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HIGHLIGHTS: Digital health, crowdfunding, clinical advances and oncology discoveries

New hires and investment in companies, hospitals and research centers round out the headlines for October

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28.10.2019

This month, the news in Catalonia has mainly focused on politics, but companies and research organizations in the BioRegion are still working and have given us a whole bunch of headlines this October.

Minoryx Therapeutics has finished recruiting patients for its phase II trial on Friedreich’s ataxia. If you want to know more about the progress of development on this drug and other therapies they’re currently working on in the BioRegion of Catalonia, don’t miss the post we’ve prepared this month on the Biocat blog.

MOLOMICS has opened a €400,000 round of funding with Capital Cell to continue work on their Parkinson drug. Also Made of Genes is preparing an €800,000 round on the same crowdfunding platform for November. And there’s also news from the trading floor: AB-Biotics shareholders have given the company the green light to stop trading on the Spanish Alternative Stock Exchange (MAB). This biotechnology firm, by the way, is out of the red, having earned €722,000 in the first half of the year.

Zeclinics launched ZeCardio, a company that will do most of its R&D work and develop new drugs for cardiovascular diseases.

Now let’s turn to investments: Atrys Health has acquired the IMOR Medical Institute for Radiotherapy and Oncology, which has two centers in Barcelona. Additionally, Kymos Pharma has invested €2.5 million in a new laboratory at Parc Tecnològic del Vallès and Laboratoris Entema will invest €12 million to acquire a space in Llicà de Vall in order to increase capacity.

But there has also been bad news: Transplant Biomedical has filed for bankruptcy due to the increase in competition in the sector.

In the section on names in the news, Inveready has hired Jesús Acebillo, former CEO of Novartis. This executive has joined the investment committee for the Inveready Biotech III fund, which began work in 2019 with the goal of investing in 20 biotechnology companies. Devicare has hired Vanessa Llopart, an executive at Emesa. Also, Esteve has hired a new adviser: Javier Cano, formerly working at Cigna, who is taking over Joan Esteve’s seat on the board.

Pharmaceutical corporations committed to digital health

Let’s continue with news from the pharmaceutical companies. Ferrer is hoping to grow in digital health and has launched a start-up collaboration platform to move forward in this field: Ferrer 4 Future. Through 20 December, the platform is accepting digital solutions that address the challenges of caring for chronic patients, treatment adherence and commitment to self-managing diseases and reducing chronic pain.

Almirall is also committed to digital health and has launched another specific call in dermatology, the first step towards creating the program Digital Garden, powered by Almirall. The deadline for the call was 25 October. Furthermore, Almirall has kicked off its phase III program with Lebrikizumab for patients with atopic dermatitis. The pharmaceutical company earned nearly €90 million in the sale of Duaklir in the USA, based on the marketing deal with AstraZeneca. 

Grífols has received approval from the United States for the operation through which Shanghai Raas will acquire 45% of the shares of Grifols Diagnostics Solution, the group’s US subsidiary. Final approval for the acquisition is now in the hands of the Chinese authorities. Plus, the pharmaceutical group’s holding company has acquired US-based BPL after getting €875 million from the bank.

News from hospitals and research centers

Hospital del Mar is kicking off the second phase of its expansion, with an additional 80,000 square meters of space, 503 beds and 19 operating rooms. The hospital is committed to co-creating new buildings with its patients. For its part, CatSalut has approved the proposal to bring Gecohsa onboard to manage Hospital de Móra d’Ebre starting next year.

A team at Vall d’Hebron has identified a new type of HIV viral reservoir cells: resident memory T cells (TRM). Plus, the hospital has inaugurated the first center in Spain devoted to researching and treating migraines, the Migraine Adaptive Brain Center, with collaboration from “la Caixa”. And continuing with the changes of recent months, Vall d’Hebron appointed a new Director of Healthcare this month: Antonio Román, medical coordinator of the adult lung-transplant program.

There are also changes in the management team at the Research Institute of the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau: Jordi Surrallés, doctor of genetics, is the new head of the Institute. The center was also in the news for its science, as researchers there have found a link between thyroid cancer and “bad” cholesterol.

Staying on the subject of oncology: researchers at Hospital Clinic have discovered cancer-driving mutations in the unexplored area of the genome. An IDIBELL study has shown how those who survive oligodendroglial brain tumors run the risk of cognitive decline in the long term. Plus, this center has humanized worms to make them sensitive to a cancer drug and identify the weaknesses of tumor cells. Researchers at IDIBELL have also described for the first time the crucial involvement of a cell membrane protein in the development and progression of liver cancer. 

Scientists at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona), in collaboration with the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG) and Radboud University, have developed a machine learning-based algorithm that can predict which cancer patients are more likely to benefit from immunotherapy.

For its part, the Catalan Institute of Oncology took part in a study on ovarian cancer that has shown that administering Niraparib after chemotherapy increases survival rates and reduces the risk of recurrence or death. Plus, a study led by the ALBA Synchrotron has revealed the biochemical effects of radiotherapy treatment with nanoparticles, which can increase the efficacy of cancer treatments.

In the section on names in the news, Stanford has recognized Manel Esteller as one of the top scientists in the world. The director of the Josep Carreras Leukemia Research Institute is ranked 119th in the world and first in Spain.

Changing specialties. Hospital Sant Joan de Déu has discovered a unique treatment for a metabolic disease, called PMM2-CDG that causes symptoms similar to binge drinking. More research focusing on the little ones: according to a study conducted by ISGlobal, eating fish for the first months of pregnancy can help improve children’s attention span. Additionally, a study by the Spanish Biomedical Research Center in Physiopathology of Obesity and Nutrition (CIBEROBN) has shown that a diet rich in fats and fructose changes the liver’s ability to metabolize lipids.

Hospital Bellvitge has carried out its first sex-change operations. In neurology, its research institute (IDIBELL) has identified a neuronal mechanism involved in creating and consolidating memories. Furthermore, Parkinson patients with depression are at a higher risk of developing behavioral addictions like gambling, sex and shopping, according to a new study by researchers at Sant Pau.

And we’ll finish off this month’s summary with two notes. This month, Girona hosted the first Gender Summit for Women’s Leadership in Health Research, where a letter calling for gender equality at research centers was approved. And, if you want you to be on TV, take note: La Marató de TV3, this year focusing on minority diseases, will be making its first mass commercial, open to everyone.