Last year was key for companies in the life sciences sector, as can be seen in the results presented in the Biocat 2021 Report. A considerable part of these companies is located in the Barcelona Science Park, an environment where entrepreneurship, academic research, leading R&D&i and venture capital meet a common ground to generate social and economic development focused on innovation in health.
The advances in research, financing and market access of the companies that make up the Park community reaffirm its role as a catalyst for innovative activity and the transfer of knowledge and technology to society and consolidate it as a benchmark European ecosystem.
Financial muscle to move forward
Of the total investment raised last year by companies in the BioRegion of Catalonia, €238 million according to the Biocat 2021 Report, the highest figure recorded to date, more than 16% has been captured by companies installed in the Science Park of Barcelona with operations worth €39M.
Among the operations carried out by the entrepreneurial community of the PCB, identified in the 2021 financial year, it heads the ranking InBrain Neuroelectronicsa spin off of ICN2 and ICREA, specialized in the development of smart neuroelectronic therapies based on graphene for brain disorders. The ‘deep tech‘ raised €14.3 million, in what was the third highest round of 2021 registered in the BioRegion and one of the largest in the Spanish medtech industry, and which was co-led by Asabys Partners and Alta Life Sciences, together with CDTI Innvierte and two international investors, Vsquared Ventures and TruVenturo GmbH.
Next in amount IMIDomics which closed a Series A round of $16.5M, about €14M, led by the North American firm DNS Capital and with the participation of the pharmaceutical company Brystol Myers Squibb, The Pritzker Organization and TAO Capital, among other investors. This spin-off of the Vall d’Hebron-VHIR University Hospital works on the R&D of new drugs for the treatment of immune-mediated inflammatory diseases.
Other notable operations of companies installed in the PCB were carried out by Nuage Therapeutics, a spin-off of IRB Barcelona and ICREA, which began its activity in the Parc in 2021 to discover drugs directed at therapeutic targets that are difficult to approach, thanks to the financing provided by the Sabadell Asabys fund of Asabys Partners, some €3.2 million; Aelix Therapeutics, a spin off the Hivacat consortium, focused on the development of a therapeutic vaccine against HIV, which received €1.8 million from Caixa Innvierte Start, Ysios BioFund II Innvierte and CDTI Innvierte; Aptadel Therapeutics, a preclinical biomedical company focused on developing a new RNA therapy platform to treat cancer, which settled on the PCB in 2021 after closing a €1.7M ($2.1M) seed round; and Pharmacelera, a ‘deep tech’ that develops disruptive computational chemistry solutions for the discovery of new drugs, which closed a €1M equity crowdfunding campaign through Capital Cell, surpassing its initial goal of €800,000 in just two weeks. Finally, it is worth highlighting the €1.5M funding granted by the EIT Health Wild Card program to MiMark to promote the WomEC project to advance in the diagnosis of endometrial cancer.
The sum of the operations to raise investment of less than €1M has involved another 7 companies in the Park, which have raised a total of about €2M, with which the total figure of €39M, mentioned above, is reached.
2021 was also the year of the Nasdaq debut of Gain Therapeutics, founded in 2017 by Swiss private investors and the TiVenture fund. The biotechnology company, which develops new-generation pharmacological chaperones for the treatment of rare diseases using its own SEE-Tx technology (which it licensed to the Catalan firm Minoryx Therapeutics), has its headquarters in Lugano (Switzerland) and its R&D department in the Barcelona Science Park.
Another noteworthy operation, coming from public funds, is the €15 million loan that the CDTI granted to
Amer-based biotech pharmaceutical (Girona) HIPRA for the development of its recombinant protein vaccine against Covid-19. The team that the multinational has in its R&D center at the PCB – where part of the research necessary for the design, generation and characterization of new vaccine antigens is carried out – is actively participating in the project. Currently, the vaccine is in the process of continuous review by the European Medicines Agency, the step prior to marketing authorization.
On the other hand, GENESIS Biomed, a biomedical sector consultant specializing in early-stage R&D projects, helped close 3 rounds worth €3.8 million in 2021 through its Private Fundraising service; In addition, its GENESIS Ventures vehicle injected €2.5 million into various startups and spin-offs, of which €90,000 corresponds to last year, and to give continuity to this project, the consulting firm has created another vehicle that began this year.
As to licensesthe startup Oncoheroes Biosciences, focused on advancing new therapies for childhood cancer, licensed in 2021 the rights to develop and commercialize volasertib for adult cancer in the US Notable Labs, retaining the worldwide license in pediatric oncology.
Finally, Qiagen launched the QIAstat-Dx four-plex respiratory test for its QIAstat-Dx system, which quickly identifies whether a patient has a common seasonal respiratory infection (flu A and B, RSV) or SARS-CoV-2 in just one hour.
“In life sciences, it takes a long time, even years, and money to convert basic research into new products or services that reach society and have an impact on the health of all of us. However, we have many indicators that show how innovative projects are moving towards this destination, how more and more they attract public and private capital, and successfully pass new preclinical and clinical phases and finally reach the market. After 20 years of existence, the PCB has created a community of 3,200 professionals that demonstrates the fulfillment of these achievements, from the most basic research to innovation with new products and services”explains Maria Terrades, director of the Barcelona Science Park.
Photo: The Spanish