Empowering Biotechnology sector in the Bioregion of Catalonia

Last December, Biocat 1 reported that the Bioregion of Catalonia is witnessing a growth in international investment and described Catalonia as a dynamic hub in healthcare and life sciences for many reasons. We summarize the most relevant:

  • Excellence in research
    Catalonia has invested in research and higher education and in specific programs designed to attract top-level researchers in all disciplines. As a consequence, Catalonia is one of the leading research hubs in Europe. Table 1 below outlines that Catalan universities, research centers and large R&D infrastructures are the driving force leading this process.


Table 1 Catalonia one of leading research hubs in Europe



Research center


Universities -Thesis area


Large scale facilities


Technology centers


Science and technology park





  • Publications
    The aforementioned institutions along with the Catalan government have defined policies focused on providing excellence in performing their R&D activities. Subsequently, a relevant number of publications in the biomedical arena have been issued. 16.5% biomedical publications signed by researchers in the Bioregion are among the most cited documents in the world . Table 2 shows names and affiliations of these highly cited researchers according to highly cited researchers website2.


Table 2 Highly cited researchers in the healthcare and life sciences in Catalonia

Researcher Affiliations Category
Pablo Alonso Coello IIB Sant Pau Social sciences
Elias Campo IDIBApS/UB Clinical medicine
Joan Bladé IDIBApS Clinical medicine
Jordi Bruix UB Clinical medicine
Josep Tabernero VHIO Clinical medicine
Josep peñuelas CREAF-CSIC Environmental sciences/Ecology
Josep M.Llobet IDIBApS/Mt. Sinai Sch Med, USA Clinical medicine
Roderic Guigó CRG/UPF Molecular biology and genetics


  • Attraction funds and international investors
    Thanks to this excellence, H2020 funds have been awarded to Catalonia as
    Table 3 shows.


Table 3 H2020 funds invested in Catalonia

Country H2020 funds attracted  (M€)
Belgium 1,555.5
Sweden 1,135.5
Austria 925.8
Catalonia 830.0
Denmark 821.7
Finland 723.7
Ireland 566.1


Besides the attraction of H2020, Catalonia is attracting international investors from 16 different countries; around 50% are from United States as shown in Figure 1.


Figure 1 International investors contributing in the Bioregion of Catalonia


Moreover, between 2016-2017 Catalonia attracted €270 M in investment in biotech companies, with an average of €135 per year. Table 4 shows the growth in private venture capitals, VC investments and IPO funding, which is becoming a relevant source of private financing for companies. Other sources of funding are institutional investors, industrial partners and local specialized investors. For instance, 55 % of local pharmaceutical companies have stakes in biotech start-ups. All these figures show how the ecosystem in the Bioregion of Catalonia is becoming stronger and it has reached a point whereby good projects can attract funds.


Table 4 Finance raised (€M) in the Bioregion of Catalonia

  2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 
IPO 4,3 4,3 3,6 3,4 13,6 20,4
Public 2,9 7,8 8,2 1 9,2 18 30,3
VC investment 9,2 9,8 28,6 8,8 56,3 85,8 56,6
Co-Development or collaboration agreements 23 47
total 16,4 21,9 40,4 36,2 65,5 164,4 107,3


  • Moving towards clinic stage
    There are 18 drug therapies by Catalan companies in the pipeline in 2019, whereas only seven were in 2013. Catalonia is progressing steadily from a cutting-edge science system to the business landscape, advancing therapies to clinical development.


Catalonia and the Biotech Business sector

Bioregion of Catalonia concentrates more than 1,000 companies in biotech, pharma, medtech, healthtech, CROs, services and goods providers, distributors and investing organizations. 734 companies already existed before 2015 and 144 are new companies established between 2015 and 2017. The main activity for 280 companies is biotechnology as Figure 2 shows. These biotechnology companies are contributing in 27.6% of all Spanish companies having similar activities.


Figure 2 Number of biotechnology companies in the bioregion of Catalonia and their activities



Pharmacelera2 is currently thriving within this ecosystem. The company was founded in 2015, following the trend outlined above, and it has benefitted from the development of biotech sector within the Bioregion of Catalonia. Striving entrepreneurs, political institutions, universities, investors, and skilled scientists have been key to further develop the company. Aligned to the scientific excellence of Bioregion, Pharmacelera’s methods rely on the work by the scientific director Javier Luque (h-index of 69), who is professor at Barcelona University. Pharmacelera develops technology for Computer Aided Drug Design based on machine learning and Quantum-Mechanics algorithms. These tools can be applied for Hit Finding, Hit to Lead and Lead Optimization stages, to identify candidates with larger chemical diversity within Drug Discovery programs.




1-      Biocat website: www.biocat.cat/ca

2-      Clarivate Analytics. Highly Cited Researchers. http://hcr. stateofinnovation.com

3-      Pharmacelera website: www.pharmacelera.com





Torre R, 4a planta, Despatx A05, Parc Científic de Barcelona (PCB). C/ Baldiri Reixac 4-8 08028 Barcelona