A piece of news
This October comes to a close with a passing of the baton at the helm of Biocat. Robert Fabregat has taken over for the previous CEO, Jordi Naval. Fabregat, who was selected in an open, public call for applications, was director general for Research and Innovation in Health for the Catalan Ministry of Health and has a solid professional background in innovation, technology transfer and research in the healthcare sector.
The funding raised by startups in the ecosystem continues to rise. Noteworthy investments this month include digital health startups Top Doctors and Mediktor, which each got a financial injection of €11 million. Top Doctors, a company from the BioRegion now based in the United States that offers a directory of specialists for private healthcare, has won over venture capitalists to close an €11.2-million round, the largest ever for the company and one of the biggest in the Spanish digital health sector. Mediktor raised €11 million in an operation that will allow them to consolidate international expansion and perfect their triage tool. Another digital health company that received funding this month is Vitaance, the first insurtech firm in southern Europe specializing in life insurance. This startup from the BioRegion closed a €3-million round of funding.
In terms of public funding, it is worth mentioning that Roka Furadada and HumanITcare have been awarded a joint total of €5.7 million in funds from the European Commission. The former, which is developing and commercializing active ingredients to protect against skin diseases related to UV radiation, has raised €3.2 million to move into the market. The startup is negotiating a deal for their active ingredient to be used in a Spanish company’s sunscreens. HumanITcare, a platform that helps monitor and provide personalized treatment for chronic diseases, has received a €2.5-million capital injection.
For its part, the Capital Cell crowdequity platform has raised €14 million for companies in the biomedical sector so far this year, already beating the €13.5 million raised in all of 2020. The company’s goal is to raise €16 million by the end of the year. And we highlight the first exit of Asabys, one of the main specialized venture capital funds in the BioRegion, which has announced Agomab Therapeutics has acquired the biotech Origo Biopharma, a company with offices in Barcelona that has a program in the clinical phase to treat Crohn's disease and a preclinical candidate for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
October 19 is World Breast Cancer Day, which seeks to raise awareness of the importance of prevention and early diagnosis. Oncologist Javier Cortés, director of the International Breast Cancer Center (IBCC) and a researcher at the Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology (VHIO), is offering new hope with an international trial on a drug that stops metastatic breast cancer in 76% of cases and completely gets rid of the tumor in 16%. There is also good news in Alzheimer treatment. An international study led by Pasqual Maragall Foundation has identified a new biomarker that detects the early stages of this disease.
On the Biocat blog, we looked at how Femtech firms (technology startups that create healthcare products focusing on women) are hot right now and the BioRegion is ranked third among European hubs in number of startups in this segment. One of these companies, Oxolife, has kicked off an international clinical trial to assess the efficacy of their drug OXO-001, a first-in-class treatment that acts specifically on embryo implantation to increase pregnancy success rate.
Turning to the coronavirus, studies and scientific evidence on SARS-CoV-2 continue to advance, despite the decrease in case numbers. A study led by ISGlobal revealed that the disease is a seasonal infection, affected by temperature and humidity, and researchers at Hospital Clinic-IDIBAPS, Vall d’Hebron Hospital and Parc Taulí de Sabadell Hospital (Barcelona) have corroborated that if pregnant women catch the virus, it can damage the placenta to the point of causing fetal death. For more information about the coronavirus and managing and preparing for future pandemics, sign up for the conference “Pandemics: Overcoming Covid-19 and Preparing For The Future” on November 16 and 17, 2021. Don’t miss it!
In other noteworthy news, the Barcelona Supercomputing Center - Centre Nacional de Supercomputació (BSC-CNS) kicked off activity in their new corporate headquarters and Bosch i Gimpera Foundation (FBG) is celebrating their 38th anniversary. Congratulations!
Good news for the BioRegion: the Spanish government announced in October that it will reinforce high-technology equipment at hospitals in Catalonia, investing €94 million to expand and update 100 pieces of equipment at 31 Catalan healthcare centers.
Hospital Clinic Barcelona and the Clinic Foundation for Biomedical Research have signed a strategic development and research deal with the Enzyme Advising Group to develop artificial intelligence algorithms to speed up diagnosis of lung diseases. This same center, with Leitat, will inaugurate an incubator for digital health projects under the Clinical Advanced Technologies Initiative (CATI).
Additionally, Vall d’Hebron Hospital continues working towards its goal of having more modern facilities and adapting to new care needs.
The Covid-19 pandemic continues to drive activity and growth in some of the top pharmaceutical companies in the BioRegion. Grifols has announced a “promising analysis” of the data from a clinical trial that focused on treating patients with serious cases of Covid-19. This same company has inaugurated the first plasma supply platform in Africa, in Egypt, which will make the country self-sufficient and provide access to plasma drugs for the whole Middle East and Africa region, as well as other countries. Salvat has also started exploring new markets, selling a drug for ear infections in Hong Kong. It is the first drug of its type launched on the Asian continent. Esteve has gained approval for one of its drugs in the United States, its first, and Ferrer has been granted a license by Dutch biotech firm Treeway to carry out the final phase of clinical trials and commercialization of the drug edaravone, a solid solution to treat ALS, for Europe and parts of Asia.
Moving to construction of new production and logistics plants in Barcelona, Gpainnova, a company specializing in naval robotics, medical devices and high-performance electronics, inaugurated its new 6,000-square-meter headquarters in Barcelona. As did Alliance Healthcare with its new corporate building and logistics center.
We’d like to congratulate all the winners of the 31st annual Catalonian National Research Awards, given out this week by the Government of Catalonia and Catalan Foundation for Research and Innovation (FCRI). Bonaventura Clotet, Carme Torras, Lluís Serrano and Núria Montserrat, among others, were honored with this important distinction, recognizing the talent and assets in Catalonia’s research system. The life sciences and healthcare sector were heavily represented among this year’s award winners.
María Jesús Salido, CEO of SocialDiabetis, and Anna Benavent, CIO of Hospital Parc Taulí, received the Dona Tic 2021 Award, in the Business and Professional categories, respectively.
And in new appointments, Xavier Bayona i Huguet has taken over as director of the Agency for Health Quality and Assessment of Catalonia (AQuAS) in the Catalan Ministry of Health and scientists Joan Rodés (1938-2017) and Joan Baselga (1959-2021) have been honored posthumously, with their names going to a new grant program for projects in oncology and neurodegenerative diseases.