Matured, diversified and willing to expand – this is how the Spanish biotech sector presented itself during BIOSPAIN 2018 in Seville. Andalusia has launched the first bioeconomy policy strategy in Spain.
With more than 35+ sessions the bi-annual three-day-event (25 to 27 September 2018), which attracted up to 1,500 biotech professionals, demonstrated that Spain has not only high-level science to offer but also a substantial spectrum of innovative companies willing to expand beyond the borders. Among the success stories highlighted during BIOSPAIN were diagnostics company Stat DX which was acquired by German Qiagen in January 2018 and Spanish-Belgian Tigenix, since July 2018 part of pharma company Takeda.
Ten years after BIOSPAIN in Granada was first introduced as event in 2008 by the Spanish Association of Biotech Companies (Asebio), the European biotech event has established as a showcase of the Spanish biotech sector. “We have made BIOSPAIN the principal platform for business collaborations at the service of our industry”, said Ion Arocena, the General Manager of ASEBIO, underlining that 30% of BIOSPAIN attendees are from outside of Spain.
During the event, expertise in precision medicine, advanced therapies, immunooncology, artificial intelligence and antibiotic resistance was highlighted. Compared to previous editions, more representatives of Big Pharma companies joined as well. “We want to be an active partner in the Spanish innovative ecosystem”, said Antonio Gómez, Head of Business Development in Spain of Johnson & Johnson Innovation (JJI).
For the first time, Asebio also partnered with an Agricultural local ministry, emphasising the important role of agri-biotechnology, food innovation and the bioeconomy to reach the growing demand for sustainable solutions in different industry sectors. Andalusia, the third most important region of the Spanish biotech sector, used the event as a platform to introduce the first regional bioeconomy policy strategy of Spain, bringing together all relevant life science related stakeholders at the level of the local ministries.
From the investors perspective however, pharma biotech was in the focus. Among others, Jotin Marango, Managing Director from US-based Roth Capital, and others, pointed out that “in the US, we see a high interest in biotech so far, in particular with regard to very early stage companies. But there is a disconnect between markets and politics, which will lead to a substantial cooling down some day”, he said and added: “But I think at least until JP Morgan we will be save.” From his perspective, even later on, for some topics, the positive trend will hold on also in the long term. “Oncology will never go out of fashion”, he said, but with other areas such as NASH or gene therapy, “you don’t have much control.”
Compared to the US, European stock markets are more favorable for later stage companies. “European companies looking for an IPO should be in Phase II (of clinical development), because investors here are not willing to push early developments”, explained Susana de Antonio, Spanish representative of Euronext. Nevertheless, the cross-border stock market is driving forward its growth strategy by launching its 4th IPO prep-course for non-listed companies. Two Spanish biotech firms are among the 135 participants of the TechShare programme – among them Barcelona-based Minoryx Therapeutics, which just hit the headlines with a Series B €21m financing round. The funding round was led by Belgian investor Fund+ who for the first time invested in a Spanish biotech company. “Spanish bureaucracy is quite high and didn’t help a lot, but as we’re now gone through this process, we are ready for further investments”, Philippe Monteyne, Partner at Fund+ NV, announced at BIOSPAIN.
For Joan Perello, CEO of Sanifit, this is among the many examples demonstrating the maturing of the Spanish biotech ecosystem. “When we started back in 2007, there were literally no life science investors here. Now, we have a real Spanish biotech community, we have national investors attracting the international ones and we have this event talking about Spanish success stories. This will help us to capitalise on our high-level quality in science”, he resumed. Perello leads one of the most promising late stage companies in Spain, just entering Phase III clinical trials to treat calciphylaxis.