BioSpain 2021, showcasing Spanish biotech leap forward
Never in modern history has science been so close to everyday life as in the last two years. There is no longer any doubt that biotechnology is contributing to improving people’s lives and that it is a good sector to invest in. Spain has a competitive industry of companies that develop and manufacture in vitro diagnostic tests for Covid-19 and produce more than ten million PCRs, one and half a million antibody tests, and two million rapid antigen tests per week. More than 127 solutions, including the vaccine, are now in the hands of more than 64 members of the Spanish Bioindustry Association (AseBio).
Many of these companies will gathered, along with national and international investors, in Pamplona-Iruña to hold BioSpain 2021 and take advantage of the prominence of biotechnology to talk about their successes, obstacles and future challenges, with at least 30% of delegates coming from outside Spain. “BioSpain 2021 will be a unique opportunity to catalyse the enormous potential of the Spanish biotechnology sector,” explains Ana Polanco, chairwoman of AseBio. With more than 30 sessions, the agenda will cover a wide range of topics such as Advanced Therapies, Precision Medicine, CRISPR, Vaccines, Big Data, Food & Agriculture, Venture Capital, R&D funding and many more.
Science, production & investment
During this race against the clock to fight Covid-19, Spain has become the world’s eighth-largest power in terms of number of biotechnology papers. On the other hand, and following this upward curve, companies have increased their launch of products and services to the market by 70%. In this same dynamic, companies dedicated to this innovative industry continue to increase significantly, reaching 3,585 companies, of which 790 have biotechnology as their main activity, according to the latest available data.
The Spanish sector has not ceased to attract the attention of the investment community, and even more so during the pandemic, which has provided a unique opportunity favouring a notable leap in private investment in 2020. The volume of private capital raised has grown since 2016, but this year stands out with an increase of 46% compared to 2019, reaching a total of €151,634,021. But its attractiveness goes beyond borders. The volume of operations with international participation is increasing again this year, approaching €100m. This pattern has also been seen in partnerships, a crucial aspect for consolidating the sector and bringing innovations to market. Spanish biotech companies sealed 59% more partnerships in 2020 than in the previous year, 40% of which were with public sector entities.
Susana de Antonio, director of Euronext Spain, silver sponsor of BioSpain 2021 and main European market for the life sciences sector, is very clear about the location’s strengths: “Spain has a very well-established ecosystem, with a very attractive base of companies that are reaching an increasingly higher level of maturity and are internationally recognised”. The expert tells us that this is possible thanks to the combination of great talent, both technological and managerial, public initiatives (universities, grants, among others), private investment through specialised venture capital funds and the institutional support of associations such as AseBio.
Personalised medicine, hot topic in Navarra
However, Covid-19 has not eradicated other diseases, and we still need solutions to strengthen our healthcare system. Personalised medicine is increasingly seen as the future of medicine and the most disruptive and relevant change in treatments. This is demonstrated by the fact that, in the last year, launches of precision medicine and diagnostic products or services in Spain have increased by 40%, reaching 52% of the total number of biotechnology products launched on the market.
Navarra, host of the next BioSpain in partnership with Sodena and the Government of Navarra, is one of the autonomous communities that in the last five years has been developing a firm commitment to personalised medicine, to become a leader at national level. “Spain is at a good starting point to face the challenges that this paradigm shift entails, but Navarra is in a good position to lead its implementation at a national level. The region has extensive experience in pilot programmes through the call for strategic projects in genomics and advanced medicine, both in basic research and healthcare, with specialised personnel and state-of-the-art infrastructures,” says Gonzalo Rodríguez Ordóñez, director of Personalised Medicine and Laboratories at Nasertic, the public company of the Government of Navarra. According to many of the experts consulted, the ecosystem that emerges thanks to BioSpain favours close contact between research centres and industry bringing about multiple opportunities for partnerships. In addition, it is a great opportunity to learn about the situation and potential of the Spanish biotechnology sector and new areas of research and innovation.
“For Spain, I can envisage international partnerships with Asian stakeholders in the field of personalised medicine. Cohort studies and big data could optimise specific research & development, Spanish experts could bridge the gap and become close allies for Hong Kong scientists and firms”, adds Gregory Rall, senior manager of Innovation & Technology at Invest HK - Government Department of Foreign Direct Investment, bronze sponsor of BioSpain 2021.
Industrial transition, a biotech priority
Although health has been centre stage over the last few months, the transformation towards a greener industry is a priority for the European Union. To pave the way towards sustainability, industrial biotechnology is one of our great assets. In Spain, there are already at least 163 biotech companies specialising in the industrial area, which are fighting to combat climate change, according to data collected by AseBio.
“The economic recovery will be green, or it won’t recover. Featured in 11 of the 17 SDGs, biotechnology is key to driving sustainable, knowledge-intensive growth and contributing to the green transition by mitigating climate change, conserving natural resources, facilitating safe agriculture and a safe and healthy food supply,” affirms Polanco.
For the R&D Director of Biomass Department of CENER (National Renewable Energy Centre), Javier Gil, “the bioindustries sector is highly dynamic and innovative, with a huge R&D&I input. We will soon be surprised by new developments of all kinds that will transform the Spanish economy in the fields of health, energy transition, sustainable chemistry, circular bioeconomy and agriculture, to lead us towards a more sustainable world”.
The industrial transformation and the health recovery will be the focus of BioSpain 2021, which will be held at the Palacio de Congresos y Auditorio de Navarra-Baluarte with the support of platinum sponsors such as ICEX España Exportación e Inversiones, GAIN (Agencia Gallega de Innovación) and Merck.
Agathe Cortes, Communication Manager, AseBio