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HIGHLIGHTS: entrepreneurship in Barcelona, advances in research and new sources of funding for healthcare startups in Catalonia

This April closes with a new opportunity for the life sciences and healthcare sector: the submission of Barcelona's candidacy as the city to host the European Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority headquarters. 

We have also enjoyed an emblematic day in Catalonia: the feast day of Sant Jordi. To celebrate it and bring science, innovation and entrepreneurship closer to society, Biocat made a compilation of informative books with the contributions of the scientific and entrepreneurial community in the BioRegion. Don’t miss it!

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27.04.2021

The most exciting rounds this month  

The funding of startups in the ecosystem continues to rise. This month, the main players were Aortyx, Mediquo and Cebiotex, which managed to secure monetary injections of more than €2 million each. Aortyx, the medtech founded at the Institut Químic de Sarrià and Hospital Clinic Barcelona, closed a round of €2.4 million via the crowdequity platform Capital Cell. This milestone will enable it to continue developing its patch to treat aortic dissections, help lower patient mortality and boost their quality of life. In turn, Mediquo has added a fourth round of funding with €2.3 million, enabling it to continue to develop its medical consultation app, with a web version included, and facilitate communication between professionals and their patients. Finally, the biotech Cebiotex secured a fourth round of investment with an injection of €2.2 million (also via Capital Cell), which will enable it to continue its clinical trials in adults and start them with children with cancer. The spin-off from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC) and the Hospital Sant Joan de Déu was also recognized in the USA as one of the 100 emerging therapies by the prestigious report DelveInsight’s Soft Tissue Sarcoma Pipeline Insights. 

Perhaps it isn't quite two million euros, but also worth noting this month is Pharmacelera and Roka Furadada. The biotech specializing in the search for molecules using machine learning and quantum mechanics algorithms, which has secured a round of €900,000 (once again via Capital Cell) with which it is hoping to accelerating the company's sale process and conduct two proofs of concept. On the other hand, Roka Furadada, based on developing and marketing active ingredients to protect against skin diseases related to solar radiation, closed a round of €1.5 million. The operation has been led by the investment group O Financial Club and has had the participation of Kline Ingeniería Farmacéutica.

Increase in startup activity

As announced by the Bosch i Gimpera Foundation this month, spinoffs from the UB have invoiced €7.1 million throughout the year marked by the pandemic. Those that invoiced the most in 2020 include Enantia, a company devoted to medical chemistry and developing chemical processes and solid forms to prepare active pharmaceutical ingredients.
Expansion and internationalization processes underway in Catalan startups, such as in Mediktor, are also on the rise. This company, which oversees an interactive tool that analyzes symptoms and evaluates users’ state of health, is expanding. It currently operates in 26 countries and is now focusing on furthering its growth in Latin America and the United States. 

Others, such as Able Human Motion, are aiming to accelerate their growth. This startup, which participated in CRAASH Barcelona, the business accelerator program that has opened its application process this month, is seeking half a million euros to validate its exoskeleton, a robotic system for individuals with disabilities. The company is planning to start a round of funding late in the year in order to have the product certified by 2022.

Also worth noting is the progress in Exheus, which has created a technology that allows physical performance and health to be optimized with the analysis of a blood sample using artificial intelligence, and the merger between the American company Galyan Bio and its Catalan counterpart Chemotargets, to work together to design a first-in-class drug for Huntington Disease (HD), a neurodegenerative disorder which currently has no cure or treatment. Gaylan Bio is planning to start clinical trials in 2022 with the new first-in-class drug created by the two companies.

Cutting-edge research in hospitals 

Hospital Clinic Barcelona has good news yet another month with the discovery of the first biomarker that predicts survival in metastatic breast cancer. This is the broadest study yet undertaken to demonstrate the value of the biomarker, which will allow treatments to be fine-tuned and their efficacy maximized. We also found out that researchers from the University of Barcelona (UB) have successfully concluded the ChipScore project, the smallest and least expensive high-resolution pocket microscope internationally, costing just €1,500. Another hospital that has made headway on a research project is the MAR Health Park, which published the results of a study demonstrating the exact moment when patients lose consciousness when they are administered anesthesia. This discovery will allow doses to be adjusted without the risk of administering too much.

Covid-19 research in Catalonia

The Covid-19 pandemic is still here, and our companies, centers, and hospitals continue to work to prevent and treat the virus with their research and innovation. In fact, this April an important virtual gathering was held with the community of researchers who are carrying forward the 19 Catalan projects that were financed with €4 million one year ago via an urgent call for applications issued by the Catalan Ministry of Health and AQuAS, in conjunction with Biocat. At this gathering, the participants reviewed the status of their studies and stressed the importance of funding and public-private cooperation. With regard to specific advances, HIPRA, the sixth largest manufacturer of animal health vaccines in the world, confirmed that it will begin to manufacture its Covid-19 vaccine in October. The clinical trials on humans will be conducted in June. If the results are successful, the vaccines are expected to begin to be manufactured in October so they can be commercialized in late 2021. Likewise, the University of Girona (UdG) has developed a new method to detect the coronavirus more quickly and cheaply than a PCR test. There were also promising results from the study led by the Parc Sanitari Sant Joan de Déu, which concluded that nursing mothers vaccinated against Covid-19 with the Pfizer vaccine may pass on the antibodies to their newborns via mother’s milk, and from an international study in which the Vall d’Hebron Hospital participated showing that the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 increases the risks of complications (by 50%) during pregnancy and birth for mothers and newborns.

Barcelona on the map of European reports

Barcelona is still causing a sensation in the European world of entrepreneurship. Neither the pandemic nor the regulatory obstacles have had much effect on the city's perception as one of the most attractive and popular hubs in Europe. This was revealed in the results of the Startup Heatmap Europe Report, which gives Barcelona top rankings on many of the indicators and consolidates its third-place rank (after Berlin and London) as funders’ preferred place for the fourth year in a row. The report stresses the city’s dynamism, the 1,200 startups currently here, the strong presence of foreign funders (65% of the total) and the funds raised, which dropped in 2020 but is now rallying with increasingly large rounds of investment. Similarly, the latest Dealroom Report also spotlights Barcelona as one of the strongest European ecosystems, this time within healthtech.