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HIGHLIGHTS: New investment milestone, news from the sector, help for entrepreneurs and noteworthy appointments

This June is finishing off with the return of 4YFN and the Mobile World Congress to Barcelona after being canceled the past two years due to the pandemic. This comes at a key moment for the sector: accelerated digitalization of healthcare services due to Covid-19 and the upward trend of investment in digital health in the BioRegion have put Barcelona fifth on the ranking of European cities for digital health investment.

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29.06.2021

News, funding and more funds available

Taking advantage of 4YFN, some startups in the BioRegion have used the event as a platform to announce their new developments from the past months. Plus, this month, MJN Neuroserveis presented its device, the first in the world that can predict an epileptic seizure. The headset, connected to the user’s phone via an app, monitors electrical activity in the brain through the ear canal. The company is currently working to raise funding through crowdfunding. It is also worth noting that WIVI Vision, a company developing technology to detect and improve visual dysfunctions, has signed a deal with the CIONE group to bring their technology to the group’s opticians in Spain and Portugal.  Over the coming weeks, the technology will be available in over 50 opticians all over Spain.

Additionally, Biointaxis, a spinoff that is developing a one-of-a-kind treatment for Friedreich Ataxia, has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise €880,000 to prove the drug’s safety and biodistribution in animals. Another spinoff has also opened a round of funding: Renalyse. This healthcare technological platform is looking for funding to finish their industrial blood-analysis prototype and fund the clinical validation process.

Koa Health, a digital startup working in mental health that has closed the biggest round of funding this year in southern Europe, is looking to boost their international expansion, moving into Canada, Singapore and Latin America. Another push to growth in the sector comes from Vall d’Hebron University Hospital, which has created a spinoff called Endolipid Therapeutics with a new approach to reducing visceral fat that has therapeutic applications. 

From the industry, Almirall will be manufacturing a drug called Sysara, a new antibiotic for medical dermatology, for the US market. The company has been granted FDA approval to produce the drug at its plant in Sant Andreu de la Barca. Additionally, the clinical trial on the HIPRA vaccine is slated to begin in mid-August. IDIBGI will collaborate in this study with fifteen volunteers from Girona who haven’t yet received any other Covid-19 vaccine.  Also noteworthy is the acquisition of the Catalan company DR Healthcare by AB Biotek, a division of Associated British Foods. The biotech, which specializes in producing an enzyme used in the production of functional foods, obtained EU approval in 2019 for its substance, which is related to the prevention of migraines or hyperactivity.

Regarding investment funds, Nina Capital has set up its second investment vehicle, endowed with €40 million to invest in early-stage startups. According to founder Marta-Gaia Zanchi, the investors are mainly foreign, from countries like Italy, Germany, Switzerland and the United States. Also of note, crowdequity platform Capital Cell closed 14 rounds of investment for a total of €13.9 million in 2020. 

Cutting-edge research at hospitals and research centers 

A relevant milestone comes from Hospital Bellvitge, which has successfully completed the first controlled asystole heart transplant in Catalonia, meaning the patient’s heart had stopped. The operation was a breakthrough in applying this technique, which had previously only been used for kidney and liver transplants. In more noteworthy news, Hospital Clinic Barcelona has identified and treated a new autoimmune encephalitis. The IDIBAPS group led by Josep Dalmau has described 11 of the 17 brain inflammations of this type known so far. Continuing with news from the hospitals, the Magnetic Resonance Imaging Research Unit at Hospital del Mar, with ISGlobal, has linked childhood obesity to a brain condition similar to obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). This shows that, when overweight reaches an extreme, it’s no longer merely a matter of bad habits, the brain has also undergone changes. To finish off this hospital section, we’d like to highlight that Barcelona now has a new medical surgery general hospital called HM Nou Delfos. This hospital center has joined the others in the Catalan capital after a restructuring process, which saw more than €30 million invested over the past three years.

Another group of researchers from IDIBAPS has led a multi-center study all over Spain that has shown the benefits of delivery after week 34 in women with preeclampsia. More on studies related to gestation, Vall d’Hebron University Hospital and Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau took part in an international clinical trial with pregnant women to assess the efficacy, safety and immune response of the Pfizer vaccine. Plus, we’ve witnessed the research led by IRBLleida that has defined a new microRNA profile as a biomarker to predict the evolution of Covid-19 in serious cases.  Thanks to this new discovery, doctors will be able to predict the severity of patients with SARS-CoV-2 and prevent it from progressing. 

Help for entrepreneurs in the BioRegion

Good news for entrepreneurs: the Barcelona City Council has announced its commitment to cut processes by 50% and time by 50% for any economic activity over the next five years. This measure aims to make Barcelona the perfect place for entrepreneurship and developing projects.

Plus, we’ve also learned from ACCIÓ that Catalonia is ranked first in Europe in number of SMEs that have received grants for innovation projects from the European Commission. Through Horizon Europe, the framework program for investment in research and innovation in the European Union for 2021-2027, 246 Catalan companies have received grants, making up 4.5% of the total.

Appointments and awards

With the new Catalan Government, we have new appointments to the main health positions. So, the Ministry of Health this month appointed Gemma Craywinckel to head up the Catalan Health Service, Carmen Cabezas as Public Health secretary and Yolanda Lejardi as General Manager of the Catalan Institute of Health (ICS). Plus, in the Catalan Ministry of Health, Meritxell Budó was appointed secretary for Healthcare Services and Participation. The former Minister of the Presidency and spokesperson for the Catalan Government is now part of the team led by Minister of Health Josep Maria Argimon.

For its part, the Uriach laboratory has appointed its first president outside the family in the company’s five generations of history. Luis Cantarell is the new chairman of the board of directors. The former Nestlé executive has experience in health at Nestlé Health Science and is taking over for Joaquín Uriach Torelló, who had been president since 2012. There were also new appointments at Inveready and SOM Biotech: Inveready has strengthened its executive team with Beltrán Mora-Figueroa as partner. Mora previously headed up the M&A and capital markets team. At SOM, a biopharmaceutical company that specializes in identification, pre-clinical and clinical development, and commercialization of orphan drugs, mainly for diseases of the central nervous system, has announced Marc Casellas as its new financial director.

Finally, epidemiologist Antoni Trilla, with other scientists, has received a much-deserved recognition and award for his extraordinary scientific journalism in the CSIC-BBVA Foundation Scientific Communication Awards. On the other hand, Dr. Laura Lechuga Gómez has received the Burdinola Research Award in its XVIII edition. The award recognizes her work on advances in nanomedicine, nanodiagnostics, regenerative medicine and personalized therapy.

 

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