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Start-up generation

Antoni Matilla

Founder of Biointaxis

Antoni Matilla is the founder of the spinoff Biointaxis as well as Director of the Neurogenetics Research Unit at the Institute for Health Science Research Germans Trias i Pujol (IGTP). He is a researcher, doctor and entrepreneur with over thirty years of experience in research and business management in Catalonia, United States and United Kingdom. Since 1990, his research has focused on understanding and curing hereditary ataxias, a group of minority hereditary neurodegenerative diseases that have no cure so far.

“Despite the barriers and difficulties in finding funding, I don’t regret any of the decisions I’ve made so far”


Biointaxis is a spinoff of the Institute for Health Science Research Germans Trias i Pujol (IGTP) that focuses on finding a cure for Friedreich’s ataxia, a minority hereditary neurodegenerative disease that causes muscle weakness, difficulties speaking or cardiac conditions. Although there is no cure so far, the company is developing a treatment based on gene therapy.

Why did you want to be an entrepreneur?

To facilitate development and transfer of the results of research done in the academic sphere to patients, in this case teens with Friedreich’s ataxia. From the time they are 12-14 years old, people with this disease will have to use a wheelchair for the rest of their life and start to develop very serious heart problems. After they’ve been diagnosed, there’s no way to stop the disease from progressing. It is incurable.

From there, I thought about how to develop a therapy we’re seeing stop the disease from progressing in mice. And the solution was to start up Biointaxis.

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

Starting up Biointaxis, because it allows us to capitalize the project. And what do we need for this? To surround ourselves with an excellent multi-disciplinary team. Because without an important team of scientists, technicians and biotechnologists, we can’t carry out this project. But it isn’t easy. We’ve been at it for two years and we’re still fighting to get funding. We need a significant amount of money, between €1 million and €20 million. Obviously, that has its difficulties: we submitted a project to the EU, competing with other top-notch biotechnology projects in Europe (over 4,000) and got an excellent rating, which means the EU believes this project truly deserves to get funded.

Tell us about something you would have liked to know before setting up the company.

Honestly, despite the barriers and difficulties in finding funding, I don’t regret any of the decisions I’ve made so far and I’m sure we’ll be able to bring our treatment to patients, to cure their disease..

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

Don’t let obstacles and big challenges stop you. Like, for example, getting money for research. To develop a project you believe in, because it has a future and because people have the right to get treatment. 

Think about the people condemned to living with a serious disease like this one. And I don’t mean only Friedreich’s ataxia. There are lots of minority diseases with no treatment and it’s hard to do research and develop a cure for them. For me, those are obstacles. But if it’s clear that, despite these hurdles, a person wants to push forward, try it, fight for these things, give these people an option, or give them hope, for me that is very big.

What strategy or tactic do you use at work that is also helpful in other areas of life?

Getting funding to carry out these projects isn’t easy. You need perseverance, quality and excellence on a professional level to carry on and not lost spirit. This analytical capacity and the scientific method of assessing risks and challenges and overcoming obstacles that get in your way can be applied to daily life, like scheduling meetings or even when you’re traveling and experience a new culture, a new country, a place you’ve never been before.

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

The biggest milestone I’ve set for the short term is to get the funding we need to develop and bring our treatment to patients with the disease. If I think beyond these four years, though, I don’t really know. Obviously, starting other projects, curing another disease, investigating and opening up another line of research. But also the satisfaction of seeing the results of our work, that people are cured. There are people who we’re giving a longer life expectancy and much better quality of life. For me, that’s a huge source of satisfaction. 

They are milestones to fight for in the short, middle and long term. It is up to us to create these treatments and do research into these diseases. Someone has to worry about these people.