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HIGHLIGHTS: Improved working conditions for research staff, new investments by foreign companies and more sources of public funding

With the arrival of spring and the end of mandatory masks after 699 days, Barcelona is facing a new challenge: becoming the global capital of science tourism in 2023. We look at this and other news from the past month, which included one of Catalonia’s most emblematic celebrations: Sant Jordi. To mark the day, Biocat put together a list of 10 fiction and non-fiction books on science that are recommended reading for the community of professionals in the BioRegion. Don’t miss them!

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27.04.2022

Most noteworthy rounds of the month and news from startups 

The mjn-SERAS consortium received €2.76 million from EIT Health to access new markets in Europe and the Catalan Society Award, and medtech firm Time is Brain, €100,000 through the BStartup Health program.

In news from startups in the BioRegion, this month Anaconda Biomed completed its clinical trial and announced it will be building a production plant in Sant Quirze del Vallès, HumanITCare is collaborating with Gebro Pharma to monitor asthma patients, and startup Inbrain completed a successful technology transfer process in a public-private partnership with various research institutions to develop patented neurotechnology. Also, Vytrus Biotech achieved good results in its debut year on the stock market and AcceXible is expanding into Colombia; plus Doctoralia Spain has a new CEO, biotech firm Nostrum Biodiscovery, a new general manager and Mediktor, a new president. 

Also in the news, IOMED digital health is being integrated into the public health system in Cantabria and new companies have been set up in the Catalan ecosystem: startup Virmedex Virtual Experiences, a solution based on virtual training software for perfusionists, and the new venture capital management firm Grow Venture Partners.

Highlights from pharmaceutical corporations include Grifols, which has acquired German company Biotest for €1.45 billion, and Inke, which will triple its current production of an API for inhaled medications with a €9-million investment, 80% of which will be executed this year at its facilities in Castellbisbal (Barcelona). 

Before bringing this section to a close, we would like to offer our sincere congratulations to all the entrepreneurs in the BioRegion of Catalonia on World Entrepreneurship Day, April 16, including the entrepreneur we interviewed this month: Esther Riambau, CEO of Oniria Therapeutics. Check it out! 

New investments by foreign companies and new equipment at hospitals

Foreign investment attraction continues to rise in the BioRegion. Japanese chemicals group AGC has announced it will expand the factory in Malgrat de Mar (Barcelona) where it manufactures pharmaceutical ingredients, investing €92 million and creating 100 new jobs; Boehringer has invested €20 million in its technology center in Barcelona and Angelini is considering restructuring its factory in Barcelona. US consultancy specializing in the pharmaceutical sector Alira Health, a collaborator on the 2021 BioRegion Report, announced that it expects to hire 100 new employees in Barcelona between this year and next.

We would also like to highlight the ecosystem’s capacities with the incorporation of new technological equipment at some hospitals. Arnau de Vilanova University Hospital (HUAV) has acquired a second Da Vinci robot and Vall d’Hebron and Bellvitge hospitals have inaugurated new advanced clinical simulation centers to foster ongoing training for specialists and encourage the spirit of research, innovation and continuous learning among healthcare professionals. Clínica Girona, which began treating patients this month in its new building, launched a new nuclear medicine unit

HIPRA vaccine and other advances in research

This month we also learned that the COVID-19 vaccine created by Catalan lab HIPRA could hit the market by the end of May or beginning of June, after the EMA gave this vaccine manufactured by Amer pharmaceutical corporation the green light. On the other hand, biotech firm Ruti Immune, created by Archivel to develop a vaccine for the same virus and other respiratory diseases, has been closed due to the lack of positive results after finishing its latest clinical trial. 

Among other noteworthy scientific advances, scientific staff at an international consortium led by IRB Barcelona revealed the preclinical data that led to the discovery of a drug to curb the mechanism of action of cancer stem cells. Other news in research into this disease comes from the Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology (VHIO), which has developed a new biomarker to identify and stratify the subtypes of tumors for some ovarian, breast, pancreatic and prostate cancers. For this last type of tumor, the same center has revealed that triple therapy shows major benefits in treating metastatic prostate cancer. Also in cancer, the Josep Carreras Leukemia Research Institute has identified the cells that cause leukemia patients to relapse. 

IDIBAPS has shown that pregnancy cravings are caused by dopamine, a neurotransmitter that regulates motivation and desire, and a joint study conducted by Hospital del Mar Research Institute, Agency for Health Quality and Assessment of Catalonia (AQuAS) and Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) shows that people with green spaces within 300 meters of their homes are less likely to have a stroke, as pollution levels are much lower. 

On the hospital scene, Hospital Clinic Barcelona has hit a new record in transplants: 9 in just 48 hours; Bellvitge University Hospital has launched a new transversal unit to study the human microbiome, a specific service that will foster transplants of bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract and research into the applications for various diseases and drugs; and Laboratoris Salvat announced it will launch the first ocular corticosteroid with nanoemulsion in 2023 to treat pain after eye surgery.

The BioRegion’s research and innovation potential also gets a boost in visibility through Catalonia’s leading position in the number of clinical trials, including COVID-19. This month, Can Ruti plans to kick off the first clinical trial in the world to test the plasmapheresis method to combat long COVID. This is one of the reasons important international events like the Summit for Clinical Trials Operations Executives Europe (SCOPE Europe) have chosen the Catalan capital for their annual congresses. At the fourth edition of this summit, held on April 20 and 21, Biocat Director of Science Policy and Internationalization Montserrat Daban moderated a session discussing the challenges of digitalizing clinical trials and the lessons learned from COVID-19. 

And let’s finish off with some much-anticipated news on legal matters, with the regularization of 20,000 researchers who had contracts for work and services rendered with the State and the announcement of a €25-million call to fund and promote collaborative R&D&i projects in health by public research bodies, hospitals and companies.

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