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Rodríguez, vice president. "We're lucky in the sense that the
software sells itself. Once a client in the lab tries it out, we don't
need to explain how much time this can save."
The Barcelona Science Park, housed at the University of Barce-
lona, bustles with constant constr uction. As soon as companies
and research groups fill existing space, more is in demand. The
facility is one of the many new research centers in the city that, in
partnership with hospitals and local companies, continue to propel
Barcelona into the biotechnology future.
Oryzon Genomics, spun off from the Spanish National Research
Council and the University of Barcelona, opened its doors in 2001.
The company focuses on gene discovery and has developed a high-
throughput screening technique to focus on genes of interest, their
expression, and their pathways of action.
"The idea in 2000 was that we wanted to develop new applica-
tions for discovering key genes in fundamental processes," says Car-
los Buesa, Oryzon director and one of the company's founders.
Their technique has allowed Oryzon Genomics to compare tis-
sues. For instance, researchers might compare cancerous tumors to
healthy tissue, or diseased brains to healthy ones, to discover the
genes or proteins that differ from one to another. The next step
for the company has been to discover these biomarkers in more
easily accessible samples, such as urine or blood.
Oryzon has several products for early detection of cancer and
neurodegenerative diseases based on this technology; in many
cases, advanced detection can lead to significantly improved
chances of successful treatment. The products in the most
advanced stages of development are designed to detect endo-
metrial, colorectal, ovarian, and lung cancers.
This gene screening technique has also led Oryzon Genomics
to develop its own therapeutic antibodies, based on their protein
discovery. Two are headed for preclinical proof-of-concept trials
later this year.
Buesa says its origins in the Barcelona Science Park helped the
company on its successful path. "The location was providential,"
says Buesa. "It was one of the best ideas here in Catalonia [to cre-
ate a science park] where young companies could be embedded in
institutes and share facilities and instruments and equipment, and
the creative atmosphere. In the early days we had very little money
to invest in instr uments and sophisticated facilities."
The Barcelona Science Park is the largest local incubator thus
far, home to 50 companies; but an even larger one is under devel-
opment. "There are 17 science parks in Catalonia, and 9 have
activities in life sciences," says Montserrat Daban, head of exter-
nal affairs for BioCat. The city will also be home to Spain's new
genome sequencing center.
Another company housed at the science park is Advancell,
founded in 2001 by a group of professors and researchers in
Barcelona and Valencia. In 2004 the company launched their
nanomedicine unit, the first main product of which is an in-
vitro cell reagent to ascertain the oral absorption of chemicals
and dr ugs. The product, called CacoReady, is now entering the
North American market.
Advancell has also moved into therapeutics and is develop-
ing nano-based medicines for a variety of diseases. They've
created nanocapsules for molecules to treat skin diseases such
as psoriasis, which greatly improve the delivery and efficacy of
One of the recent products that Advancell has patented began
as a solution for an in-house problem. They wanted to send cells
to companies, but living cells do not sur vive freezing and transport
well. "We've invented a transport medium, a gel. Instead of being
frozen, the cells survive transport alive and well," says Davide
Researchers at Biotools transfor med a similar challenge into a
business opportunity. Their first forays into biotechnology were
to produce enzymes for molecular biology applications. But the
enzymes and reagents for the process usually needed to be mailed
individually at below-freezing temperatures. In response, Biotools
created and patented a process in which all the compounds for
a complex reaction can be mailed together, semidried, stabilized,
and suspended in a gel at just above the freezing point; the addi-
tion of water catalyzes the process. Biotools has honed the process
for HIV and hepatitis C and is currently working with the govern-
ment of Brazil to apply the technology around that country for
"This was mainly to solve an internal problem," says Sonia
Rodríguez, licensing and partnering manager. "We had problems
with shipping goods at -20◦ Celsius. But then we realized this had
a greater value."
Diagnostics are the basis of Ingenasa as well. More than twenty
years ago, Ingenasa founders focused on the African swine fever
virus, a disease that now plagues pig far ms across Europe. The
company's sensitive diagnostic became a success, leading to diag-
nostics for close to 80 different products. Ingenasa sells its prod-
ucts to major livestock centers in countries such as China and India.
Included in the diagnostics are the robotic and rapid throughput
testing systems to analyze tens of thousands of samples in only
a few hours..
Today, the company is expanding from their expertise in animal
husbandry and moving into human-health products. "We made
this decision," says Car men Vela, Ingenasa's managing director,
"because the veterinary field is an interesting and important one,
but it's not really the field for making a difference with technologi-
Ingenasa has built on its expertise in designing vaccines for live-
stock viruses. The company has developed a technology that pro-
duces a capsid covered in proteins; identical to the virus it is attacking
"but not biologically active." "We were able to demonstrate that these
capsids can induce very specific T-cell response---and this could lead
to the treatment of some kinds of tumors," says Vela.
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