“Bienvinguts” – ERBI welcomes Catalan Delegation

“Bon Dia” was the greeting on my lips as joined the ERBI companies meeting with the visiting Catalonian Bioregion Medtech and Biopharma companies in the Nucleus Centre of Chesterford Research Park. The 16 or so Catalonians had come hotfoot from London to meet with about 20 Cambridge representatives; from NHS link in Health Enterprise East via Patent attorneys to Biosensors. My first tea was spent in amiable conversation with Irene Laroy, of CRIC - who produce hand held diagnostic devises, before we were drawn into the meeting itself.

Marta Princeps of BioCat Bioregion Catalonia gave us a comprehensive introduction to the growing Bio Sector in her region in excellent English as “no ho entenc Català” (I do not understand Catalan). The strengths were pharmaceutical production, a dedicated base of 60 totally biotech companies and a functional network of hospitals with 31000 doctors and 3000 researchers that makes clinical trialling a strength for the region. Major players such as Pfizer, GSK, Roche and Novartis all have a presence in Catalonia.

So far, Catalonia, with a major Biotech nucleus of companies around Gaudi’s Barcelona, was bucking the current economic trend with continued growth in the sector. This did not mean that it was all plain sailing. Three themes emerged in the following “round table” discussion intiated by Jeanette Walker, the ERBI host, involving Cambridge and Catalan representatives.

First, there was the difficulty in bridging the gap between academia and business.

Second was the funding gap for Catalan companies wishing to progress beyond their initial seedcorn finance (accompanied by much sympathetic nodding by Cambridge delegates finding a common situation mirrored!)
Third, a potential opportunity for access to entrepreneurial advice from Cambridge’s rich bank of experienced CEOs.

Stimulated by ideas and potentials we drifted out to network by the buffet. My partners in conversation ranged from Jordi Roma, whose company Simbec has a guaranteed income from licensing out pharmaceutical formulations, neatly sidestepping some of the major funding headaches; to Sonal Naik of Carbogen Amcis and Daniele Dovera of Dishman where we covered the increasing success of Indian companies in Europe. Ignasi Belda (Intelligent Pharma), Pablo Rebollo (BAP Health Outcomes), Mariola Mier Pérez (MicroArt) and Susan Aldridge (writing for Genetic Engineering and Biotech News) added to the informative mix of conversation.

For my interest in Biotech/Pharma/Medtech and assisting companies wishing to penetrate the UK, the three crucial contacts of the day were obviously Marta Princeps (BioCat), Juan Román of Health Enterprise East and Michael O’Neill of Eolas. Michael was accompanying the group on their travels and created a great impression by talking Hindi and Italian to relevant guests. Our conversation somehow drifted to the more mundane questions of the transition of the Celtic alphabet from its Greek lettering origins to the present Latin based alphabet at the time of the Normans!

It was then time for Adéu, wishing the Catalans “Bona Sort” (good luck) as they set out to their next destination, Dublin.

Dr Chris Thomas
Milton Contact Ltd.

PS. For those interested in the history, language and location of Catalonia – see Wikipedia, starting at the History of the Països Catalans, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Catalonia

Chris Thomas