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The Basque Country, a global reference in medical research and innovation

The Basque Country is in the vanguard of European regions bidding for innovation in medical research. As a matter of fact, assistance, teaching, research and innovation are the fundamental elements in the Basque authorities’ healthcare strategy.

Medical research and innovation have grown considerably over the past few decades, especially since the establishment of the Basque Foundation for Health Innovation and Research (BIOEF).

Below are three examples of how the Basque Country is on its way to become a European reference in medical research and innovation.

BioCruces, biomedical research elite

The BioCruces Health Research Centre is one of the leading medical research centres in the Basque Country. Established in 2008, it comprises almost 60 research teams and about 600 researchers focusing on seven different areas: primary health care, prevention and chronic disease; cancer; endocrinology, metabolism, nutrition and kidney disease; autoimmune, inflammatory and infectious disease; nervous system disorders; innovations in surgery, organ transplantation and health technology; and maternal and child healthcare and assisted reproductive technologies.

BioCruces is an association, its partners being the Ministry of Health, the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU) and BIOEF. It has cemented alliances with leading science and technology agencies, including agreements with CIC bioGUNE, BCAM, BERC Achúcarro and Ikerbasque.

Recently, BioCruces obtained the official certification as a health research institute from the Carlos III Health Institute, the Spanish agency promoting the production of scientific knowledge in the field of health and medicine and innovation in healthcare and disease prevention. The new certification will make BioCruces eligible to participate in more important national and international projects and to get public funding.

The future BioCruces premises, whose construction is under way, will be an eight-storey building covering 5000m2.

Biopool, with EU recognition

Biopool is the tool of the Basque public health system, Osakidetza, to manage the biological samples in its network of healthcare centres. Targeted at researchers in hospitals, universities, research centres and biopharmaceutical companies, it helps identify samples (blood, tissues, DNA, etc.) for faster research processes and better treatments.

Biopool got the highest rating from the European Commission, which described it as an ‘innovative product that fills a research gap and can also be used in anatomical pathology courses and, in the future, maybe also in diagnosis.’

With this rating, the EC recognises the work done to develop this biobank search tool, as well as the social and economic impact it is expected to have.

Biopool was awarded as best research product by the Spanish Society of Anatomical Pathology and the International Academy of Pathology (SEAP-IAP). It was also the recipient of the award to innovation granted by the European Association of Research and Technology Organisations (EARTO).

Midatech bioGUNE, leader in nanomedicine at the global level

Midatech bioGUNE will be the leader of a European project to produce nanoparticles for cancer treatment, certified by Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP). The project, to unfold in the next few years, is budgeted at €8M and EC-funded within the Horizon 2020 Framework Programme. Thus, Midatech, which will get €3.4M, will become one of the first European companies to produce aseptic nanoparticles under GMP conditions.

Headquartered at the Bizkaia Technology Park since 2006, Midatech is a subsidiary of UK-based Midatech Pharma. With a 30-strong staff, it designs, develops and produces nanomedicines with self-developed biocompatible nanoparticle technology. Its labs have been renovated for €1.2M to develop cancer drugs in a sterile environment.

Midatech also focuses on metabolic disorders. At present it is working on a needle-free insulin device for patients with diabetes. It consists of soluble nanoparticle bands placed along the inside of the cheek.

These and other examples illustrate why the Basque healthcare system is considered to be among the best in the world, as reflected in the OECD Better Life Index.

OECD Better Life Index

Source: OECD

Date: September 2104

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