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Start-up generation

Mariano Vázquez

CTO and co-founder of ELEM Biotech

Mariano Vázquez has a PhD in Physics and started working at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center in 2005 as a researcher, using the Mare Nostrum supercomputer. There, with one of his colleagues, he created simulation software that can be applied in a variety of fields, including aeronautics, the automotive industry, wind power and biomedical research. The latter has been the most successful application, especially for cardiac research. After receiving several grants and taking part in international collaborations with the software developed, he co-founded ELEM Biotech in 2018.


“Creating a startup is like running a marathon while having rocks thrown at you. You have to be prepared not only to run but to get hit, too”


ELEM Biotech is a spinoff of the Barcelona Supercomputing Center and one of the 10 companies participating in the current edition of the CRAASH acceleration program. It is based on software that creates models of the human body from the patient’s medical data to replicate how their organism works. It focuses specially on cardiac research, simulating several aspects of the heart’s physiology. These models can show the diversity and pathologies found in society, virtually.


Why did you want to be an entrepreneur?

The motivation was twofold: an external need and an internal one. The external one arose because we had been doing applied research with the software developed since 2005 and, in that situation, you have to do what your collaborators ask of you at any given time. The internal need was because we were working with a huge medical device company and they always said they would like to use the software themselves, but academic software can’t be made available to external users without supervision, as it isn’t intuitive enough for non-expert use. That’s why I wanted to find a way to make their job easier and the way to do that was to start a company.


What is the most important strategic decision you’ve made so far?

To start the company. When we decided to found the spinoff, I had to quit full-time research, and once you’ve made that decision, there’s no going back.


What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?

People give you lots of advice when you’re starting out as an entrepreneur, so much it’s impossible to remember it all. However, there is one thing a friend of mine, also a physicist and entrepreneur, said that has stuck with me: “Creating a startup is like running a marathon while having rocks thrown at you. You have to be prepared not only to run but to get hit, too.”


And now what? What milestones do you want to achieve in the short term?

We’re at the fundraising stage, which isn’t easy right now because, even though the investors’ enthusiasm hasn’t been dampened, there has been a sort of shrinkage in terms of actually investing. This will probably change soon, but for now that’s how it is. A short-term milestone we have set is to get the funding we need to grow.