Biotechnology and Biomedicine in Catalunya, a window on the world
The birth of a cluster from a biomedical alliance
The embryo of the BioRegion of Catalunya was the ‘Barcelona Biomedical Alliance’, an agreement signed on the 3rd of September 2003 by three of the main participants in the biomedical scene in Catalunya: two leading science parks and a research institute. Subsequently two Catalan universities have joined the initiative.
This first step towards a common, successful future of excellence in life sciences was sponsored by the ‘Generalitat de Catalunya’ (the Government of Catalunya) and the Barcelona City Council. The purpose of the initiative was to organize public biomedical research in Catalunya and build up its competitiveness, according to the European policy of promoting environments of scientific and technological excellence. The Government identified an area of future growth with enough potentail to compete at a global level. On the 14th of February 2006, Biocat was formally constituted as the organization that promotes the biotechnology and biomedicine in Catalunya. Now, the BioRegion of Catalunya (the biocluster) is fully consolidated.
At the beginning of 2007, Dr.
The Catalan Government and the Barcelona City Council are not only continuing to explicitly support this platform, they also are providing impetus, through the regional Ministries involved (Health, Economy, Universities, Innovation and Industry, and the Vice-presidency). The president and vice-president of the Catalan Government are also president and vice-president of the Biocat board. The position of executive president of Biocat, which I currently hold, is designated by the government.
The Catalan reality: excellence in research and innovation:
Catalunya stands out in the field of clinical research and human health, with a network of 60 hospitals, six of which count among
Modern biotechnology is applied to medicine and health care in therapeutics, mainly for the discovery and production of new drugs
Research in Catalunya
The network of 150 research centres of excellence include; the IBM-UPC Barcelona Supercomputing Centre, with Mare Nostrum (the most powerful supercomputer in Europe) the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), with outstand-ing researchers such as Miguel Beato; the Barcelona Regenerative Medicine Centre (CMRB, whose director, Juan Carlos Izpisúa, is also professor of the Gene Expression Laboratory at the Salk Institute); the August Pi i Sunyer Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBAPS); the research institute of Hospital Clinic in Barcelona, which, in terms of scientific production, is the most prolific hospital in Catalunya (and the Spanish state); and the Biomedical Research Institute (IRB), whose president, the leading Catalan expert on cancer metastasis,
The three existing biomedical science parks in Greater Barcelona are; the Barcelona Science Park (PCB), home to the first bioincubator in Catalunya; the Barcelona Biomedical Research Park (PRBB); and the
Catalan Biotech companies
About 250 companies are linked to the bio-technology sector (60 biotechnological, 60 pharmaceutical and around 120 using biotech or providing services to the biotech industry). About 800 people work in the Biotech sector, and 20,000 in the pharmaceutical.
Biotechnology is the application of science and technology to living organisms, or to parts, products and models of them, for the production of knowledge, goods and services. Modern biotechnology is applied in medicine and health care in therapeutics, mainly for the discovery and production of new drugs, in preventives for the development of vaccines, and in diagnostic kits. Most of the biotechnology companies in Catalunya focus on drug development and diagnosis.
Catalunya also boasts four large domestic pharmaceutical companies that have evolved into multinationals: Almirall, Esteve, Ferrer and Uri-ach. Also subsidiaries of some of the main multinational companies in the sector have chosen Catalunya as a venue. Some examples are Bayer, Boehringer Ingelheim, Novartis, Pfizer and Sanofi Aventis. Together they account for about sixty percent of Spanish pharmaceutical production. The current trend in the Catalan biotech sec-tor is to create new businesses at a rate of more than 10 companies per year. In 2006 and 2007 Catalunya was the most dynamic Autonomous Community in the Spanish state in terms of the creation of new biotech companies.
The international stage
To attract international interest, Catalunya counts on some inherent assets, such as a strategic location and good quality of life, but also with unique assets, such as excellence in research and an entrepreneurial spirit. We must profit from the fact that Barcelona is considered a dynamic and innovative location, with the highest quality of life in Europe (according to Cushman & Wakefield’s 2006 European Cities Monitor Research), and the fourth best city in Europe for businesses.
Throughout 2007 Biocat coordinated the candidacy of
All the structures in the bio sector need a brand in order to act collectively with enough critical mass to compete at all levels and to accede to global resources
Exploring further afield, Biocat has signed a memorandum of understanding with the All India Biotech Association to favour the partnership between Catalan and Indian companies. While thinking globally but acting more locally, we are working with local institutions to identify and ad-dress internationalisation needs, such as the identification of geographic areas of interest, grants for missions, delegations and conferences, and so on. We coordinate the participation of the sector in international events, such as the BIO Inter-national Convention. In 2008 our BIO delegation to
Future plans: boost Catalunya’s profile
The months to come will be very busy for the BioRegion. Thanks to Biocat’s role as a catalyst, several major projects are in the pipeline.
The Industrial Innovative Clusters Project
Biocat has led significant actions in the private sector, such as the presentation of two specific plans, for Biotechnology and for Medical Technologies, to the Spanish Ministry of Industry. These seek to improve the international competitiveness of Catalan companies in terms of innovative capabilities.
In terms of infrastructures, for both the public and private sector, we coordinate the
The European Institute of Technology
The future European Institute of Technology (EIT) is a great opportunity for
According to the general goal of recruiting top human capital to cover the biomedical and biotechnological sector needs, we are also promoting the creation of experienced pools of managers for the life science industry. The proposal involves recruiting internationally, as well as training at local and European level. Programs for experts may require the establishment of specific grants to help entrepreneurs to achieve the mobility requirements to attend the different European modules on biotechnology industry management.
A brand: Catalan excellence
Catalunya, its researchers and all the structures in the bio sector need a brand in order to act collectively with enough critical mass to compete at all levels, to accede to global resources, to international projects and to communicate with the world competitiveness clusters. The agreements we have established with
Acting jointly, we are strong enough to have a presence in a global world. This strength will en-able us to form a spearhead towards a knowledge-based economy. This unified image will be made visible by means of collaborations in future issues of this publication. Relevant representatives and outstanding experts of the Catalan life sciences community will use this window on the world to disseminate the Catalan stamp of excellence, through diverse visions of this modern, competitive Catalunya.