Showing strength in troubled times
Madrid – When Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao met his Spanish colleague Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero on August 31st, he talked about the Mediterranean country’s role as an important economic partner for China, and said cooperation should be strengthened in key strategic areas like renewable energy, aerospace technology and biotechnology.
The burgeoning life sciences sector in Spain has gained renown beyond the country’s borders in the past few years. A symbol for the healthy state of the industry there is BioSpain. Since it was first launched in 2003, the fair has become the leading biotechnology event in Southern Europe. More than 160 companies and institutions will exhibit in Pamplona from September 29th-October 1st. The partnering event, organised by EBD Group, will bring together 1,200 delegates from over 700 companies.
BioSpain’s steady growth is mirrored by the Spanish biotechnology industry, which is one of the few economic powerhouses in a country battered by the housing bust and the financial crisis. The absolute size of the field is still small compared to other sectors, but its relevance for the future of the Spanish economy is far greater. Investments in biotech research and development have doubled in three years, according to the annual report (2009) published by the Spanish Bioindustry Association (ASEBIO). Not only are investments rising, but revenues as well. Bioindustry turnover in Spain reached a31.1bn in 2008, an 18.9% increase over the previous year. 942 companies engaged in biotechnology-related activities in 2008, and they had a growth rate of 23.3% over the previous year. Of these, 305 companies are dedicated biotech companies. Total employment topped 108,000 last year, 4.3% higher than in 2008. "We are very pleased with the evolution shown by the biotech market in Spain,”says ASEBIO Chairman José María Fernández Sousa-Faro. Some champions are emerging. In the drugs’ area, four companies that have already launched products stand out:
PharmaMar with Yondelis against soft tissue sarcoma and ovarian cancer,
Palau Pharma together with Iberhospitex in the cardiovascular area, GP-Pharm with Lutrate Depot against prostate cancer, and Merck’s Atacicept for treating lupus.