A piece of news
Last month we spoke about advanced therapies and now they’re back in the headlines, with news about CAR-T at Hospital Clinic and Vall d’Hebron. Before heading off on vacation, let’s look at the top news stories in the BioRegion of Catalonia this month of the famous CataloniaBio & HealthTech barbecue. Happy summer!
Funding for startups in the sector is also in the news again: Orikine Bio, a spinoff of the Center for Genomic Regulation (CRG) in Barcelona, closed a €5.5 million round to validate their technology based on developing proteins to treat autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. The operation was led by Asabys and the French venture capital fund AdBio, the original investor in Orikine Bio.
Pharmacelera has secured €600,000 through the Avançsa Innova Creixement program. These funds will go towards expansion on the international market, especially in the United States. Also, Affirma Biotech has opened a round to raise €600,000 through Capital Cell. The goal? To confirm the efficacy of their new compounds in activating the immune system for broad spectrum treatment of severe viral and bacterial infections.
Highlights among the big corporations in the sector include Roche, which has invested €51 million to renovate and expand its facilities in Sant Cugat: the campus has over 30,000 m2 of space and is home to its Diagnostics and Diabetes Care teams. For its part, Grifols is kicking off its European launch of XEMBIFY® to treat immunodeficiency in Spain. The multinational hemoderivatives corporation is negotiating with China Resources to divest its business in that Asian country: it has put its 26% stake in Shanghai Raas up for sale. The company could be getting good news soon: the European Parliament has green lit a law that would give their business a push, allowing plasma donors to be compensated. The initiative still has to be passed by the European Parliament and negotiated with Member States, but big changes are not expected on this point.
Pangaea Oncology has acquired 75% of the clinical trials branch of Girona-based Giromed Institute, which specializes in respiratory diseases. The operation is structured through the new company Pectus Respiratory Health, which expects to see yearly turnover of €1.1 million.
The consortium made up of Reig Jofre and CZ Vaccines, which belongs to Galician group Zendal, is one of four awarded contracts by the European Commission to ensure the supply of vaccines in case of a public health emergency. The other pharmaceutical companies are in Ireland, Belgium and the Netherlands.
Speaking of vaccines, HIPRA is looking for 300 volunteers 65 or older to take part in a study to assess the safety and immune response of COVID-19 vaccine BIMERVAX® when administered jointly with the seasonal flu vaccine for this coming fall/winter 2023-2024. Hospital Sant Pau is also looking for volunteers for a study, this time on hidden glaucoma: they need 1,000 people over 50 who haven’t had their eyes checked in the past 2 years.
In the section on appointments, this month there have been changes at the top at Azbil Telstar: Jordi Puig has been named CEO and Emili Pablos, executive vice-president and CFO of the company.
This month, as we said earlier, there has been good news on advanced therapies. A multi-center study led by Hospital Clinic Barcelona-IDIBAPS and published in The Lancet Oncology has proven the efficacy of CAR-T ARI0002h to treat patients with multiple myeloma resistant to standard treatments. In this regard, Hospital Clinic has renewed its cancer research alliance with the “la Caixa” Foundation, which will earmark €4.6 million to develop new personalized therapies for various types of cancer, both blood and solid tumors, and for other diseases of the immune system.
And their colleagues at VHIO took part in developing a new technology to process CAR-T cells more quickly and effectively that could cut wait time for patients. The results in preclinical models and the preliminary results of the first clinical trial in patients with B-cell lymphoma have been published in Cancer Discovery.
More advances in oncology The NADIM II study, with ICO, IDIBELL, IGTP and IDIBGI, has consolidated a new standard treatment for early-stage lung cancer that increases survival rate by 20% and could benefit over 6,000 patients a year in Spain. The results have been published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Also IDIBELL, with the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) in London and Vivan Therapeutics, has signed a deal to develop molecules that recognize more than one target for personalized treatment of colorectal cancer. On the other hand, IDIBELL and IIB Sant Pau, with other Spanish research institutes, have joined forces with the CNIO on the IMPaCT_VUSCan project to identify genetic variants associated with a higher risk of developing cancer.
News from the heart: IRB Barcelona and biotechnology firm Nostrum Biodiscovery have generated a new type of inhibitor that blocks some functions of the p38 protein, with therapeutic potential in some cardiac diseases. The work has been published in Nature Communications. Additionally, a heart model made with stem cells has revealed why one mutation affects two siblings with the same heart disease in different ways: the project was led by IDIBELL and included other centers, like IDIBGI, with the results published in Circulation Research.
Now let’s turn to infectious diseases. The structure of a protein bound to DNA reveals how the toxicity of the cholera bacterium is activated: the research, led by IRB Barcelona, has been published in PNAS. Plus, this month we learned that monotherapy could replace combination therapy for endocarditis, according to a multi-center study led by IDIBELL that will change international guidelines for handling this serious infectious disease.
First milestone in the artificial placenta project led by BCNatal (Sant Joan de Déu – Clinic): the first integrated artificial placenta prototype has increased the hours of survival exponentially, reaching 12 days in good fetal conditions. This project boosts survival and reduces serious side effects experienced by most babies born at six months or earlier, considered extremely premature. Also, a study by IRB Barcelona has revealed a key mechanism in embryonic development: the pivotal role of DNA copy number. More news in gynecology: administering testosterone to infertile women before ovarian stimulation does not significantly improve reproductive results and can have undesirable side effects, according to an international study led by Dexeus University Hospital that also included Hospital Clinic Barcelona.
Regarding Alzheimer, the Autonomous University of Barcelona and US biotechnology firm Anew Medical have signed a licensing deal to study a gene therapy for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) based on the Klotho anti-aging protein.
IBEC has started taking part in the Bioaction project, an initiative funded by the European Innovation Council that aims to revolutionise the approach to implant-associated infections.
Let’s continue with news on neurology: a study led by Harvard University with IDIBELL, the Catalan Institute of Oncology (ICO) and Bellvitge University Hospital (HUB) has found that all lesions causing epilepsy affect one specific neural circuit. Regarding medical devices, a study led by Vall d’Hebron points to the usefulness of smartwatches as a complementary tool to medical care to detect arrhythmias after a stroke. So, these devices could be a helpful addition to medical care to monitor patients hospitalized after a stroke to prevent them from having another one.
Two good news stories in psychiatry. Deep brain stimulation improves symptoms in patients with treatment-resistant schizophrenia and bipolar disorder: a study led by IDIBAPS has shown that this technique could be a safe, effective alternative for complex cases that don’t respond to therapy. Also, a study by IIB Sant Pau has shown that deep brain stimulation of the subcallosal cingulate gyrus can have significant, lasting benefits in treating depression.
And we’ll finish off the research section with publications:
Xavier Montalban, head of Neurology at Vall d’Hebron, has been awarded the MS Charcot 2023 prize by the Multiple Sclerosis International Federation (MSIF). This is the maximum global recognition of treatment and research on this disease. And Hospital Clinic Barcelona-IDIBAPS has been chosen by the Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF) as one of eight international academic medical centers to train a new clinical researcher on movement disorders, with an Edmond J. Safra grant.
The Spanish Association for Metastatic Breast Cancer has given out its M. Chiara Giorgetti awards for research on metastatic breast cancer. Winners in the various categories include the VHIO, with a project led by Laura Soucek to tackle combined use of MYC and PARP inhibitors as a new strategy for triple-negative breast cancer; a project at IDIBAPS/Hospital Clinic to detect patients with metastatic disease that progresses after CDK4/6i treatment, led by Aleix Prats; and a project from VHIO and Hospital Clinic Valencia to characterize and find the optimal follow-up for oligometastatic breast cancer, led jointly by Meritxell Bellet of VHIO and Juan Miguel Cejalvo of Hospital Clinic Valencia.
Additionally, Hospital del Mar Research Institute Barcelona researcher Manuel Valero has received the Tatiana Foundation Young Investigator Award from the Spanish Society of Neuroscience for his contribution to the study “GPS of the brain”.
And we’d also like to congratulate Hospital del Mar Research Institute on its 75th anniversary. Did you know it was inaugurated in 1948 by Sir Alexander Fleming, Nobel laureate in Medicine for discovering penicillin? Don’t miss the celebrations.
Congratulations to all of you!