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Highlights: New EMBL headquarters in Barcelona, investment valued at over €26 millions, new treatments and nominations

Among the most noteworthy news stories in the BioRegion of Catalonia, Barcelona’s bid to host the EMA is moving forward and the Agbar tower is the proposed location

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27.04.2017

The month of April has been full of good news regarding investment and large operations carried out by our companies, as well as advances in medicine and the application of innovative healthcare technology. Here is a summary of the most noteworthy news: 

 

Access to funding and funds raised

In April, new opportunities have opened up for companies in the BioRegion of Catalonia to attract funds. Firstly, the PDG Invest investment vehicle –a group created by members of one of the graduating classes from the IESE Barcelona Programa de Direcció General (PDG)– has opened its doors to start-ups in the healthcare sector. Additionally, venture capital fund Nauta Capital –founded in Barcelona– has raised an additional €95 millions for its fourth fund for technology start-ups in Europe and the United States, on top of the €60 millions from the first round, closed in September 2015.

Oryzon Genomics has been one of the biggest stars this month. The biopharmaceutical firm is closer and closer to the Nasdaq after closing a capital increase of €18 millions, taking on two new shareholders, US funds Nexthera and Heights Capital. Moreover, the company led by Carlos Buesa has received funding from the Alzheimer Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF), which will contribute €276,000 to development of a complementary marker for the Alzheimer drug Alzheimer ORY-2001.

Mind the Byte also has its sights firmly set on the stock market. The company plans to go public on the British Alternative Investment Market (AIM) and its first step on this path is working to close a €600,000 round of funding, as published this month in Expansión. This financial newspaper assures that the company is in the advanced stages of negotiations with several investors and also has a crowdfunding campaign on Crowdcube to round out the investment.

Other Catalan companies in the sector that have also closed new investment in April include the doctors’ platform and directory Top Doctors, which has closed a €3 millions round with funds from Addventure, an investment company based in Moscow. Transmural Biotech, which has developed software to predict neonatal risk of respiratory distress, has raised €2.7 millions from Asisa health insurance company. The digital platform to monitor diabetes from a smartphone, SocialDiabetes, has been granted €1.6 millions through the Horizon 2020 program and Sense4care has also received funding from a European program, €700,000 from the SME Instrument to market a medical device for Parkinson patients.

At the same time, Catalan hemoderivatives multinational Grifols has acquired six plasma-extraction centers in the United States from Italian firm Kedrion in an operation valued at €44 millions.

 

Studies on cancer, innovative treatments and techniques at Catalan centers

In the scientific arena, a research team at Josep Carreras Institute has identified a new therapeutic target for acute myeloid leukemia. The study, published in the journal Leukemia, describes a potential therapy that specifically targets leukemia stem cells. Researchers at IRB Barcelona and IDIBAPS have also been in the spotlight this month. They have published a study revealing the biological changes breast cancer undergoes from the primary tumor to metastasis. They’ve concluded that this type of cancer becomes more aggressive the more time passes between tumor onset and metastasis.

Additionally, a research group at Hospital Sant Joan de Déu has successfully completed trials on a combination of diabetes drugs to treat polycystic ovary syndrome. Although this condition has been linked to a metabolic alteration since the 1990s, the team has shown that one of the possible origins of polycystic ovary syndrome is insulin resistance and have tested a new treatment that is now seeing its first satisfactory results.

A group at the Institute of Neurosciences of the University of Barcelona has participated in designing the first light-activated drug to treat pain, which allows the drug molecule to be activated locally using light when needed.

Regarding facilities and new techniques, Hospital Germans Trias i Pujol has announced a successful surgery, the first of its kind in Spain, with robotics, extracting the whole larynx without any incisions, through the mouth. Can Ruti also has good news about the Projecte GCAT/Genomes per la Vida, promoted by the Program for Predictive and Personalized Medicine of Cancer (PMPPC), a member of the Institute for Health Science Research Germans Trias i Pujol. A total of 15,000 donors have participated in the project, according to the report for 2016 published by the center. This project is a genomic study researching genetic components and their derivatives, diseases and treatment.

Also in April, Eurecat and Hospital Clinic presented the NEXTCARE project, which is part of the RIS3CAT community in health coordinated by Biocat, at a meeting of ICDA, an international think tank that meets each year to share innovation proposals for healthcare systems. Representatives from various countries (including Israel, Singapore, Australia, the United States, Denmark and England) gave their feedback on each of the areas of the project. NEXTCARE aims to promote a personalized care model for chronic patients using ICT tools to optimize resources. 

 

New centers in Barcelona

After Barcelona officially submitted its bid to host the European Medicines Agency, the Barcelona City Council, the Government of Catalonia and the Spanish Government set up a work group to promote the bid and announced that they propose the Agbar tower as the future home for this agency. The other two cities in the running are Amsterdam (Netherlands) and Lille (France), which have also submitted their official bids.

Additionally, starting next year, the Catalan capital will be home to a new headquarters of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), which specializes in organ and tissue biology, congenital disorders and diseases of the immune system. This sub-headquarters, the first opened in nearly 20 years, will be located at the Barcelona Biomedical Research Park. Barcelona will also host the first European center specializing in pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV, an initiative of BCN Checkpoint to monitor and follow up with people taking the pill.

Fundació Nous Cims and Fundació Privada Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau have broken ground on a new support center for cancer patients, called the Kàlida Foundation. This center will be part of the Maggie’s Center global network. Patients will be able to see physicians, nurses, psychologists, social service workers and therapists without an appointment.

Finally, the Catalan government has named Manresa-born researcher Pere Joan Cardona the new chairman of the Board of Directors at the Agency for Health Quality and Assessment of Catalonia (AquAS). Cardona is the head of the Experimental Tuberculosis Unit at the Institute for Health Science Research Germans Trias i Pujol in Barcelona and CEO of biotechnology firm Manremyc.