5th Forum of the BioRegion: “Understanding how to create value in a changing healthcare and life sciences ecosystem”

On 25 November 2016, the 5th Forum of the BioRegion was held at the Palau de Congressos de Catalunya, notably international, with the slogan: “Understanding how to create value in a changing healthcare and life sciences ecosystem”.

Welcome speeches were given by Catalan Minister of Health Antoni Comín, BCN Peptides CEO Berta Ponsati (Silver Sponsor for this Forum) and Biocat CEO Albert Barberà, who highlighted that “we must grow and be prepared to tackle the challenges of a constantly changing sector.”

More than 300 professionals from the healthcare and life sciences sector came together for an intense day featuring conferences by international experts who shared successful public-private partnership experiences, as well as best practices in the biopharma, medtech and digital health arenas. There was also a space set aside for networking during the coffee break sponsored by Caixa Capital Risc, and a dialogue on the most strategic topics facing the BioRegion of Catalonia.

The goal set for this fifth edition of the event was to provide an integrative, transversal overview in light of the situation of economic uncertainty, volatile markets, regulatory changes and increasing demand for innovation and generating value. This is why the event was firmly committed to offering a totally international program with speakers from Canada, the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom.

Founding Non-Executive Director of MedCity (entity that promotes entrepreneurship in the life sciences in southern England) Simon Howell kicked off the event, explaining how to add value through partnerships and warning that any company’s main competition is now abroad.

Future trends and emerging issues in the industry

A session featuring three renowned speakers (sponsored by Biokit) explored issues that are gaining importance in the future of the industry.

Michael Müller, managing partner at Monacon Beteiligungs GmbH, spoke about the changes that have come about in the value chain in biotech and pharma firms: a more open model that externalizes innovation and seeks out partners in new therapeutics and personalized medicine (see presentation). David Cassak, co-founder and managing partner at Innovation in Medtech LLC, highlighted that the economic crisis of the late 2000s has led to a shift in the model used by medical device companies: from volume to value. To finish up, Vishal Gulati, partner at Draper Esprit, discussed patients’ increased awareness of their own health and their desire to have access to their own health records (see presentation).

Successful models of technology transfer and science commercialization

One of the hottest topics, as seen in the 2015 Biocat Report, is that the capacity of the R&D system in Catalonia to generate economic activity (patents, licenses and spin-offs) isn't proportional to its scientific production. This is why the Forum, with sponsorship from Reig Jofre, invited two international success stories in public-private partnerships: from Massachusetts and Toronto. Susan Bannister, former president of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, highlighted the need to promote and encourage entrepreneurship along with best practices and success stories from Massachusetts. Zayna Khayat, director of the Mars Excite innovation technology assessment program (Mars Health) did the same regarding the situation in Toronto (Susan Bannister’s presentation, Zayna Khayat’s presentation).

Does Catalonia need a Chief Scientist?

Biocat put up for debate the need for this new figure in the system, taking into account the latest trends seen in countries like Canada, Australia, England and Scotland. Mehrdad Hariri, CEO and president of the Canadian Science Policy Center, explained the roles of Chief Science Officer and Chief Science Advisor and how they are different. He concluded that what Catalonia really needs to tackle its lack of technology transfer is a Chief Innovation Officer (see presentation).

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The role of science in the BioRegion 

Another new topic discussed at this Forum came in the kick off of Dialogues on the BioRegion, a new series that will take place in 2017 and 2018 with noteworthy figures and experts from the healthcare and life sciences sector discussing the most strategic, important issues facing the sector.

President of the Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology (BIST) Andreu Mas-Colell and Deputy Director of the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSCJosep Maria Martorell were featured in the first conversation, which dealt with the role of science in the BioRegion.

One of the topics they discussed was technology transfer and valorizing research, with a clear message from Martorell: “If the science is excellent, transfer will come.” They also highlighted the need to disseminate the science being done in Catalonia, not only among the general public but also among politicians. 

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More than 300 leaders from the healthcare and life sciences sector attended the 2016 Forum of the BioRegion.

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Catalan Minister of Health Antoni Comín welcoming participants.

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Susan Bannister, Zayna Khayat and Jorge Juan Fernández, academic director for MOEBIO, debating successful models of public/private partnership.