With around 2,500 attendees, Barcelona hosted the most successful BIO Europe Spring conference in the history of the EBD’s partnering event. Southern Europe demonstrated its growth ambitions in the life sciences.

For the third time, Mediterranean Barcelona invited the international biotech and pharma community to join BIO Europe Spring from 19-22 March. According to the organisers from EBD group, a record number of more than 15,200 meetings were scheduled over the three-day meeting, bringing together Big pharma, biotech and device companies as well as contract research and contract manufacturing organisations to discuss financing deals, licensing agreements or cooperations. With that, the Spanish hosts already set high standards for next years BIO Spring, which will take place in Amsterdam.

Second largest Spanish VC life science investment

Accompanied by sunny Mediterranean weather the overall mood in Barcelona was quite optimistic, although the US biotech sector is facing some uncertainty due to possible pricing debates or budget cuts initiated by the Trump administration. Europe, on the other hand, and the Southern part in particular, showcased the current dynamics in the sector at BIO Europe Spring.

While Italian listed company Newron finally reported the approval from US regulatory body FDA for the use of Xadago to treat Parkinson’s disease as add-on therapy to levodopa/carbidopa, Spain experienced its second largest life science VC financing in history. Spanish investor Ysios capital together with Spanish bank Caixa announced a €34.4m round for catheter company MedLumics, based in Tres Cantos near Madrid. The Series B round was led by French Edmond de Rothschild and also included new investors such as Irish Seroba Lifesciences and Italian Innogest Capital. It is the eighth company that profits from the most recent Ysios fund which has an overall volume of €126m. After the record breaking €36m-financing from biotech company Sanifit in 2015 for many observers it’s now another proof that Spanish life science companies are able to attract significant investments. And there is more to come, says Karin Wagner, General Partner at Ysios Capital, and points to therapeutics, diagnostics and B2B-relevant digital health as interesting investment topics. Says Wagner: “We are looking for five further companies to invest in.”

Growing pharma sector and vibrant start-up scene

Among the major drivers of the Spanish sector are also several midsize pharma companies such as Barcelona-based Esteve. The pain specialist announced a budget of €87m for R&D purposes in 2017 and aims at positioning its lead pipeline candidate as an alternative treatment for strong opioides. Esteve as well as Almirall and Gabro Pharma underlined their openness for new licensing deals, partnering and acquisitions to further boost their business on an international level. That the Spanish community also offers a vibrant start-up community was visible during the StartupSlam organised by the innovation branch of US pharma company Johnson & Johnson. Barcelona-based Peptomyc, a SME with a focus on anti-Myc peptides to treat cancer, finally secured the first place. In the competition, a total of 14 companies pitched their ideas in front of an expert jury.

Record-breaking crowd financing

During BIO Europe, another hot topic showed up on the agenda: crowdfunding. David Oliver, CEO from the Spanish platform Capital Cell, explained which advantages and challenges this instrument has to offer for the life science sector. In Barcelona, Oliver could report a new record: With more than €1m raised from around 250 investors so far, Spanish biotech company Bionure has managed the largest life science campaign in the Spanish crowdfunding ecosystem. “Spain is not very known for risk investments, but with our platform we can mobilise capital by addressing individuals with interest in the sector, such as researchers, doctors or patients,” Oliver said. Capital Cell took off in early 2015 as one of the first European alternative investment platforms specialised in life sciences. Until now, it has closed 13 financing campaigns, helping to raise almost €4m for life science projects from more than 550 individual investors. Due to the success of the first two years, Oliver told European Biotechnology Magazine that the platform now aims to further expand internationally. Currently, it is in a pre-launch-phase for the UK market. The office in Cambridge is already run by 4 people and a collaboration with England’s greater Southeast biotech network Medcity has been closed. According to Oliver six campaigns are prepared to start this year. In the end of 2017, a further expansion to Australia is planned. “Our aim is to establish a truly international online alternative financing platform for life science companies,” Oliver stated.

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