Tarragona - The University of Rovira i Virgili (Spain) and seven other European partners have recently joined the development of an biosensor within the EU project “CD-CHEF”. The sensor is able to detect gluten in food which triggers allergic reactions in humans. The biosensor is located on a miniaturised disposable chip made of a polymeric material. The chip is designed for a modular kit which later controls sample processing, dosage and analysis. The electrochemi-cal detection of allergenic gluten relies on ampero-metrics. Two electrodes are employed: A micro-reference electrode with a solid electrolyte made of silver/silver chloride and a modified gold film. The gold film is coated with specific antibodies that specifically bind allergenic gluten. The bonding triggers an electrochemical reaction. With the current flow inherent in this reaction gluten can be quantitatively detected. The analysis chip is designated for food control by manufacturers who want to declare their goods gluten-free. At the same time, the biochip will set an EU standard for the detection and extraction of gluten in food. The project (QLKI-2002-02077) is EU funded by the “Quality of Life” programme.
Most industry experts would agree that the Spanish biotech industry really only got rolling about a decade ago, particularly if you don’t count exceptions like PharmaMar, which was founded in 1986 as a fully-owned spin-out of...
One good indicator of this growth is the lengthening list of Spanish start-ups. According to Spain’s Association of Bioenterprises (ASEBIO), the number of biotech companies based in the country has more than doubled in the past 5 years. 75 new firms set up shop in 2007 alone. In total, Spain currently hosts around 300 companies in the industry. The growth has been mainly funded by government grants, soft/equity loans from state-wide public entities, private investors and seed capital funds. However, many companies complain that overall funding continues to be inadequate, and say appropriate specialised capital would have helped boost growth even more – for example, by allowing companies to focus on innovative in-house development programmes while avoiding a traditional fee-for-service model that does little to foster innovation.
Biotechs take off
Just five years ago, only 0.3% of total venture capital in Spain was invested in biotechnology. In Germany and the UK, the corresponding figure was 20 times that. Spain has been playing catch-up, though; at the end of 2006, two venture rounds worth a total of a71.5m allowed it to seize 7th place in Europe in the competition for biotech venture capital. The trend continued in 2007, with Madrid-based biotech adult stem-cell company Cellerix putting together the first ever international venture round in Spain. But although that a27.6m deal ranked among the top 10 transactions in the industry in Europe in 2007, large transactions remain the exception. The majority of Spanish companies today only need a2m to €15m to reach their next inflexion point. Spain also fulfills a number of important points necessary for a quality deal flow, in particular for early stage investments: 1. Science base: a strong science base is absolutely essential for nourishing a biotech industry with innovative technologies and products. According to Genoma España, Spain ranks fourth in Europe in terms of biotech research papers. This scientific output comes from a significant number of centers of excellence distributed throughout Spain, including the Spanish Council for Scientific Research (CISC), and the newly created Barcelona Biomedical Research Park. 2. Government sponsorship: supportive central and regional governments have enabled the financing of these centers of excellence. Among other initiatives, the “Ingenio 2010” program that was kicked off a few years ago is aimed at bringing Spain into line with the percentage of median EU investment in R&D with respect to the country’s GDP. “Ingenio 2010” includes over €1bn in grant money to encourage collaboration between the public and private sectors. Another initiative aimed at fostering the venture capital industry is a recent €182m public-private fund intended for investment in Spanish venture capital firms. 3. IP: new intellectual property laws encouraging scientists to pursue private ventures, as well as new laws allowing for equal revenue-sharing among inventors, the university or research council, and the institution or the company to which the inventors belong have significantly revamped Spain’s patent portfolio. According to a former CSIC president, the number of patents filed in Spain rose by 30% in 2005 – at that time the highest growth within the OECD and second-highest worldwide after China. 4. Human capital: as is the case in many European countries, Spain is being challenged to create a solid human capital base, with entrepreneurs and industry executives willing to switch gears and join a biotech start-up. To help foster this change in attitudes, the renowned Spanish Business Schools IESE, ESADE and Instituto de Empresa are focusing their efforts on catering to healthcare and biopharma industries. 5. Taxes: Spanish venture capital funds (FCRs) provide significant tax advantages for Spanish investors compared with other investment vehicles. The reason for this is twofold: on the one hand, gains and dividends obtained by FCRs from private equity investments are in practice exempt from Spanish corporate tax. On the other, income distributed by FCRs (via dividends or refunds) is also totally exempt in the hands of their Spanish corporate investors. In addition, this last exemption is extended, as far as Spanish withholding tax is concerned, to non-resident investors in the venture capital fund. For Spanish corporate investors in FCRs, this tax treatment entails an unbeatable 0% global taxation on the gains obtained on the divestment from private equity investments. FCRs are also exempt from capital duty on their incorporation, and their increase and decrease of funds.
Hurdles and prospects
The points mentioned above are important considerations for setting up a venture fund in Spain, but there are also some speed bumps. Virtually every autonomous region in Spain has at least one science park, or even a biocluster. There are 61 universities and 9 public research organisations, each with its own technology transfer office. This of course leads to a highly-fragmented market, complicating a smooth deal flow. A quality network is essential for identifying likely innovators. Because a professional Spanish venture capital industry focused on biotech is only now beginning to truly gain momentum, a second important barrier to entry can be an entrepreneur’s confusion about how the industry really works. Talented scientists with entrepreneurial potential who are also up to speed on corporate governance standards of professional biotech VCs are a rare breed. Moreover, as in other countries, Spanish pharmaceutical companies might be able to originate attractive company spin-outs, but these pharmaceutical companies generally remain private and under the control of the founders, who are often not acquainted with the potential offered by a professional biotech VC consortium.
First closing of Ysios Fund
A venture firm that wants to set up a Spanish biotech fund needs to consider the timing of such an endeavor. All Spanish venture firms and funds need to be approved and registered at the CNMV (Spain’s Securities and Exchange Commission), and this process can take 6-18 months depending on the complexity of the corporate and fund structure. What about investor appetite? Spanish investor interest for emerging and specialised industries such as renewable energy and biotechnology is on the rise, particularly after the downturn in real estate. This is reflected by the recent €67m first closing of Ysios BioFund I, the largest biotech fund ever raised in Spain (target size €80m). The fund is managed by Ysios Capital Partners, a team composed of eight professionals with scientific, legal, venture capital, corporate finance, pharmaceutical and biotech industry background. Located in Barcelona, Ysios Capital Partners is an independent venture capital firm registered with the Spanish Securities and Exchange Commission. The company provides private equity financing to early- and mid-stage human healthcare and biotechnology companies, primarily in Spain, although up to 30% of the final fund size may be invested elsewhere. A final consideration is that equity capital markets are also important in terms of exit considerations.
No biotech IPO in Spain
No biotech company focused on the development of therapeutic or diagnostic compounds has ever gone public in Spain. In the pharmaceutical industry, Spain does not have a longstanding tradition of companies going public. In fact, the majority of the healthcare and biopharmaceutical companies that have managed the feat have IPO’d in the last 2-3 years. This public emergence of entities with underlying assets based on life-science products and technologies has attracted the interest of investment banking analysts in Spain and abroad in recent years. It therefore comes as no surprise there are several rumored IPO candidates in Spain that are likely to go public as soon as they see the right window of opportunity.
Contact Carrer Baldiri I Reixac 10 08028 Barcelona Tel: +34 93 517 3545, email@example.com
Joël Jean-Mairet, PhD, Co-founding Partner Ysios Capital Partners oversees all operations at Ysios Capital Partners, including management, strategy and standard operations. He co-founded GLYCART Biotechnology AG (Zurich, Switzerland) in March 2001 and was Chief Executive since inception before the company was sold to F.Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd in July 2005. Jean-Mairet holds a master’s degree in biochemistry, specialising in biotechnology, and a doctorate in the fields of cell biology and immunotherapeutics.
Madrid – Spanish researchers have added a new model to the origin of tumour metastasis, the most common form of cancer death. In September, the team under Prof. Manuel Esteller from the Spanish National Cancer Research Center in...
Using miRNA expression microarrays with 389 miRNAs, the DNA demethylation agent 5-aza-2’deoxycytidine and subsequent bisulfite genomic sequencing, the team identified four cancer-specific miRNAs (miR-148a, miR-34b/c, miR-9-1 and miR-9-2) that were inactivated by hypermethylation of corresponding DNA sequences in three representative cell lines derived from metastases. In both cell culture and in mouse models, restoring the function of these miRNAs by demethylation hindered cancer cell migration and the activation of the corresponding cancer signaling pathways. In contrast, epigenetic silencing of miR-34b/c and miR148a mediated the activationof the oncogenic and metastasis targets genes c-myc, cdk6, e2f2 and tgif2. In the absence of silencing, the cancer proteins apparently help to drive metastasis. The new findings about this mechanism could have a major impact on the future development of cancer drugs. Metastases cause 90% of all cancer deaths due to solid tumours. In fact, hypermethylation of miR-148a, miR-34b/c, miR-9-1 and miR-9-2 does not seem to be limited to the three tumourcell lines under investigation, according to Esteller. When his team analysed 278 human primary tumour samples from the most common tumour types (including colon, lung, and breast cancer, head and neckcarcinomas, and melanomas), they found that a significant fraction of the 207 tumours that formed lymph node metastases showed hypermethylation in one or more of the four miRNA tumour suppressors. “This highlights the importance of the in vivo role of mi-RNA epigenetic silencing in metastasis formation,” the researchers suggest. Diagnostic applications of the new findings might be to identify DNA methylation patterns that allow for disease prognosis. Additionally, Esteller’s team sees huge potential for DNA demethylating agents to treatcancer.
Madrid – Spain’s health ministry has launched a a16m fund to support the development of orphan and pediatric drugs. The money will be distributed by the Carlos III Health Institute, and is dedicated to clinical projects of minor...
Madrid – Spain’s health ministry has launched a a16m fund to support the development of orphan and pediatric drugs. The money will be distributed by the Carlos III Health Institute, and is dedicated to clinical projects of minor economic interest to biopharma companies: among others, benefiting projects will be aimed at development of novel antibiotics, pharmacogenetic studies into drugs on market, and advanced therapies.
Barcelona – A chitosan-based delivery system for cyclosporin has shown promising results in a Phase I/II study with 25 psoriasis patients, according to a June report from its developer, Spanish biotech firm Advancell.
Barcelona – A chitosan-based delivery system for cyclosporin has shown promising results in a Phase I/II study with 25 psoriasis patients, according to a June report from its developer, Spanish biotech firm Advancell.
Madrid – Biotechnology is taking off in Spain. In 2007, there were 659 companies with biotech activities in the country, generating EUR22,500 million and employing more than 88,000 people (+38% up on 2005), according to the...
Madrid – Biotechnology is taking off in Spain. In 2007, there were 659 companies with biotech activities in the country, generating EUR22,500 million and employing more than 88,000 people (+38% up on 2005), according to the biotechnology report 2007 of ASEBIO, the Spanish bioindustries association (www.asebio.com/publicaciones/index.cfm?pub=2). But in fact, the number of core biotechs is about 200 sending EUR500m per year. “Spain has become a promoter of biotechnology innovation in Europe, and is beginning to penetrate international markets,” said Jose Maria Fernandez Sousa-Faro, the new president of ASEBIO when he presented the report at the end of June. The detailed 264-page book gives a comprehensive picture of the Spanish life sciences sector (companies and research organisations), biotech IP, and the drug development pipeline comprising of three Phase III, 24 Phase II, 10 Phase I, and 50 preclinical projects (41% in oncology). Although a gap remains in biotech technology transfer, the IP situation has apparently improved. In 2007, more biotech patents were filed than in 2006 (144 and 126 patents respectively). R&D spending in domestic biotechnology also grew by 46%. According to ASEBIO, it is now close to EUR300m. The association counted 79 alliances between Spanish biotech companies last year, up 52% on 2006. 75 new core biotechs began operations in 2007, mostly located in Catalonia (27%) and Andalusia (20%). Two new VC funds (Ysios EUR65m, Suan Biotech EUR30m) became available in 2007.
A Madrid – About 70% of all women will become infected with papilloma viruses (HPV) at least once in their lifetime. Now, the Spanish vaccine specialist Chimera Pharma SL (Madrid) has signed an exclusive licensing and cooperation...
A Madrid – About 70% of all women will become infected with papilloma viruses (HPV) at least once in their lifetime. Now, the Spanish vaccine specialist Chimera Pharma SL (Madrid) has signed an exclusive licensing and cooperation agreement with the German Cancer Research Centre (DKFZ) in Heidelberg. Under the agreement, the two partners will develop, a therapeutic vaccine against cervical cancer to prevent women who are already infected with HPV from developing cancer, and to eradicate existing cancer prestages. Chimera has got exclusive world-wide rights to commercialise thevaccine.
Huge market promise
The market for a vaccine that kills the cancer-causing virus subtypes seems to be extremely promising. Sanofi-Pasteur MSD, which licensed IP from Chimera’s German cooperation partners under Prof. Harald zur Hausen and Dr. Angel Cid-Arregui, has made EUR1.3bn revenues with the prophylactic HPV vaccine Gardasil® since its market launch in June 2006. Together with our Spanish partners, we will develop a protein vaccine against HPV16 and HPV18, which are linked to cervical cancer,” Cid-Arregui told EuroBiotechNews. The vaccine will be based on fusion proteins of three HPV envelope protein domains with the HBSAg envelope protein of the Hepatitis-B virus, which forms empty immunogenic virus envelopes. In addition to this, the virus shells can transport further proteins that stimulate the immune system. “Similar to our patented (US-PTO 7,201,908) vaccine candidate, we have demonstrated the preclinical efficacy of our new compound,” says Cid-Arregui. The young Spanish company – part of Madrid-based Grupo Bionostra – is currently beginning toxicological studies, and is planning to establish GMP production by February, and to file an application for clinical development by summer 2009. Like many biotech companies that develop compounds to Phase 2 for outlicensing to big pharma, Chimera currently does not have the resources for full clinical development. Thus, at the moment outlicencing to a big pharma company seems the most probable exit
The commercialisation of scientific results is not thought to be one of Spain’s strengths, but major changes have been underway in recent years, especially in the area of biotechnology. Supported by the government, the new...
The autumn Bio-Europe event has been taking place for 13 years at a number of different locations in Germany. 2007 saw the appearance of its first spring counterpart: Bio-Europe Spring, which is slated for venues in Southern Europe. Last year’s launch in Milan brought in around 1,100 visitors, who took part in about 4,000 individual meetings. With visitor numbers rising by almost 30%, the second Bio-Europe Spring demonstrated that there is also a significant need for business negotiations in the springtime. Carola Schropp, Managing Partner of the organizing EBD Group, was very satisfied with the development: “This clearly shows that we are in an era of ‘biopartnerings’. Business deals are the prerequisite for bringing candidate pipeline products to the market.” In total, about 5,800 meetings were arranged in Madrid, also up nearly a third over Milan. 145 companies additionally used the occasion to give short presentations of themselves and their cooperation opportunities. The main aim of the hosts was to showcase the changes taking place in Spain. Madrid also wanted to use the event to present its recently established biocluster to the international biotech public. “When people speak of biotechnology in Spain, they usually first think of Barcelona, but Madrid needn’t be shy about its position,” said Vincente Orts, Director of the regional agency PromoMadrid, to EuroBiotechNews. Today, a third of all biotech firms in Spain – around 50 out of 150 – are located in the Spanish capital. “In order to support the current dynamics, we decided to bring the Bio-Europe Spring to Madrid,” said Frederico Manrique, President of the Madrid Biocluster.
The 2nd Bio-Europe Spring at Madrid’s Palacio Municipal de Congresos conference centre
Dynamic developments taking place all over Spain
Development isn’t only occuring in the capital. Just five years ago, commercial biotech activity was low in Spain. Since then, innovation policy has been high on the government’s priority list. It’s now supported by a Minister for Health, Bernat Soria, who has had a previous career as a scientist, as well as through the recently inaugurated Ministry for Science and Innovation, headed by acknowledged biotech expert Cristina Garmendia. Nevertheless, deficits still exist. “Our scientists publish a great deal, but apply for too few patents. Our companies also remain far too unaware of what is going on at our universities,” said Jose Luis Jorcano, Head of the Foundation Genoma Espana. On the other hand, cash is less of a problem. ”There is no shortage of money in Spain, but it must be invested in genuinely first-rate projects”, stresses Jorcano. Yet there is also criticism. “Spain is doing a lot that is good. But sometimes one has the impression of too many cooks in the kitchen,” said Ignacio Faus, Managing Director of Palau Pharma, one of the largest biotech companies in the country. From his point of view, Bio-Europe Spring comes to early for most Spanish biotech companies. Much like the autumn event, the majority of visitors came from other European countries. Most pharma companies sent smaller teams than they do to the autumn event, but on the whole participants seemed satisfied. Only the Spanish weather didn’t play along; instead of Mediterranean sunshine, the guests were welcomed by North European-style rainclouds.
Valencia/Madrid – Ysios Capital Partners has gotten the go-ahead from the Commission Nacional del Mercado de Valores (CNMV) to create a venture capital fund with assets totalling €65m – €75m dedicated exclusively to the...
Valencia/Madrid – Ysios Capital Partners has gotten the go-ahead from the Commission Nacional del Mercado de Valores (CNMV) to create a venture capital fund with assets totalling €65m – €75m dedicated exclusively to the biotechnology sector, according to reports from the Spanish press. Ysios’ plan is to invest in roughly a dozen biopharmaceutical or diagnostics companies, as the partners expect a long-lasting upward trend in the biotechnology industries. “Despite the high uncertainty in the financial markets in recent months, which has seen a sharp slowdown in making investment decisions, we are very pleased with the interest in our project”, said Joël Jean-Mairet, the former CEO of Glycart Biotechnology AG who is now a partner at Ysios Capital. Along with Jean-Mairet, the initiative for the Ysios biotech fund was set in motion by Julia Salaverria, a former director of funds for Talde, Josep Lluís Sanfeliu, a former executive in the area of Corporate Finance and Business Development at Almirall, and Cristina Garmendia, the new Spanish Minister for Science and Innovation. Garmendia is also a former president of Asebio, the Spanish Association of Biotechnology Companies.
Madrid – The former president of the Spanish biotechnology association Asebio and CEO of Genetrix Group, Christina Garmendia, will lead Spain’s newly created Ministry of Science and Innovation. Garmendia assumed her duties as...
Madrid – The former president of the Spanish biotechnology association Asebio and CEO of Genetrix Group, Christina Garmendia, will lead Spain’s newly created Ministry of Science and Innovation. Garmendia assumed her duties as minister in mid-April. Spanish biotech experts hope that the new ministry – which is responsible for technology development and research – will boost bio-medical research, patenting and technology transfer. In April, Asebio announced that Regina Revilla, Director for External Relations at Merck, Sharp & Dohme since 1996, will take over the post from Garmendia, who has resigned in order to take up her new duties.
Valencia/Madrid – Researchers from the Prince Felipe Research Centre in Valencia (CIPF) have gotten the go-ahead from the Commission for Monitoring, Control and Use of Human Tissues and Cells Carlos III Health Institute to...
Valencia/Madrid – Researchers from the Prince Felipe Research Centre in Valencia (CIPF) have gotten the go-ahead from the Commission for Monitoring, Control and Use of Human Tissues and Cells Carlos III Health Institute to develop new groundbreaking stem cell techniques. One project, directed by Prof. Carlos Simon, will focus on the derivation of clinical-grade human embryonic stem cells from blastocysts without destruction of the 200-cell human embryos. Another will look into the molecular causes of two incurable diseases with the help of cloned patients’ cells. The project will be Spain‘s first to use nuclear transfer with human cells. The research group headed by Prof. Miodrag Stojkovich will use the pluripotent cloned stem cells to study childhood epilepsy and hereditary spastic paraplegia in vitro to better understand the causes of those incurable diseases. In particular, Stojkovich‘s research group will seek to establish a robust protocol for nuclear transfer of patients‘ cells. His long term goal is to obtain stem cell lines immunologically compatible with cell recipients. The researchers will actually focus on studying the DNA methylation status of reprogrammed cells in vitro, and will try establish in vitro models of human diseases for basic research, toxicology and mechanistic studies. They will be collaborating with the Institute Bernabeu, Valencia’s Faith University Hospital, the Hospital of the West Bank, the University of Alzira, and St. George‘s Hospital in London. The group plans to expand the number of clinic partners during the investigation. Both studies will add new stem cell lines to the Valencia Stem Cell Bank. Currently, there are five cell lines available from the Spanish stem cell banks in Barcelona and Valencia.
7th Berlin Conference on IP in Life Sciences: Big Data, Big Drugs
The health care industry faces significant transformation, driven by a boom in knowledge within biomedical sciences and breakthrough technologies such as gene sequencing. The management of "big data“ will change the understanding of diseases, development of drugs and treatment of patients. more