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HIGHLIGHTS: new rounds of investment, more funding in research, vaccines and innovation projects

This March ends on a bittersweet note: on the one hand, we celebrate the fact that the BioRegion continues to evolve through the drive for innovation, something that contributes to the health and wellbeing of society, while on the other hand, we condemn Russia's invasion of the Ukrainian people and the repercussions this conflict is having on the wellbeing of its population and the academic and innovative community across Europe.

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30.03.2022

This month's most important rounds and news in startups and companies

Oliva Therapy has raised € 5.7-million and the biotech TECNIC has raised € 2.5 million The online platform that allows caregivers for the elderly to be hired by the hour Cuideo has obtained €1.8 million through the Capital Cell crowdfunding platform, along with the medical device company MOWOOT, which is developing a system to treat chronic constipation and which emerged from the Biocat program d·HEALTH Barcelona, has closed the first tranche of a round of investment of series A worth € 1-million.

Cancer has been the common denominator of most Catalan healthcare startups that have raised capital this month. In terms of private funding, Integra Therapeutics, a spinoff of a gene editing technology platform, has raised €1.5-million, Flomics Biotech, a startup participating in CRAASH Barcelona, has closed a €1-million round of funding and pancreatic cancer early detection startup Sycai Medical has raised €780,000 to bring its software to market. As far as public funding is concerned, the startups Genomcore and MiWendo have received funding worth almost €1 million each. The co-founder and CEO of MiWendo, Ignasi Belda, explains what drove him to become an entrepreneur and the advice he has been given during his professional career at the helm of six healthcare startups in this interview

Another important achievement was the technology transfer between companies, research centers and hospitals in the BioRegion. The biotech company Accure Therapeutics has signed a licensing agreement with the Swiss company Oculis for a neuroprotector which, if it meets the scientific and commercial milestones, could be valued at €900 million, and others have initiated public-private collaborations, such as the startup INBRAIN Neuroelectronics, which has signed an agreement to develop neurotechnology patented by six public research institutions, and Kamleon, which has begun to collaborate with the Hospital del Mar in Barcelona and Aigües de Barcelona to promote a pilot project for a urinal that can analyze and monitor the level of hydration of those who use it. The startup DevHEealth and the Fight AIDS and Infectious Diseases Foundation have also joined forces to design new accessible drugs to treat and slow the progression of COVID-19 and new variants.

In healthcare startups news, we are celebrating BME Growth's exit for biotech Vytrus Biotech with an initial valuation of €12.2 million, the 50% year-on-year revenue growth of startup  Specipig, the opening of offices in Barcelona for femtech INNITIUS, a startup participating in CRAASH Barcelona 2020, and the creation of two new spinoffs in the ecosystem: Nimble Diagnostics and Oniria Therapeutics. Also the FDA approval of the clinical trial in leukemia patients for ORYZON

As for new startup and large company acquisitions, Corus Dental has merged with the Dutch company Signadens to grow in the dental prosthesis market in Europe, and Medsir, a BioRegion company specializing in clinical oncology research, has brought in a new investor as a shareholder to finance its international growth. This is the Brazilian group Oncoclínicas. The Catalan medical material distribution company Palex Medical closed its first acquisition outside Spain, acquiring the Italian company Gada.

New infrastructure and equipment initiatives in hospitals

Regarding new infrastructures and centers for pharmaceutical companies, this month we learned that a new hub for clinical trials in rare pathologies led by AstraZeneca will be set up in Barcelona and Angelini Pharma has inaugurated its new headquarters in Viladecans (Barcelona), while Novartis has announced that it will invest €63 million in its Barcelona plant to expand its antibiotic production capacity. The expansion in Catalonia of the North American company Veeva, one of the world's leading software developers for pharmaceutical, biotech and medical device companies, which has opened new offices in Cornellà de Llobregat (Barcelona), should also be highlighted.

Grifols, meanwhile, has announced approval for the commercialization of XEMBIFY® in Europe and has advanced promising results in its vaccine for Alzheimer. Almirall has implemented 140 energy efficiency measures in its facilities, which has reduced its emissions by 39% in less than a decade.

Ecosystem capabilities continue to rise and this month we found out that the Center for the Production and Validation of Advanced Therapies (Creatio) will receive a world-leading bioprinter for tissue and organ manufacturing, the second one in the world after the one in Marseille. 

As for hospitals, two BioRegion centers have made it into the top 100 of the World's Best Hospitals 2022 ranking: Hospital Clinic (61st) and Vall d'Hebron University Hospital (83rd). Hospital Clinic has also made headlines this month for initiating the removal of brain tumors without the need to open the skull and the use of a new technique to reverse male infertility. Further examples of innovation in hospitals can be found at the Hospital Germans Trias i Pujol, thanks to the incorporation of high-intensity ultrasound technology, and at the Hospital de Bellvitge, which will have the most advanced technology with a High-Precision Diagnostic Center that will be at the forefront in Europe and will be reinforced as a benchmark in robotic surgery with a third Da Vinci robot.

70% increase in research grants and research news

A piece of good news for the BioRegion in March was the Government's announcement to increase research grants by 70%, up to €39 million. These economic resources will be used to provide more money to research groups. Also, recently, researchers from Clinic-IDIBAPS, IDIBELL and CIBERSAM have developed a mobile phone application to assess anxiety in real time and in real life, while the University of Lleida (UdL) and the Institute for Research in Biomedicine of Lleida (IRBLleida) have developed a mobile device to monitor the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. 

Scientists at the Center for Genomic Regulation (CRG) in Barcelona have created glucose-metabolizing pancreatic cells for the first time and the Institute for Biomedical Research of Girona (IDIBGI) has discovered how silencing a specific gene mitigates diet-induced weight gain. British doctors will test an artificial intelligence system developed by researchers at the Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science of the University of Barcelona (UB) to detect possible intestinal polyps more quickly and accurately. 

New industry appointments and honors

This month saw Farmaindustria sign Juan Yermo, former Chief of Staff at the OECD as the new CEO to replace the long-standing Humberto Arnés. Also, Thomas Harth has joined the venture capital firm Ysios Capital as Senior Director after 5 years at Gimv NV in Belgium and Dr. Douglas V.Faller has been appointed Global Chief Medical Officer of ORYZON. In the academic world, Andreu Mas-Colell will be the new president of the Quantum Technologies Council of Catalonia and the microbiologist Jordi Mas takes over as General Director of the Catalan Foundation for Research and Innovation. Congratulations and best wishes for success in this new chapter!

We also commend HumanITcare for receiving the 4YFN Awards 2022 for the best digital health of the year. The recognition was received at this international event for startups organized in Barcelona as part of the Mobile World Congress 2022, where more than 60 companies and healthcare institutions from the BioRegion took part. Dr. Josep Tabernero,  director of VHIO, has been awarded the Lilly Foundation Award for Biomedical Research 2022 and Dr.  Enriqueta Felip, a researcher at VHIO, has been honored with the Vanguardia de la Ciencia Award. Congratulations to all of them!

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