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HIGHLIGHTS: Supercomputer, public procurement of innovation, financing and advances in oncology

Appointments, clinical trials and corporate operations complete the list of June news in the BioRegion of Catalonia

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27.06.2019

June couldn’t possibly start with better news, this time from Brussels: the Barcelona SuperComputing Center – Centre Nacional de SuperComputació (BSC-CNS) was chosen to house MareNostrum5, one of the supercomputers in the network of high-capacity supercomputers being promoted by the European Commission. The acting president of the Spanish government, Pedro Sánchez, and the acting Minister of Science, Innovation and Universities, Pedro Duque, visited the site that will house it this month.

Meantime, the companies in the BioRegion continue working on their pipeline to bring patients new therapies. Oryzon Genomics unveiled the preliminary results of positive efficacy of the Phase II ALICE clinical trial part I with the drug iadademstat in cases of acute myeloid leukaemia, and Minoryx Therapeutics started treating the first patient in the Phase II clinical trial with the drug leriglitazona (MIN-102) to treat Friedreich ataxia.

Closer to market, Devicare reached agreements to sell its product Lit-Control in the United Kingdom, Malta and Algeria, and Pangaea Oncology reached an agreement with AstraZeneca to expand its portfolio of oncology services.

Among the major companies in the sector, Grifols launched a biological glue for surgical haemorrhages, and Boehringer Ingelheim opened a new plant in Sant Cugat del Vallès, in which it has invested €120 million. In turn, Esteve hired Lazard investment bank to oversee the sale of its generics division.

 

Financing and corporate movements

News from our local specialised funds from the BioRegion: Sabadell Asabys completed its first investment in a foreign company, specifically the German firm Cara Care, along with Johnson & Johnson, and Inveready secured €54 million to invest in technologies from emerging companies.

There will be no lack of candidates! IDP Pharma launched a €19.5-million round to finance the clinical studies scheduled until 2023, and Àvida Biotech plans to close a round of bridge financing worth €200,000 by October and to raise one million euros in 2020 to cover a future preclinical phase.

Likewise, Reig Jofre announced that it will increase its capital by €24 million to finance its domestic and international growth. Taking advantage of this increase, the Ybarra Careaga family, through its investment holding Onchena, joined the company as a shareholder.

Peptomyc secured €2.2 million in financing thanks to Phase II of the SME Instrument to begin its clinical trials, and Bluephage, a University of Barcelona spin-off which is developing a test to quantify bacteriophages in water and food, received a NEOTEC assistance award worth €250,000.

Among the big players, the European Investment Bank granted Almirall a loan of €120 million for research in dermatology. Likewise, the private equity fund Nazca Capital bought 85% of Diater laboratory owned by the Ferrer Group, and the Japanese multinational Kaneka raised its share in AB-Biotics to 40%.

 

Research and public procurement of innovation

The Catalan Health Service (CatSalut) launched a new health innovation program with €30 million to finance projects. Another figure surpassing the one-million mark is the news reported on TV3’s La Marató on the funds raised in its 2018 edition. It managed to raise a record figure of €15.06 million, which will be earmarked for cancer research.

Just this month, Vall d’Hebron unveiled a pioneering unit in Spain devoted exclusively to the new cell therapies to combat cancer, primarily haematological ones like CAR-T therapy.

This month, the research entities in the BioRegion published a host of oncological studies. The VHIO developed a new drug to boost the immune system against cancer and to slow down metastasis: the study was published in Nature Communications. Another study in which VHIO participated which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine demonstrated the efficacy of a personalised therapy against pancreatic cancer for the first time.

The IDIBELL published a study in Cancer Research in which they recount the amplification of a chromosomal region with resistance to chemotherapy in breast cancer. Likewise, a study from the Hospital HM Delfos of Barcelona published in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology concluded that immunotherapy yields improvements in patients with metastasis who have never received treatment.

This month, the BioRegion hosted a notable milestone in cardiology: the Hospital de Bellvitge implanted its first artificial heart, a complex operation which is quite exceptional in Spain. Within this same speciality, researchers from the Hospital and the Institute for Health Science Research Germans Trias i Pujol (IGTP) discovered a tool that enables the treatment to be adapted in patients with cardiogenic shock. This advance is published in the European Heart Journal.

A multicentre study published in Science Signaling and carried out by researchers from IDIBELL, Sant Joan de Déu, IDIBAPS, IIB Sant Pau, the University of Barcelona, the University of Vic, CIBERER and the Commissariat à l’Énergie Atomique (France) proved that a dietary supplement contributes to improving communicative capacity in a patient with atypical Rett syndrome.

And there are advances in neurology as well: the IRB Barcelona published a study in Cell in which it revealed that organs have the capacity to respond to light and detect changes between day and night, independent of the brain, and the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC) developed a technique, described in PNAS, which enables the function of a neural receptor to be ascertained according to its location in the brain. Moreover, researchers from the University of Barcelona published a study in Biological Psychiatry where they describe a new molecular mechanism that could explain the origin of depressive symptoms in Huntington disease.

The IrsiCaixa discovered that the Ebola virus uses the same receptor as HIV cells to invade cells in the immune system, and it designed antibodies that block this way in; the study was published in Nature Microbiology.

Likewise, for the first time in the world, a study by the Hospital Vall d’Hebron validated a classification which shows that there are five normal growth speeds in adolescents, not just one.

 

Individual accolades

Barcelona TechCity created a social meeting point for the local and international digital and technological ecosystem at the Palauet Living in Barcelona, and this month Trifermed granted its Trifermed Awards for Social Impact in Healthcare. The winners include the Barcelona Brain Health Initiative (Institut Guttmann) in the category of “Initiatives”, and the Hospital de Sant Joan de Déu in the category of “Foundations”.

We are closing this month citing individuals. Ana Maiques, CEO of Neuroelectrics, has been designated as a member of the Advisory Board of European Innovation Council (EIC). Forbes has published a list of 53 women-led startups disrupting healthtech. Some of them are Catalan: B-wom and Mimetis Biomaterials.

In turn, Albert Salazar, the current director of the Hospital de Sant Pau, was proposed as the new director of Barcelona’s Hospital Vall d’Hebron to replace Vicenç Martínez, who was dismissed from the Catalan Health Service.

Moreover, Jordi Portabella was appointed general manager of the Catalan Foundation for Research and Innovation (FCRi). The Minister of Enterprise and Knowledge of Catalonia, Àngels Chacón, will be the new president of the foundation. And precisely this month, the FCRi opened the call for candidates for the 2019 edition of the National Research Awards to foster the social recognition of science and the activity of researchers, patrons, business leaders and scientific communicators in Catalonia.

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