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Biotechnology consolidated in Catalonia: key findings from the Biocat Report

The biotechnology industry in Catalonia and Spain is seeing unstoppable growth. Over the past decade, the success of companies like Zeltia and Oryzon Genomics has underpinned the sector, with such activities now standing for 9% of the statewide GNP.  Though the economic slump has slowed its evolution, and despite the financial situation and cutbacks in R&D, figures show that such negative conditions have not stopped the expansion of biotechnology. The same applies to the Catalan BioRegion.

The latest results of the biotechnology sector in Catalonia are taken up in the Biocat Report 2015. This industry now stands for 7% of the region’s GNP, according to 2014 data, as the companies boasted a total turnover of 14.6 billion euros, employing over 42,000 people. The data show that Catalan biotechnology has continued to grow since the publication of the last Biocat business association report. 

Image.- Source: Generalitat de Catalunya.

Along these lines, Albert Barberà, managing director of the organization, said during the presentation that the Biocat Report was “evidence of the progressive consolidation of the BioRegion ecosystem,” The evolution of positive indicators, such as the number and turnover of biotech companies, is further proof of this. On the downside, the document describes how public and private investment in R&D has fallen by 11% between 2009 and 2014, as has happened in the rest of Spain.

The success of companies like Oryzon Genomics is not isolated. According to the conclusions of the Biocat Report 2015, biotechnology companies raised over 100 million euros between 2013 and 2015. These impressive results are attributable to Oryzon’s agreement with Roche, Palobiofarma’s alliance with Novartis, or the success of financing rounds completed by Sanifit and Minoryx Therapeutics. As occurs with Spanish biotechnology, most companies are devoted to biomedicine, with Catalonia holding a leading position in the number of companies that use biotechnology, ahead of the Community of Madrid and Andalusia.

The strength and potential of research in Catalonia are instrumental components of the positive results described in the Biocat Report. The report released by the business association states that the BioRegion is responsible for 0.99% of all scientific production worldwide. The number of publications has climbed by 168% in recent years, while between 2010 and 2015, 286 patent applications were filed for, standing for 17% of all patents in the country.

            Image 2.- Positive data taken from the Biocat Report. Source: Biocat.

 

Scientific policy also markedly affects the situation of biotechnology. There have been some initial merges between research centers and companies in 2014, marking a trend that will shape the future of the sector. To wit, the integration of the CRESIB and the CREAL into the new Global Health Institute, the creation of the Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology (CRG, ICIQ, ICN2, ICFO, IFAE, IRB) or the merger of six major technological players into the EURECAT are a few of the most noteworthy movements on the Catalan biotechnology scene. The dynamic nature of the sector can also be seen in the launch of initiatives such as Bioinformatics Barcelona, the Parc Taulí Institute of Health Research and Innovation or the Barcelona Clinical Trials Platform.

The consolidation of biotechnology in Catalonia is real, but there are also hurdles in its future. Among others, Josep M. Martorell, former General Director of Research of the Autonomous Government of Catalonia (2011-2015), points out such challenges as the consolidation of the system’s quality and the transformation of this knowledge into social benefits and economic growth. Technological cores will also play a key role in this task, as they improve, expedite and promote effectiveness and results of life science research. For that reason, Carles Puigdemont, President of Catalonia, stated during the ceremony that, “the Biocat report shows that our strategic focus on research and innovation makes perfect sense.”