Brains and bones boost HealthTech in Spain

Updated: Mar 9

By believing the saying "Your Wealth is in your Health", Spain is one of the richest countries on the planet. By the traditional, GDP-way of measuring wealthy countries though, Spain is considered less well-off than its European peers. #Healthtech is now speeding up productivity levels. My guess; to an even healthier and wealthier ranking in the near future.

Reiterating to my previous theory about national legacy sectors playing an important role in which Startup verticals in Spain are likely to receive more venture capital. When continuing this line of thinking, a fourth vertical to mention would definitely be Healthtech.

GDP aside, in other types of more holistic, macro-economic rankings, Spain does get top placement as one of the Healthiest country in the world. Spain will soon overtake Japan in life expectancy rankings, reads this headline from the World Economic Forum.

According to the study presented, "the chief explanation for Spain’s pronounced improvement is the country’s Mediterranean diet which helps guard against some of the five biggest early killers of the modern era: obesity, high blood pressure, elevated levels of blood sugar, tobacco use and excessive alcohol consumption.

Progress in Bioscience being the real hero?

Well, who hasn't heard about the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle being soooo good for your health. But maybe there is more to this top ranking than just fresh, locally produced foods and sun-kissed vegetables?

As the study’s lead author, Dr Kyle Foreman, Director of Data Science at the IHME, says;

"Whether we see significant progress or stagnation depends on how well or poorly health systems address key health drivers”,referring to the five major influences on premature mortality mentioned above.

So maybe the real explanation can be found in the superior Health Care system in Spain, and in the world-leading Research and Development in BioScience backing it up, behind the scenes?

Spanish Healthtech startups to follow?

NOTE: What follows is not a Healthtech top list. (I am so tired of all these startup top lists popping up like mushrooms every week, without mentioning any criteria for the placements.)

Rather my own observations of Spanish Healthtech companies which might be interesting to know about, as points of reference.

The first one being especially worth your attention, as they have managed to do the "impossible" in the Biotech sector, infamous for its costly and lengthy research periods, before giving investors anything tangible to tie their high ROI hopes to.

It's all in your mind

This brainy Spanish startup called Neuroelectrics managed to sell hardware to the Entertainment industry (Facebook and Warner Bros) to finance their research and operations in the HealthTech industry.

Ana Maiques co-founded the company with her husband Giulio Ruffini in 2012 in Barcelona, providing technology that both interprets and stimulates brain activity.

In 2019 they announced positive results for treatment of medication-resistant Epilepsy using Starstim™, a device that uses mild electric currents applied on the scalp to calm abnormal activity of the brain.

They are currently working on doing clinical trials for patients suffering from other disease that are proven to be similarly difficult to treat with drugs, like Alzheimer’s and Fibromyalgia.

Another Spanish startup very aware of how our brain effects our wellbeing is Psious.

"We work tirelessly to develop virtual reality tools to support therapists deliver their interventions. Our aim is to work to preserve, enhance and eventually escalate the reach of the therapeutic relationship between doctors and patients, writes Ricardo Sáinz Fuertes, Cheif Medial Officer, in his take-aways from his participation in "Tech applied to health":

With VR technology, through virtual exposure therapy, they aim to treat anxiety disorders and phobias such as fear of flying, Acrophobia, Claustrophobia and Agoraphobia. I have always been a afraid of heights (Acrophobia) so I looked at this demo to get an idea:

Upgrading physical movement

Two Spanish startups have received international limelight for their solutions in the Robotic exoskeleton market. According to BIS Research analysis, the global wearable robotic exoskeleton market generated $127.4 million in 2017 and is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 43.48% during 2018-2028.

Hank by Gogoa Mobility Robots is "the only medical exoskeleton with six engines (on the hip, knee and ankle), allowing users to move in a less robotic, more human, way".

And Atlas, by Marsi Bionics is "the only wearable gait exoskeleton for children with neuromuscular diseases, using smart joints with adaptive stiffness that detect the wearer’s motion intention.” Check it out in the video below.

Any noteworthy funding in Spanish Healthtech?

An example is Barcelona-based health startup MediQuo that raised €2 million to grow their mobile app for medical consultation. Behind the funding were new and existing investors, including German VC Target Global, one of the few international VC firms with an office in Spain. Although their advantageous position is likely to change very soon as European VC's increase presence in Spain looking for startup investments.

In terms of size, the Biotech company Sanifit broke a Biotech record in June 2019 by securing €72.2M in financing, making it Spain’s largest private fundraise in the sector. The round was led by Spanish investor Caixa Capital Risc. From Spain participated Ysios Capital.

Sanifit is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on treatments for progressive vascular calcification disorders. The company started activities in 2007, as a spin-off from the University of the Balearic Islands, and has offices in Palma, Spain and the USA.

They announced in February, 2020 that "the first patient has successfully been dosed in its pivotal phase 3 trial of the Company’s lead asset SNF472, for the treatment of the orphan disease calciphylaxis and calcific uremic arteriolopathy (“CUA”)."

More brain and heart coherent investments?

From matters of the heart to matters of the brain and financial investment decisions.

With "Impact startups" trending in the Venture Capital world, there is an exciting opportunity for some brain and heart coherence when analyzing investment deal flows.

Previously investors have been more eager to bet on clearly scalable business models with (more) predictable unit costs and - maybe most importantly - Research free OPEX - like the case for startups within the popular vertical kids SAAS and Market places.

For those investors willing to risk their capital on the potential of Biotech focused hardware and software solutions, there is the huge, conscious-boosting benefit to have a portfolio company that not only is "improving the world" but also, quite literally, is saving lives.

What we might be seeing in Spain - and in the rest of Europe - is a notable change of heart from investors when it comes to HealthTech.

Holistically speaking, the 21 giant leaps in Equality in Spain, will also add to the over-all prosperity and health for the people of Spain in general, and for the female scientists/future Healthtech founders in the fields of biotechnology in particular.

Crafted by Caroline Lagergren.

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