BioCat: Funding and Future Goals for Catalonian Biotechs




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Video title: BioCat: Funding and Future Goals for Catalonian Biotechs
Released on: April 15, 2010. © PharmaVentures Ltd
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In this episode of PharmaTelevision News Review, Fintan Walton talks with Montserrat Vendrell, at BioCat. Filmed at Bio-Europe Spring 2010 in Barcelona, Spain, they discuss:

• The origins of BioCat

• How BioCat obtains its funds

• The biotech sector in Catalonia

• BioCat's objectives

• VC funding in Catalonia

• The importance of events like BioEurope for Catalonian biotechs

• BioCat's hopes for for the next 5 years

The origins of BioCat.
Fintan Walton:
Hello and welcome to PharmaTelevision News Review here at BioEurope in Barcelona. On this show I have Montserrat Vendrell, who is the CEO of BioCat a local biotechnology association here based in Barcelona, welcome.
Montserrat Vendrell:
Thank you very much, pleasure.
Fintan Walton:
BioCat is an organization that was set up about four-years ago tell us about how the origins of BioCat came about and what were the driving forces for the origins of that organization?
Montserrat Vendrell:
BioCat is actually a cluster organization we are a foundation and the origins were pretty much a broader map approach different stake holders in the biotech arena in Catalonia realized that we had several assets that could make biotechnology specially focusing towards the health sector an important economic driver for our region. So science parks, research centers, hospitals and companies got together and asked the government for the need to create an entity such as BioCat to promote this sector sectorally and address both operative in strategic levels to needs of promoting the sector.
How BioCat obtains its funds.
Fintan Walton:
So how does BioCat obtain its funds through his membership or just get them with funding?
Montserrat Vendrell:
We are not a membership association yet since we have a short story record three-years and a half from this four-years we have some financing from the government that account for 50% of our budget and then we've raised competitive funds through calls say European calls, Spanish calls or Catalonia calls. So our mission is to help all the entities in Catalonia regardless whether they pay any membership or not, so we might turn in the end an association but we are not yet.
The biotech sector in Catalonia.
Fintan Walton:
So obviously Barcelona and Catalonia has been famous for its pharmaceutical companies, a number of midsized pharmaceutical companies are based here in Spain, biotechnology as a sector is an emerging one that's happening as you've already had mentioned so how would you describe the biotech sector here in Catalonia? What stage of development is it at?
Montserrat Vendrell:
Okay. It's quite recent biotech sector most of our companies have been born in the 21st century and it's been like a second wave of the push in public research that took place in the 80's here especially in biomedicine and also the pull from these pharmaceutical companies that we have in Catalonia, Almirall, Esteve, Uriach, Grupo Ferrer that all together the different 150 pharmaceutical companies we have here account for 60% of the production in Spain. So this arena boosted the niche biotech sector that I mentioned there pretty young most of the companies still have a very small size and there are some of them have reached second rounds of investment but most of them are still at that very early stage and there are several factors we need to address to promote the growth of these companies addressing the need of talent, access to financing or to internationalization so that's what we are trying to put together from BioCat.
BioCat's objectives.
Fintan Walton:
So then what is the vision for BioCat? What are you what are you trying to set out to do?
Montserrat Vendrell:
Okay. Our mission includes first of all to promote the inter-relation among all the different stake holders in our cluster many actors or many stake holders didn't have these belonging or sense of belonging first put together or access to what's going on in hospital, in research centres, in different types of companies and map exactly what our capacities, our strengths from there on our mission is to drive an action plan and to as I've mentioned before at the strategic level putting this sector in the political agenda so that our government keeps this sector as a priority and pushes together with us different schemes to potentiate the sector and at operative level to speak the same language of as of the company so that we prove to be an useful tool to promote their competitiveness through helping them accesses to financing, access to international events such as this one or to help them with building capacities through different schemes.
Fintan Walton:
Right. So give us some examples of some of the biotech companies that are emerging here in Catalonia?
Montserrat Vendrell:
Okay. We can talk about for instance Oryzon Genomics which is a genomics company both diagnostic and also in the drug development area basically working in cancer. This is one of the oldest one has like 10-years old but and it has been very active in different research projects with the different companies all over Spain but we also have very smaller companies that have just been born that have like two to three people, Oryzon for instance has 80 people working in the company it has is in a independent location right now. Most of our companies if I we would have to characterize they have like about 5 to 10 people they are in first round of financing very small capitalization. They are born in biotech incubators located basically in science parks which has been a very strong investment from the Catalonia and the Spanish government. And they still need a lot of knowledge in the specific areas such as business development or IP strategy et cetera. So they're really looking to find these capacities so these expertise because most of them are still close to their own the creators or the founders that researchers that actually founded them and all these capacities that you build through a sector that has been going on for ages, we it's very difficult to build that from scratch because you have to be able to attract them but also to train the personal and the experts in the companies.
VC funding in Catalonia.
Fintan Walton:
Sure, yes. So for a biotech company there are two sources of cash, one is through equity financing you need a reasonably well developed venture capital source within the cluster here in Catalonia but you also need to have pharma companies who are willing to come in and to set up collaboration, set up licensing arrangements with some of these start-up companies, so starting with the first how well is VC funding here it's still obviously in its infancy as well is it?
Montserrat Vendrell:
It's still in its infancy, it's growing and changing fortunately because it's catch 22 situation if you don't have expert VC's or sectorial VCs here that attract co-financing from international ones, we don't have experts sitting at the board of companies they don't grow enough, they are not attractive for international VC's et cetera and et cetera, but we do have like Ysios for instance the VC fund of 68 million Euros that has already made couple of investments. We have (indiscernable) which is also sectorial fund but these are recent developments they have happened throughout the last two-years and it's something that's changing very fast but up to five-years ago we didn't have any specific sectorial biotech VC in Spain actually. Now there is a quite a few in Madrid, some in Catalonia that are actively looking for projects because and also becoming more attractive to international VC's since this really high growth of the sector in Spain right now.
Fintan Walton:
You need to have syndicated funding?
Montserrat Vendrell:
Exactly all of them are.
The importance of events like BioEurope for Catalonian biotech's.
Fintan Walton:
So the other thing I mentioned was setting up collaborations with major pharmaceutical companies, we are here at BioEurope in one of the Spring events here in Barcelona how important is an event like this for the biotech companies in Catalonia?
Montserrat Vendrell:
This is a crucial event I mean we've been working towards helping our companies attend the big international events such as BIO in the states where we lead the delegation and we financed, partially financed the cost of getting there and we hosted the stand et cetera. But of course bringing an event here it has been really instrumental with there is over 50 Catalonia companies attending these event much more than in previous occasions of course. We've also through our through being members of the host committee we have managed to get partially financed, entrance fee for small biotech companies otherwise they wouldn't have been able to attend these kind of meetings. And here they have access to what's going on really in the top pharmaceutical and biotech companies internationally right next to where they work on a daily basis, so it's really very important and that's why we made the effort as BioCat we thought first of all Barcelona is a great place normally not like today that's snowing a great place to yeah you can see it is snowing very rarely happens but the place to have events and also to offer to the international community the access to find out what's happening in our own sector here in Catalonia.
BioCat's hopes for the next 5 years.
Fintan Walton:
Sure. So for you running BioCat and you look into the future, you look over the next five-years of BioCat what you want to try and achieve? What would you like to see as a success for you for the next five-years?
Montserrat Vendrell:
Well our indicators are normally indirect indicators because the success of our companies and the success of different stake holders in the system are our own successes right, I think in the very short-term much shorter than five-years our own success as an entity has been to gain the creditability that we can be a useful tool for our companies and that they use as one stop shop for helping them create a gate for the international community and also inside Catalonia to bring them to the right contacts and the right schemes and programs. But in five-years of course what we do need desperately is success stories, we don't have really big success stories since our sector is very young and our dream will be to have an internationally, publically traded company of course in the next five-years that would be a great success and it would be an incentive for all the young companies that are really striving to move forward.
Fintan Walton:
Montserrat Vendrell, thank you very much indeed for coming on the show.
Montserrat Vendrell:
Thank you very much, pleasure.
Montserrat Vendrell
Chief Executive Officer
Dr. Montserrat Vendrell i Rius has been appointed by the board of trustees of the Private Foundation BioCat (The BioRegion of Catalonia), and the President of Catalonia; Honorable Jose Montilla, as the CEO of BioCat, in 2007. Montserrat Vendrell holds a Ph.D. degree in Biology from the University of Barcelona and has more than a 10 years of experience in biomedical and biotech research. As a postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Vendrell researched at the Roche Institute of Molecular Biology of New Jersey (USA) and The Institute of Molecular Biology of Barcelona, CSIC. She holds a Science Communication Masters degree (UPF, 1997) and a General Management Program (IESE, 2007). She has been the vice-president of the Catalan Society for Biology since 2003.
BioCat
BioCat is the organization that coordinates dynamizes and promotes biotechnology, biomedicine and medical technology sector in Catalonia. It is fostered by the Government of Catalonia and the Barcelona City Council and, since it was created in 2006, has included companies and organizations from this sector in its governing bodies.