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HIGHLIGHTS: New investment fund and high-impact advances in HIV and cancer

Asabys kicks off with €30 million, IrsiCaixa announces 2nd case of HIV in remission in the world and Peptomyc makes advances with its oncology drug

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28.03.2019

Spring is here, and with it a bunch of good news for the BioRegion of Catalonia.

Let’s start by looking at the pollen that will help our results continue to blossom: funding. This month we got some great news in this area: the fund created by Josep Lluís Sanfeliu and Clara Campàs, Sabadell Asabys Health Innovation Investments, is kicking off with €30 million committed by initial partners and aims to put together at least €70 million by the end of the year. And their goal? To invest in approximately 15 Spanish and foreign medical devices, digital health technology and biotechnology companies in the early stages.

Investments like the one announced by SOM Biotech, which has closed a €7-million round of funding to boost licensing and co-development and complete phase IIa trials with its compound for Huntington’s disease. Admit Therapeutics has also closed a €200,000 round of funding led by BStartup and Ship2B to develop its Alzheimer diagnostic test and begin clinical validation.

Over the coming months, we will continue speaking about new operations: Mediquo expects to open its third round of funding to raise €8 million. Also, BetterCare will open a €500,000 round to land in hospitals.

For its part, ZeClinics has received a Nuclis grant to develop new therapies to treat heart disease based on the zebrafish cardiac system. If you’re looking for funding like them, sign up: the first of two calls for the INNOWWIDE program will open on April 1. This pilot initiative funded by the Horizon 2020 program provides support for innovative European SMEs and start-ups looking to break into the market in developing countries, large emerging economies and developed countries.

A bittersweet note comes from Inkemia, which has begun pre-insolvency proceedings to negotiate restructuring of its debt and scout for new investors.

 

Advancing towards patients

Last month, on the Biocat blog, we spoke about entrepreneurial women in the BioRegion of Catalonia and this month one of them has been in all the newspapers: Laura Soucek founder of Peptomyc, a spin-off of ICREA and VHIO, has been in the news for the advances published in Science Translational Medicine on the Omomyc treatment, proven to inhibit the Myc gene in mice, which causes the most aggressive form of lung cancer, among others.

By the way, Laura Soucek will be one of the entrepreneurs sharing her experience in the 9thClaus per bioemprendre course, of which she was also a student, which kicks off on April 30 and for which you still have time to sign up.

More advances in the pipelines. The FDA has authorized Oryzon Genomics to conduct a phase IIa clinical study on ORY2001 in Alzheimer patients in the United States. Rovi has presented positive results from a study with its drug Doria (Risperidona ISM) for patients with schizophrenia, which has pushed the company’s stock up 4.6%.

 

Internationalization and financial results

Let’s turn to the chapter on business and internationalization. Reig Jofre has begun marketing remifentanil, a hospital anesthetic, in South Korea, and Brill Pharma has begun moving into the Portuguese market.

Mitelos has started marketing its OTIBLOCK® Ear spray in Africa for the first time and Promofarma is speeding up its internationalization process by acquiring Doctipharma in France.

Here at home, Farmadosis, which develops software and machinery to dispense drug dosages, will implement a new production line in Terrassa. Joyners, a multi-platform that brings together more than 1,000 healthcare professionals, has moved into 22@Barcelona, and Entregoo, which specializes in home delivery of medicines and health and beauty products, has opened an office in Barcelona. Additionally, insurance broker iSalud.com has joined Barcelona Health Hub.

Also, Virtual Bodyworks  has begun working with the Advanced Neurorehabilitation Unit at Hospital Los Madroños to use groundbreaking virtual-reality immersion technology for brain damage rehabilitation.

AB-Biotics has started to market its probiotics as ingredients to the food industry thanks to an agreement with Belgian company Pur Natur. It has also signed an agreement with US company InSourceDx to market its pharmacogenetic test for neurology and psychiatry. The publicly traded company (MAB) closed out 2018 with net profit of €1.21 million.

More numbers: Reig Jofre earned €9.2 million in 2018, up 5% from 2017, with turnover of €180.5 million, up 7% from 2017. For its part, Doctoralia doubled its turnover in Spain in 2018, to €2.3 million.

 

Names in the news

Minoryx Therapeutics has appointed Didier Le Normand as its new Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and general manager of its Belgian subsidiary. For his part, Uriach CEO Oriol Segarra has stepped down from his seat on the Mind the Byte board of directors.

CataloniaBio & HealthTech has awarded its Biosuccess award to the Ysios Capital fund for the milestones achieved in 2018 in the field of biomedicine and healthcare in Catalonia, and an honorific award to Antonio Parente for his business career.

 

Acquisitions and sales at multinational corporations

Grifols has signed a €315-million line of credit through Scranton, the investment holding group controlled by the family and top executives at the pharmaceutical corporation. This operation will allow the group to finance acquisition of its plasma centers. Also this month, Grifols has acquired 26.2% of Shanghai RAAS, making it the second-largest shareholder in this Chinese company. The company presented its report with results for 2018, with nearly €600 million in profit, up 1.5% from the previous year.

Almirall has sold ThermiGen, its beauty business in Dallas (United States), to Celling Biosciences.

Also, Novartis has joined Barcelona Tech City as a global partner to promote healthcare innovation and collaboration.

 

HIV and other high-impact research

A consortium coordinated by IrsiCaixa has documented the second case of HIV remission in the world without antiretroviral drugs, using a stem cell transplant. The study, led by University College London, was published in Nature.

Scientists from the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC) and the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) have managed to activate molecules inside cell tissue in a highly effective manner using infrared light. This development, published in Nature Communications, makes it possible to focus drug action. In the same publication, Vall d’Hebron Research Institute (VHIR) demonstrated that excessive accumulation of the neuron pigment neuromelanin in dopaminergic neurons is associated with Parkinson disease.

Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL) has discovered a biomarker that is affected in 25% of cancers and is associated with greater tumor aggressiveness. The study, which could help find new therapies, was published in the Journal of Cancer Investigation Insight.

VHIR has proven for the first time in humans that neuroprotective eye drops are a useful treatment for diabetic retinopathy, preventing degeneration of neurons in the retina. The study was published in the journal Diabetes.

IDIBAPS has published a series of studies describing how ageing affects the liver, both in healthy people and cases with hepatic diseases.

A study by the Institute of Neurosciences at the Autonomous University of Barcelona published in Frontiers of Behavioral Neuroscience has shown that sensory stimulation improves the effects of a brain injury in premature model mice.

ISGlobal has received a €22.4-million grant from the international organization Unitaid for a project researching how to kill mosquitoes that carry malaria.  For its part, IRB Barcelona has launched the #RepteMetàstasi campaign, which aims to raise €5 million to fight metastasis.

 

Innovating in hospitals

The “la Caixa” Banking Foundation and Hospital Clinic Barcelona have signed a strategic alliance to promote groundbreaking high-impact research and better healthcare. Under this agreement, the hospital will receive nearly €6 million to set up a new Immunotherapy Unit.

The government of Catalonia is investing €5 million in technology to monitor patients’ vital signs in hospitals: the contract is with Medtronic.

Hospital del Mar conducted the first laser surgery in Spain to treat epilepsy and brain tumors. The hospital has also used radiotherapy to treat heart arrhythmias for the first time in Spain. Also this month, Hospital Vall d’Hebron has installed the most innovative radiotherapy accelerator to make treatments safer and more precise.

Additionally, Hospital Sant Pau has created a groundbreaking device to hold premature babies, which decreases the stress these babies experience when being weighed and helps improve brain development.

Bellvitge University Hospital and the Catalan Institute of Oncology (ICO) have kicked off a treatment for trigeminal neuralgia using radiosurgery for the first time in Catalonia. Also, Hospital General de Granollers is participating in two European cybersafety projects.

HM Hospitals has invested €30 million in Delfos hospital to renovate the clinic. The center has hired Joan Albanell to lead the oncology project the group hopes to develop in Barcelona. Additionally, Instituto Oftalmológico Quirónsalud Barcelona has opened a new medical surgery center at Hospital Universitario Dexeus.

And speaking of innovating in hospitals, the fellows in the d·HEALTH Barcelona program, promoted by Biocat to train new healthcare innovators and entrepreneurs, have begun the clinical immersion phase of the program: this year at Hospital Clinic, Hospital Vall d’Hebron and for the first time, Hospital Germans Trias i Pujol.