Updated: Apr 13
You know the saying "Your wealth is in your health"? With the pandemic taking over conversations on a daily basis that makes more sense now than before.
Spain is already considered to be one of the healthiest countries and with all the progress in HealthTech taking place, maybe soon the country will be given a higher wealth ranking as well.
According to a study by the World Economic Forum, Spain will soon overtake Japan in life expectancy rankings:
"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."
Is progress in Bioscience the real hero?
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.
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?
Spanish HealthTech startups to follow
What follows is not a Healthtech top list. Rather my own observations of Spanish HealthTech companies which might be interesting for you to know about, as points of reference.
Quibim based in Valencia raised €8m in seed funding led by Amadeus Capital Partners and Adara Ventures. (July 2020).
They develop algorithms that extract data from medical imaging data, such as X-ray and CT scans, to find abnormalities and biomarkers that detect disease early.
Part of the new funding will be used to accelerate the development of a Covid-19 detection algorithm. Founder and CEO Angel Alberich-Bayarri told Sifted that this technique could serve as a vital complement to current testing techniques. He says:
"Given that many potential Covid-19 patients will have these scans anyway, it should be seen as a valuable addition to other tools."
Medicsen was announced as the winner of the virtual Healthtech South Summit (April 2020). Their CEO Eduardo W. Jørgensen de Vizcarrondo did the winning pitch for their Wearable device for people with diabetes, effectively replacing the use of needles to absorb the daily needs of insulin.
Based in Madrid, they have developed what they call a Smart-patch using ultrasound for the administration of insulin. In an interview with Nubentos, José Carlos Montesinos, CTO and Co-Founder, gives a further explanation:
"(..), we close the whole cycle with a non-invasive patch of drug administration, without needles, controlled by our algorithm for the control and calculation of the dose in real time, something that no other company can offer for the moment in the market."
When talking about funding, Neuroelectrics has done 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 onto. They managed to sell hardware to the Entertainment industry (Facebook and Warner Bros) to finance their research and operations.
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 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 affects our wellbeing, is Psious.
In his takeaways from his participation in "Tech applied to health", Ricardo Sáinz Fuertes, Chief Medial Officer, writes:
"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."
With VR technology, through virtual exposure therapy, they aim to treat anxiety disorders and phobias such as fear of flying, Acrophobia, Claustrophobia and Agoraphobia.
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 can detect the wearer’s motion intention.” Check it out in the video below.
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 with an office in Spain.
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 and from Spain Ysios Capital also participated.
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: "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?
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.
--> I would love for you to share your thoughts or opinions in the comment section.