for Minoryx Therapeutics, which received orphan drug approval from the  EMA and the FDA for its drug for Friedreich ataxia.

Turning to awards. The Government of Catalonia has granted Josep Trueta medals and plaques to 18 professionals and 5 organizations. With the awards, the executive branch recognizes the work and careers of professionals and organizations in the healthcare arena. ABLE and Rehand have been granted Expansión “Start-up” awards in the Health and Biotechnology category. Onira Research received the EIT Health Medtech Bootcamp award for its kit to treat resistant high blood pressure. Additionally, CaixaBank and Enisa have opened the call for the Emprenedor XXI awards, geared towards start-ups in Spain and Portugal: the deadline to submit candidates is December 4.

 

News from pharmaceutical companies

Grifols has refinanced €5.8 billion in bank debt,  which will allow the company to continue with its long-term growth plans. And do they have plans, among others, the company has started production at its new plant in Brazil, the first in Latin America, and has gotten the green light from Chinese authorities for its alliance with Shanghai Raas.

Almirall confirms its upward trend, hitting nearly €100 million in profit over the first 9 months of this year, with nearly €700 million in total turnover, up 17% from last year. Plus, the Gallardo family earned €168 million from the sale of 6.3% of the company.

Reig Jofre has gotten approval to market an antibiotic and will begin sales in Portugal in early 2020. The company posted net losses of €2 million.

 

Grants and advances in research

“La Caixa” published the rules for the “La Caixa” Health Research Grants. Be on the lookout for the call in January. La Marató de TV3 gave out the €15 million raised to fight cancer to 96 research groups. Additionally, IDIBELL, VHIR and IIB Sant Pau have won Gilead Science grants to support R&D projects in biomedicine, and ICREA researcher Roger Gomis, of IRB Barcelona, has been awarded a grant by the Fero Foundation to study metastatic breast cancer.

On the subject of oncology: Catalonia has one of the highest cancer-survival rates in the world: according to the results of a registry published by the Catalan Institute of Oncology. A study by the Josep Carreras Foundation has discovered that leukemia cells can stop being cancerous if the epigenome is altered. The findings could prevent the cells from resisting treatment.

Scientists at IDIBAPS have developed a non-invasive method to diagnose colon cancer, based on analyzing feces samples, and at IDIBELL researchers have discovered the weight of a new protein in liver cancer: the finding will allow them to select patients and apply a more specific therapy.

And speaking of oncology therapies, researchers at IRB Barcelona have discovered the DNA mutations caused by chemotherapy: the study shows that gene alterations may cause secondary effects like malign neoplasms. A study by CIBER-BBN at Hospital de Sant Pau and UAB has opened up a new pathway to treat non-Hodgkin lymphoma using nanoparticles that only eliminate tumor cells.

Furthermore, researchers at CIBER-BNN and UAB have created a new drug-delivery strategy for breast cancer, based on non-toxic granules administered locally that have shown prolonged therapeutic effects. Researchers at the ALBA Synchrotron, in collaboration with other centers, have developed biocompatible nanoparticles for ongoing breast-cancer drug delivery.

Vall d’Hebron launched a campaign to promote research into childhood dystonia and raise awareness of the disease. On the same campus, a VHIR study has shown that fecal microbiota can help combat inflammatory intestinal diseases. Additionally, IRBLleida hosted the first #SomRecerca event to raise awareness of the role patients play in research. CaixaBank and “la Caixa” have launched a micro-patronage campaign to get hours for research into healthy ageing at this research center.

Nearly 3,000 people will take part in a study to reduce the use of antibiotics: the study involves 20 centers in Barcelona and aims to assess the efficacy of various strategies to reduce the use of antibiotics. Just this month, international experts warned of the lack of new antibiotics at a session of B·Debate, promoted by Biocat and "la Caixa" and co-organized by ISGlobal. This center published two studies this month showing how quality and use of green areas influence people’s physical exercise and emotional health. Another study by ISGlobal warns that prenatal exposure to air pollution is associated with changes in children’s brains associated with behavioral disorders.

Also in prenatal health, a study at IRB Barcelona has decoded the key differences between SMAD2 and SMAD3, two transcription factors involved in embryo development. Their colleagues at the Lleida Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRBLleida) have discovered genetic ties between cardiovascular function and Alzheimer. Additionally, scientists at UAB and CRG have created a database to identify key genes in bacterial infections.

IBB Sant Pau and UAB have set up a Joint Research Unit in Genomic Medicine. The goal: to boost basic and applied research in this field. Hospital Clinic participated in a study that discovered biomarkers that predict cardiovascular issues after pneumonia, and a study at Hospital del Mar detected that one in four cases of ruptured brain aneurysm is confused with a migraine.

More innovations that affect clinical practice at our hospitals: Hospital de Sant Pau has printed 3D hearts. The technology has been used to successfully complete complex surgeries and 14 patients have already benefited. Also, Hospital Sant Pau has started applying a new technique to prevent bleeding in intracranial biopsies, preventing neurological effects or a more serious surgery with a craniotomy.

Hospital Clinic, Sant Joan de Déu and UPF have created a groundbreaking surgical navigation system for fetal operations. The new system is more precise, shortens surgery time and lowers the mortality rate. Also this month, Hospital Sant Joan de Déu inaugurated new latest-generation pediatric operating rooms that include resonance, CT and hybrid arc.

Bellvitge University Hospital is doing its first spinal surgeries in hybrid operating rooms: it is the only center with a room set aside exclusively for these diseases. For its part, Hospital Parc Taulí has incorporated 3D technology to operate on a patient with a brain tumor. The technique means less time in the operating room and fewer complications.

Hospital Vall d’Hebron and Hospital Sant Rafael have inaugurated a Frailty Unit, a new unit to prevent functional and cognitive decline in frail patients and support them as much as possible in their recovery.

Parc Hospitalari Martí i Julià in Salt has implemented new digital technology for patents’ neuro-rehabilitation, and Hospital Arnau in Vilanova is monitoring 30 patients with heart failure using an app, as part of a nationwide program with 10 hospitals. This center is also committed to humanizing pediatric care incorporating electric toy cars to take patients to the operating room.

And let’s finish off with a note from the private sector. HM Group has acquired the Hospital de Nens de Barcelona for €10 million, and Clínica Corachan and Genesis Care have inaugurated the 360 Centre of Oncological Excellence to treat cancer patients with a new healthcare model.