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Montserrat Vendrell: “We must foster our ability to compete internationally in order to face the moment of change we are experiencing”

Biocat CEO points to 2012 as a key year for strengthening the BioRegion of Catalonia’s role in Europe and its collaborations with the United States.

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“Being part of a cluster like the BioRegion of Catalonia allows us to identify complementarities, facilitates teamwork in large-scale projects, gives us the critical mass needed to project ourselves internationally and makes us a hub for attracting the global partners we need to face this ever more complex and competitive global environment.” With these words, Biocat CEO Dr. Montserrat Vendrell summed up the value a strong, organized biocluster brings to the Catalan biomedicine and biotechnology sector in the opening of the Forum Biocat 2011.

For the CEO of Biocat, the changes coming about in the business model used in the biopharmaceutical arena —the rising cost of research, the restrictive regulatory framework that makes it difficult to get new drugs approved, pressure regarding the price of drugs in order to make healthcare systems more sustainable, etc.— lead to a network model “where knowledge and business go hand in hand, and where those who can offer environments where excellence in basic and clinical research are complemented by proven business abilities will be successful.” For Montserrat Vendrell, Catalonia offers these conditions and Biocat must focus its efforts on projecting these capacities and scouting for value partners to carry out successful projects.

The speech by the CEO of Biocat was preceded by those by Antoni Castellà, secretary general for Universities and Research in the Ministry of Economy and Knowledge, and Francesc Sancho, secretary for Strategy and Coordination in the Health Department, who accompanied her in the inaugural session of the Biocat Forum. The fourth annual Biocat Forum was held yesterday at Barcelona’s Casa Llotja de Mar, under the slogan The value of the cluster, and brought together over 450 representatives from the more than one thousand organizations in the scientific, healthcare, business and financial arenas that make up the Catalan biocluster.

The Forum, which is organized by Biocat and the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce, with sponsorship from Biokit, is the yearly meeting of the biotechnology, biomedicine and medical technology sector in Catalonia.

Video TV3 Nightly News (minute 04:48), 24/11/2011

Sir Andrew Dillon, director general of the National Institute for Health & Clinical Excellence (NICE) in the United Kingdom, gave the Forum’s keynote speech, in which he explained the experience of the organization he heads up –an international benchmark in its field— regarding the valorization of research and, above all, in bridging the gap between the needs of the public healthcare system (patient needs and professional technical requirements) and the pharmaceutical and medical technology industry. Sir Dillon, who was introduced by Dr. Alícia Granados, senior strategy director for HTA (Healthcare Technology Assessment) at Genzyme and 2010 Ambassador to the BioRegion, explained how the system to regulate drug prices works in the United Kingdom and that it has a number of mechanisms to foster innovation and research in the industry, while keeping overall expenditure in check. NICE also provides guidance for innovative companies in various stages of the production process, regarding both research planning and more technical aspects like determining cost and the final implementation price in terms of scaled use. Sir Dillon also presented the modifications the British Government expects to introduce as of 2014 to drive innovative products and to cover therapeutic areas that have so far received little attention or have a wide-reaching social impact.

Participants in the Biocat Forum also discussed how to drive personalize medicine in Catalonia in a roundtable featuring experts like Cristina Espinosa, representing the Pharmaceutical Care & Complimentary Provisions Department of the Catalan Health Service (CatSalut); Joan Salgado, director of Project Management at Gendiag; Jordi Rodon, a doctor from the Vall d’Hebron University Hospital (VHIO) Medical Oncology Department, and Luis Serrano, director of the Center for Genomic Regulation (CRG). Ferran Sanz, director of the Research Program on Biomedical Informatics at the IMIM-Hospital del Mar and Pompeu Fabra University, moderated the debate.

Afterwards, the winners of the fourth BioEmprenedorXXI Awards were announced. These awards are promoted by Biocat, along with Barcelona Activa, the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce, “la Caixa” and Genoma España. A parallel session entitled Organizational change and growth through HR management: the Synthon Hispania case was led by Oriol Segarra, COO of Synthon Holding BV, with an introduction from Marta Príncep, Biocat director of Innovation. Synthon Hispania, in just a short time, has come to be fourth in the Best WorkPlaces Spain 2011 ranking, in the category of 250-500 workers in the pharmaceutical sector, which is created by the renowned Great Place to Work Institute.

After the conferences, the event continued with a networking lunch for the Forum participants, with collaboration from a number of companies and organizations form the BioRegion: Sanofi Genzyme, Panreac, Chubb-Medicorasse, Almirall, Trial Form Support, Oncocat, Bionanomed and the International Center for Scientific Debate.

The event finished off with participation from Minister for Enterprise and Employment Francesc Xavier Mena, Deputy Mayor for Economic Promotion for the Barcelona City Council Sònia Recasens, and President of the Chamber of Commerce Miquel Valls. Both Mena and Recasens expressed their support for the sector and for the work Biocat is carrying out.

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Montserrat Vendrell, Antoni Castellà and Francesc Sancho inaugurated the 2011 Biocat Forum - Photo: © Biocat, Héctor Fuentes.

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