• Date: September 18, 2019

On Monday night, the 2019 CaixaImpulse Validate projects were officially announced during a ceremony at”la Caixa” headquarters in Barcelona. 21 projects—born in biomedical research institutions of excellence from across Spain and Portugal—will be taking part in this year’s edition.

As part of CaixaImpulse’s training program, the teams behind these projects take part in four week-long career development sessions. The first one got underway in July, when biomedical researchers and health professionals representing the selected projects were invited to Palau Macaya to take part in Immersion Week. This week, during the second training week, the participants are learning the ins and outs of Tech Transfer.

Led by industry experts and with the support of specialised mentors, the CaixaImpulse programme is tailor-made to cover the intricacies involved in successfully commercialising a newly developed biomedical innovation, in addition to providing a financial boost.

Changes to the 2019 edition include the formal introduction of Digital Health as a business area, which also entails specialised mentors and evaluators dedicated to this topic. Two Digital Health projects have been selected this year, as well as eleven Therapeutics projects, and eight in the MedTech (medical devices and in vitro diagnostics) category.

Noteworthy in this fifth edition is the near-even divide of male and female project leaders—a testament to the diversity of excellence in the health innovation ecosystem across Spain and Portugal. “la Caixa” is concurrently organising a special event discussing the role of women in health leadership this week, reflecting its continued commitment to empower and support female health entrepreneurs.

Meritxell Teixidó, IRB Barcelona Research Associate and leader of the project Gate2Brain, says of her team’s selection to take part in the 2019 edition, “CaixaImpulse definitely brings the impetus that Gate2Brain technology needed to start the path to entrepreneurship. Thanks to all the training and mentors involved in programme, this set up will be more successful in the future.”

Angélica Figueroa Conde-Valvís, Research Group Leader at Fundación Profesor Novoa Santos and leader of the project Carcinoma therapy, says that being selected for CaixaImpulse 2019 represents “an outstanding opportunity to receive guidance from a mentor to valorise our project, and to get in touch with business experts and venture capital investors. We hope that this opportunity will maximize our chances of transferring our results to cancer patients and to society.”

ICREA research professor and entrepreneur at IRB Barcelona, Roger Gomis, who has also been a CaixaImpulse mentor since 2015, says of the programme: “CaixaImpulse covers a need in relation to some of the most important aspects for health and biomedical research. The programme has not only had an impact on specific projects, but has also boosted the ecosystem of knowledge transfer in Spain and Portugal.”

The projects selected to take part in CaixaImpulse 2019 are:

    •   Angiotheragnostics: A personalised approach to the fight against cancer cells’ resistance to treatment. IDIBELL researchers are developing a new therapy that targets tumour angiogenesis, as well its patient selection biomarker for advanced cancer patients.

    •   DLB diagnostic kit: Diagnosis of dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) with a simple blood test. The project, led by Germans Trias i Pujol Research Institute, seeks to develop blood test to diagnose DLB, that also differentiates it from Alzheimer’s disease.

    •   Carcinoma therapy: New therapeutic strategies against carcinoma metastasis. Fundación Profesor Novoa Santos researchers are developing novel small-molecule inhibitors targeting epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition, a process that takes place in the early stages of carcinoma progression.

    •   Enhanced-human Pluripotent Stem Cells: A new stem cell therapy to treat Type I diabetes. Researchers from the Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Oncológicas are developing agents capable of generating pancreatic beta cells that efficiently control blood glucose levels, bringing a definitive cure for Type I diabetes one step closer.

    •   FIBROKIT: Non-invasive diagnostic kit to monitor fibrosis in kidney-transplant patients. Led by Germans Trias i Pujol Research Institute, this project seeks to create a diagnostic kit for renal fibrosis based on urinary biomarkers, allowing for more frequent and non-invasive monitoring.

    •   Gate2Brain: Based on a set of patented small peptide-shuttles, this project, led by IRB Barcelona, will advance the development of a technological platform to cross the blood brain barrier and carry therapeutic cargoes to the central nervous system.

    •   Hemorrhage Outcome Predictor: A Universidad de Sevilla-led project that aims to develop a web app capable of calculating outcome for hemorrhaging patients in minutes.

    •   High-Content Screening Microscopy: A flexible and programmable microscope module to aid drug discovery. This new medical device, developed by Universitat de Barcelona researchers, overcomes the limitations of current High-Content Screening microscopes on the market.

    •   Hybri: A new molecule with potent immunoregulatory properties which targets disease progression in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus and Rheumatoid Arthritis, while producing fewer side effects than existing therapies. This project is led by Fundació Bosch i Gimpera.

    •   InBrain: Researchers from Institut Català de Nanociència i Nanotecnologia are developing graphene-based neural implants to treat and monitor brain disorders. Their product uses a novel material that overcomes mechanical limitations of existing neural implants.

    •   iPLUS: A new 28-nucleotide noncoding sequence that increases efficiency and yield in protein production. The Instituto de Investigação e Inovação em Saúde researchers behind this project hope to incorporate it into the biotechnology and biopharmaceutical industries.

    •   LightLens: An accommodating intraocular lens developed at the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas. This innovative device restores vision lost by presbyopia, a visual condition that affects 100% of the population over 45 years old.

    •   Machine learning Alzheimer’s pre-screening: This project, born in the Barcelonaβeta Brain Research Center, is developing a pre-screening tool based on a new family of machine learning algorithms to predict abnormality of core Alzheimer’s disease biomarkers from brain MRIs and reduce recruitment expenses by 50%.

    •   MitoCBD: A new treatment for mitochondrial disease based on cannabidiol, a drug with known anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, and anti-epileptic effects. This project is led by the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona.

    •   PROMISE study: A Germans Trias i Pujol Research Institute-led project working to create a handheld device to determine which acute ischemic stroke patients will benefit from mechanical thrombectomy.

    •   RoboTherapist: A social robot that leads neurorehabilitation therapies for patients with motor or cognitive disorders. This Universidad Carlos III de Madrid-born innovation addresses current issues in neurorehabilitation such as high patient drop out rates and disengagement.

    •   Safety HUG: A medical device to manage agitated patients through digital monitoring. This project, led by Fundació Parc Taulí, aims to facilitate the management and standardization of physical restrainment in hospitals.

    •   SUCCIPRO: A new probiotic strategy to improve metabolic and inflammatory profile in obese patients. Institut d’Investigació Sanitària Pere I Virgili researchers hope that their new approach towards a personalised and rational use of probiotics.

    •   Recovering TDP43 homeostasis with small molecules: Kinase inhibitors to stabilise pathological TDP43 and treat amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Centro de Investigaciones Biológicas researchers are developing two families of CK1 and CDC7 inhibitors capable modulating pathological TDP-43, a hallmark of ALS.

    •   TERANOBOTS: Urease-powered nanomotors for intravesical treatment of non-muscle-invasive bladder cancer, developed at the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia.

    •   TimeUp: A medical device for early diagnosis of urinary tract infections in catheterized patients. Developed at the Universidade de Coimbra, this device will constantly monitor catheterized patients’ urine, detecting the presence of bacteria before infections occur.

More programme highlights

October 10, 2019

LightLens: an intraocular lens of the future

Can we restore the focusing ability of the aging eye affected by presbyopia? LightLens is a CaixaImpulse project that aims to do just that.

October 01, 2019

Providing an accurate diagnosis of endometrial cancer

An interview with Eva Colás, leader of the 2016 CaixaImpulse project CEMARK.

September 25, 2019

CaixaImpulse training continues with Tech Transfer Week

The second week of training for CaixaImpulse Validate participants got under way at Palau Macaya in Barcelona last week.