Joan Bertran is the founder and CEO of Cebiotex, a spinoff of the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC) and Hospital Sant Joan de Déu that is working to cover an unmet medical need in oncology, especially for children with cancer. The company is developing CEB-01, a biodegradable membrane that delivers high doses of chemotherapy after surgery where a tumor has been removed in order to eliminate any cancerous cells that were left in the area. The company was founded in 2012 and successfully completed phase 1 clinical trials at Hospital Sant Pau in late 2020. The technology has been patented in the US, EU and China.
Sara, a friend’s daughter, died when she was six after battling a neuroblastoma since she was two. She died because none of the surgeries could remove it completely: there were always cancerous cells left on an artery. I had the idea for local chemotherapy, targeting the spot where the malignant cells were left behind. I contacted Hospital Sant Joan de Déu and the UPC to get my project started. My first priority is to help kids with cancer, and adults, too.
To get out of my comfort zone as an executive and set off on the adventure at the helm of Cebiotex. Doing the BioEmprenedor XXI program, which no longer exists but was organized by Biocat, Caixa Capital Risc and Barcelona Activa, gave me the push I needed. I put it all on the line to push forward.
I would have liked to know which place was best to found my company. After visiting Boston, where I met with the Richi Foundation, I realized that there would have been more funding opportunities in the United States and that things would have gone faster there. In our country, it’s hard to raise funding and we’re moving more slowly.
Most investors in the biotech sector have never been entrepreneurs. In the first round of funding, investors asked me about our monthly billing... We’re still a little behind here. I think it won’t be as difficult to be an entrepreneur in this sector a few years from now.
I’ve gotten a lot of advice, but the best was the tips and contacts from the Bioemprenedor XXI program. They were very useful in starting my path as an entrepreneur.
It’s important to work with multidisciplinary teams. At Cebiotex, we have oncologists, surgeons, biotechnologists, pharmaceutical specialists, textile engineers, computer engineers, regulatory experts, business experts... My motto is: leave your ego at home, share what you know and work positively as a team.
We recently closed a round of funding with Capital Cell for €750,000, 125% of the investment we were looking for. Now we’ve set the goal of completing phase 1 clinical trials on drug safety and, then, to start phase 2 to measure how effective our drug is. Then, we’ll start a pediatric clinical study with Sant Joan de Déu.
Update: Cebiotex recently closed a fourth investment round of €2.2 million. In addition, it has been recognized as one of the world's 100 emerging therapies in soft tissue sarcoma in DelveInsight s Soft Tissue Sarcoma Pipeline Insights report.