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Press release

Nearly one hundred professionals from the BioRegion attend BIO congress in the United States

15.05.2009

BIO is the top meeting in the sector, held this year in Atlanta (United States) from 18-21 May.

For the first time, the BioRegion will give a conference as part of the official schedule of events, explaining the opportunities available in the sector and the cancer genome research being carried out in this area. Spain, and Catalonia in particular, is an international benchmark in this field.

30 companies and 14 institutions make up the delegation of more than 90 professionals, one of the largest to attend this year’s congress, led by the vice president of the Regional Government of Catalonia, Josep Lluís Carod-Rovira.

Biocat is coordinating Catalonia’s presence at the top congress in the sector –the Biotechnology International Organization (BIO) Congress– for the third consecutive year. This year’s congress will take place in Atlanta 18-21 May. Led by the Vice President of the Regional Government of Catalonia, the Catalan delegation is made up of more than 90 professionals from 30 companies and 14 institutions. New this year, Spain has been invited to give an official conference on the country’s R&D model, specifically a session dedicated to research on the cancer genome. Catalonia leads the state in this field, and a Catalan company will be in charge of explaining the BioRegion’s role in global genomics.

There are many reasons to attend BIO: more than 20,000 global industry leaders from 70 countries in Europe and 48 American states, more than 6,000 business meetings, nearly 14,000 partnering meetings... “This is the perfect place to show off our key projects, to introduce our organizations and to meet with our international counterparts in order to consolidate agreements, establish new alliances and solidify the BioRegion’s position on the international biomedical scene,” explained Manel Balcells, president of the Biocat Executive Committee.

The international community is becoming more and more interested in the BioRegion thanks to its annual growth rate, which is above the European average (30%), its 70 biotech companies and nearly 400 business connected to the sector, and the fact that it has been rated the fourth best area in attracting international business. Therefore, the BioRegion’s objective at this congress is to publicize the opportunities and potential the Catalan biotech and biomed sector currently offers, establish collaboration agreements, promote networking between the Catalan delegation and those from other countries and meet with Catalan science representatives in the USA.

At this year’s BIO congress, the delegation will participate in the official conference agenda for the first time. Juan José Moreno, general director of Technology Transfer and Business Development for the Ministry of Science and Innovation; Tamara Maes, Chief Scientific Officer at Oryzon; and Roberto Weinmann, director of Business Development for PhramaMar in the USA; will give a presentation titled Cancer Genomics in Spain: A success story, explaining the R&D projects on cancer treatment currently being carried out in Catalonia and Spain.

This presentation will highlight the start up of the new Genome Sequencing Laboratory, one of the Catalan biomed community’s most important claims, which will be used for large-scale projects like the one led by the International Cancer Genome Consortium, whose Spanish headquarters will be located in Barcelona. Including Spain (which will study one type of leukemia), the consortium is made up of eight countries: Australia, Canada, China, France, India, Japan and Great Britain, all of whom are leaders in this area of research.

In addition to this session, Montserrat Vendrell, general director of Biocat, will participate in the conference titled High-Tech Production and Facilities: How to share tools with other bioregions, about the EU’s 7th Framework Program BioCommon Tools project, which Biocat is participating in with other European partners. This conference will also discuss how synergies among different territories, for example Europe and the USA, can help drive growth in the sector through shared facilities and solutions.

A speaker’s corner and 26 stands

The BioRegion has doubled its space at BIO each year since it began participating, making up 400 m2 of the 900-m2 Spanish pavilion this year. In total, there will be 26 stands for individual companies and a 50-m2 space for Biocat, which will be available to the 14 biotech-related entities that will attend BIO and six other companies that do not have their own stand.

New this year, there will be a speaker’s corner, available to all companies and institution in the Spanish delegation that are interested in giving a 15-minute presentation for fairgoers. More than half of the participants will be from Catalonia.

The Spanish pavilion, coordinated by ICEX (Spanish Institute for Foreign Trade), will follow the same model as last year, dividing the space according to the different bioregions (Catalonia, the Basque Country, Madrid and Andalusia) plus a space for companies and organizations that do not belong to any of these communities.

Meetings with governmental bodies and other benchmark clusters

Like in previous years, the Regional Government of Catalonia will show their commitment to the sector with an official reception for the Catalan delegation at BIO, presided over by Carod-Rovira. Other participants will include the Catalan vice minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Roser Clavell; the Government of Catalonia’s delegate in the USA, Andrew Davis; president of the Biocat Executive Committee, Manel Balcells; general director Montse Vendrell, and the companies and institutions that make up the Catalan delegation, in addition to representatives from other international delegations and post-doctoral researchers, scientists and other science professionals working in the USA.

In addition to this reception, a breakfast was held with the Vice President of the Regional Government of Catalonia last week in order to get a first-hand look at the concerns and needs of some fifty participants in the BIO delegation and so they could share their objectives and aims for the sector.

Over the following days, meetings will take place with the Governor of Georgia, the Prime Minister of Quebec, the Prime Minister of Ontario and representatives from the Government of Andra Pradesh, in India, as well as delegations from clusters in other countries, like Canada, France, Belgium, India and Israel, in order to reach agreements with institutions and companies from the BioRegion.

Representatives from clusters in Ontario, Quebec and Andra Pradesh, which Biocat has different agreements with to drive their respective sectors, are scheduled to visit the Catalan pavilion. Likewise, the clusters that make up the CEBR (European Council of Bioregions), including the BioRegion of Catalonia, are scheduled to meet.

Meetings with companies in Maryland

In the days before BIO (13-15 May) some companies from the Catalan delegation participated in two symposiums organized by the association of postgraduate students at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore (Maryland), with collaboration from Biocat and Asebio, to present the BioRegion’s business opportunities to governmental bodies and companies in order to work towards possible future collaborations.

The importance of this event is derived from the leading role Johns Hopkins University plays in biotech research –on the level of MIT in Boston- and aims to drive international collaboration. Some Spanish biotech companies, like PalauPharma, Oryzon, Noscira, Sylentis, Vivia Biotech, Esteve and Digna Biotec, presented their activities at a symposium titled ‘BioSpain: a door to Europe, where general director of Biocat, Montserrat Vendrell, spoke in representation of the rest of the companies in the sector. Participants found the Catalan companies particularly interesting. At the second symposium, titled ‘Marine Biotechnology: a sea of opportunities’, PharmaMar presented their breakthroughs in cancer treatment derived from marine organisms.

In addition to the symposiums, there was also a reception with the Governor of Maryland, Martin O’Malley, and visits to science parks and top research centers like the Center of Marine Biotechnology (COMB), the Johns Hopkins Medical Campus and the Hopkins Science and Technology Park, as well as the National Institute of Health (NIH) –the American equivalent of the Spanish CSIC.

For interviews, contact:
Montse Daban • Tel. +34 93 310 33 30 • E-mail: mdaban@biocat.cat