Europe’s densest pharma environment, Catalonia received highest number of R&D investment projects in 2019
Catalonia is Europe’s densest pharma environment. It is home to more han 1,000 companies in the life sciences industry and, since 2008, capital investment in Catalonia’s life sciences companies has multiplied by 12. A world- class network of medical institutions, hospitals, research centres, healthcare multinationals and pharma companies have all made Barcelona and Catalonia a leading life sciences hub.
Catalan healthcare company Grífols is one example of how Catalonia’s powerful pharma capacity has been very active in fighting the Coronavirus pandemic. With facilities in the US, Germany and Catalonia, as well as other locations around the world, Grífols has entered into a formal collaboration with the US Government and various health agencies in response to the Coronavirus and expects to produce the first treatment specifically targeting Covid-19.
Grífols is also taking part in a Microsoft-backed project in the US to accelerate the use of plasma for new Covid-19 therapies.
Leading research and innovation in times of Coronavirus
Catalonia received the highest number of R&D investment projects in 2019 in all Continental Europe, according to fDi Markets. The region has 89 leading scientific, technical & research centres working in the health, well-being and life sciences industries.
Eurecat and Leitat are top tech centres in Catalonia that have led pioneering projects to fight Covid-19. Leitat has developed ventilators using 3D printers that are being used at ICUs for Coronavirus patients, and Eurecat will predict Covid- 19 outbreaks through the analysis of wastewater using Artificial Intelligence.
Other major scientific facilities in Catalonia include the Alba Synchrotron, the MareNostrum Supercomputer or the National Genome Analysis Centre. Internationally renowned hospitals which are performing groundbreaking work in different medical fields are the Hospital de la Vall d’Hebron, Hospital Clínic, Hospital Sant Joan de Déu or Hospital Quirón, among others.
Barcelona and Catalonia, a European lab in digital health
Catalonia is home to the biggest and most comprehensive database in Europe in medical imaging, making it the place to be for digital health. Having a completely digitalized public health system has been key in implementing telemedicine tools to help fight the pandemic.
ICT Health and Social Foundation is the government agency that promotes eHealth in Catalonia. Its managing director, Josuè Sallent, explains that the early adoption of new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence has turned Catalonia into a pioneering European health system.
Having here the largest amount of medical images in Europe (a centralised repository of all radiographs, scanners or cardiograms, among others, of Catalan patients) acts as a catalyst for many research and innovation projects that attract the interest of foreign companies and countries from all over world.
Roche sets up its technology headquarters in Catalonia
The Swiss company Roche has set up its worldwide technology headquarters in Catalonia. The managing director, Jaume Vives, explains how “the quality of professionals in the health sector in Catalonia has positioned it as a place of excellence as regards biomedical research”.
When the group understood that it had to dedicate resources to developing digital and computer solutions, it looked into its options in various parts of the world. “Catalonia and Roche have a long and successful shared history”, Vives explained, emphasising some Catalonia assets, such are “expertise, trained people, a high-quality teaching environment in computer and engineering and a ready market”.
“Based on this, we competed with other places in the world and finally the company opted for Catalonia”. “The digital diagnostics branch makes computer products suitable for managing clinical laboratory data”, Vives explanis.
In early May, Roche launched a new antibody test to determine if a patient has been exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The company is 100% committed to developing these tests as fast as possible and with the best possible quality to help manage the pandemic.
Catalonia’s health professionals “are extraordinary”
According to Vives, Catalonia’s most important asset “are the professionals found here”. “Their talent and high-quality skills combine with a vocational attitude towards work which is admirable”, he adds, praising “the environment created in which everybody supports each other: this leads to progress in creating a place of excellence in biomedical research topics”.
We have been almost exclusively dedicated to the subject of Covid-19 and I think we have added a lot of value to the management of the diagnosis of the disease. Roche also decided to set up its global site for digital solutions for diabetes patients in Catalonia. The diabetes part is more patient-oriented: it develops products for managing and empowering the diabetic patient; in other words, with products such as mobile applications that allow for more individualized management of their illness.
Information or content provided by the Delegation of the Catalan Government to the UK and Ireland.