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HIGHLIGHTS: Japanese takeover bid, investment rounds, appointments, funding and advances in oncology

In three minutes, we’ll summarize everything that has happened in the BioRegion in the month of July

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31.07.2019

This vacation you’re got two options: get hooked on a Netflix series or monitor the outcome of the takeover bid which has everyone abuzz. This month, the Catalan biotechnology company AB-Biotics has been featured in the business pages seemingly every day. The Japanese multinational Kaneka has launched a takeover bid for 100% of AB-Biotics, valued at €63 M. The minority shareholders are rejecting it, since they think the bid is too low, but a report from EY has deemed the offer “fair”. The founding partners have announced that they will only sell 6%. Stay tuned to see how the story ends within the next few weeks.

Continuing in the Vallès region: Inkemia is engaged in negotiations for the private investment company Crescent Hill to join the company after sending its subsidiary IUCT into receivership. Inkemia has announced the sale of its companies MicroBios and Otec Riera to former partners of the company for €100,000.

Asabys Partners has reached an agreement with the investment firm Alantra, which will acquire 35% of this Catalan venture capital firm. By doing so, they are seeking to expand and reinforce their investment strategy in the Life Sciences and health sector. On the other hand, Ysios Capital has participated in financing the Dutch company AM-Pharma: the total amount in this round was €116 M.

Closer to home, Oryzon Genomics has undertaken a capital increase of €20 M, and Biointaxis has launched a €5 M round to complete its regulatory preclinical phase and embark upon clinical studies. If you want to know a bit more about Biointaxis, don’t miss the interview we recently held with its director, Antoni Matilla.

Bionure has launched the #MúltiplesMotivos financing campaign, enlisting famous artists like the comedian José Mota and the actors Loles León and Pablo Puyol. The goal? To continue developing the multiple sclerosis drug BN201. Likewise, InnoUp Farma has launched a €1 M financing round on Capital Cell with the goal of creating the first vaccination against food allergies, and GoodGut has completed a €0.5 M round, also on Capital Cell,  to move forward with its test for the early diagnosis of colorectal cancer.

Yet more news. The private equity company Corpfin has put Palex, the medical equipment distribution group, up for sale. Mediktor is in the final stretch of negotiations with the Yale New Haven Health System hospital network, associated with Yale University, to implement its technology there. And ZeClinics is also looking to the United States; it is planning to open an office in Boston in 2019 or 2020 and launch a new business line to discover new drugs.

 

New pharma investments

This month, we’ve read headlines about large pharmaceutical companies’ investments in the BioRegion of Catalonia. Boehringer Ingelheim has just completed construction of a new plant in Sant Cugat del Vallès which will manufacture Respimat, and Fedefarma has just broken ground on its new plant in Palau-solità i Plegamans, which will start operating in 2020. Novartis plans to invest €4 M to launch the NeuroHouse space, specializing in neurology, at Barcelona Tech City’s Pier03, and the Canadian pharmaceutical company Aurora Cannabis will be opening a new branch in Barcelona.

Meanwhile, Reig Jofre has acquired a portfolio of arthritis treatment products from Bioibérica for €46 M. Grifols has secured the FDA’s authorization to sell Xembify, a drug to treat immunodeficiencies, in the USA, and it was chosen by the company Soludia Maghreb to be the main supplier of a new manufacturing plant in North Africa.

Some financial results were also announced recently: Uriach invoiced €196 M in 2018, 13% more than the previous year, and it is currently seeking investors in France. In turn, Laboratorios Gebro Pharma plans to surpass €70 M in invoicing in Spain by the end of 2019, 6% more than last year.

 

New developments in the ecosystem

The Government of Catalonia has approved the first draft of the future science law of Catalonia, whose goal is to bring stability to scientists’ work.

The Parliament of Catalonia has approved the bill to create the Agència de Salut Pública de Catalunya (Public Health Agency of Catalonia - ASPCAT) in an effort to get all government departments involved in protecting and promoting health. Likewise, a dozen experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) visited Catalonia to learn about the impact of the Health Plan and to support its redefinition for the forthcoming years.

A partnership agreement between Orange, the i2CAT Foundation, the UPC (Polytechnic University of Catalonia) and Mobile World Capital Barcelona will allow Catalonia to become an environment open to 5G experimentation starting now, where any entity that needs to validate its services in real environments can do so.

 

Calls and funding

“La Caixa” has announced the call for submissions for CaixaImpulse Consolidate, which is offering up to €300,000 and customized guidance for innovation projects in advanced stages of development. The Barcelona City Council, again in conjunction with “la Caixa,” has announced a call for applications for new funding for innovative research projects for the city as part of the Barcelona Science Plan.

This month, EIT Health Spain has announced the results of the Headstart Funding program, which will earmark €650,000 to 15 Spanish start-ups, including nine in the BioRegion of Catalonia: Senolytic Therapeutics, Moirai Biodesign, Icariamed, Aortyx, Funny Friends, Social Diabetes, ColorSensing, Smiletronix, and Mangrana Ventures. Furthermore, EIT Health has chosen three companies from the BioRegion among the 42 semifinalists of the European Health Catapult: Iproteos, Braingaze, and Biel Glasses.

The UAB has issued the first “Proof of Concept” financial awards to four research projects to accelerate their transfer to society. Likewise, Transplant Biomedicals has won the IED Design Awards 2019 in the category of Best Entrepreneurship Proposal.

 

Individual accolades

Albert Barberà, former Biocat CEO and until now the director general for Health Research and Innovation of the Government of Catalonia, has been appointed the new director of the eHealth Center at the Open University of Catalonia (UOC).

The Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau has chosen Gemma Craywinckel as the center’s new Managing Director to replace Albert Salazar, now at the Vall d’Hebron. Likewise, Enric Crous has been appointed the new Chair of the Board of Directors of Barcelona’s Hospital Clínic

And in the private sphere, Marc Pérez Pey has been appointed the new President of Fenin Catalunya, and Laboratoris Salvat has hired Patricia Ferriot to be the Head of International Business Development.

 

Investments in hospitals

“La Caixa” and the Hospital Universitari Vall d’Hebron have signed an agreement which will allow the first radiological robot in the world to be used in an endoscopy service. The government authorized the Consorci Hospital Clínic (Hospital Clínic Consortium) to acquire a building for non-medical services on Barcelona’s Carrer de Casanova.

The Comparative Medicine and Bioimage Centre (CMCiB) has started operating on the Can Ruti Campus in Badalona with the goal of becoming a benchmark in the application of alternative biomedical research methods.

Among private centers, HM Hospitales is putting the finishing touches on its purchase of Barcelona’s Hospital de Nens, and Nou Hospital Evangèlic plans to invest €13 M to build its new center located in the 22@ district.

 

Research

This month, the research centers in the BioRegion have published numerous advances, especially in oncology. Researchers from IDIBELL and ICO have published an article about a mechanism of resistance to cancer therapies that prevents the formation of blood vessels in Cancer Research. Another study also led by IDIBELL and ICO found that an inflammatory diet increases the risk of developing colorectal cancer. The results were published in Nutrients.  For the same disease, an international study led by the Hospital Vall d’Hebron found that an innovative combination of drugs improves the treatment of colorectal cancer and prevents the appearance of resistances.

In a study in Nature Communications, IRB Barcelona has proven that the protein p38 plays an important role in regulating the formation of new blood vessels in tumors, which could help improve their treatment. Another study by IRB Barcelona published in Cell Reports managed to selectively eliminate cells that express RAS, a gene present in 30% of human cancers.

The Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute (IMIM) has found a new cellular mechanism to treat the most aggressive tumors. The study was published in Molecular Cell.

Now let’s shift specialties: researchers from the Hospital de Bellvitge-IDIBELL have identified eight genetic markers in cases of anorexia nervosa. The analysis was published in Nature Genetics.

A study by VHIR demonstrates that administering nucleosides improves motor functions and survival in patients with a deficiency of the enzyme thymidine kinase 2 (TK2). The research was published in Annals of Neurology.

Researchers from the UPF and S-Biomedic have shown that live bacteria can be used to modulate the microbial composition of the skin for therapeutic or cosmetic purposes. The study was published in Microbiome.

IRB Lleida has demonstrated the benefits of preventative, personalized medicine in patients with chronic diseases. The study is part of the CONNECARE project led by Eurecat. Likewise, the Fundació Althaia of Manresa has spearheaded a study which found the best technique for removing artificial respiration in ICU patients. It was published in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

Now let’s talk about sleep quality. A study by the Hospital del Mar found that the symptoms of fibromyalgia (pain, fatigue, and sleep quality) can improve if the patient sleeps on a mattress that vibrates at a low intensity. The results were published in Arthritis Research & Therapy. Another study by Rovira i Virgili University (URV) and the Pere Virgili Institute for Health Research has shown that a lack of sleep can hinder weight loss. The study was published in the International Journal of Obesity.

Still don’t know the 2019 song of the summer? It may not be a hearing problem: researchers from the Institute of Neurosciences of the UB and IDIBELL have shown that the connectivity of the brain’s white matter determines a person’s sensitivity to music in a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Have a great summer!

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