Specialists in biomolecules
Immunotherapy in dogs with Leishmaniasis: a new strategy to prevent the global spread of the disease
Sergi Segarra, head of R+D of Companion Animal Health Care at Bioibérica
Canine leishmaniosis is a parasitic zoonotic disease, which can be fatal for dogs as well as people. The disease is transmitted by the bite of flying insects called sandflies, which act as the vector. The type of immune response in the infected individuals is very important in determining how these patients progress and also their prognosis. As such, immunomodulation is now being considered as a strategy to handle this disease.
Impromune® is a product developed by Bioibérica which combines nucleotides and AHCC (mycelial extract of Lentinus edodes), allowing the immune response in dogs to be modulated. Recently the results of a study performed on dogs with clinical leishmaniasis was published in Veterinary Parasitology. The study observed that the oral administration of Impromune® for six months results in a clinical improvement similar to (or even better) than that obtained with standard treatment, without promoting the development of xanthine in urine, which is the main secondary effect of the current most commonly used treatment.
Unfortunately, in spite of the extensive use of insecticide collars and spot-on treatments against the sandfly which transmits the disease and in spite of the recent development and marketing of different Leishmania vaccinations, preventing and controlling this disease is still an unresolved problem. Furthermore, there is a great concern as many publications confirm that this disease is clearly spreading at a global scale, principally due to climate change. Given that dogs are the natural infection reservoir for humans, proper handling of infected dogs should lead to a decrease in the prevalence of the disease among humans. In fact, this strategy is included among the measures recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) to control leishmaniasis.
That’s why Bioibérica’s R+D department continues to carry out additional scientific studies in order to obtain more scientific evidence for Impromune® as a type of immunotherapy for canine leishmaniasis, with a special interest in evaluating if it is possible to prevent the progression of the disease in clinically healthy, but infected animals. The aim is to promote a product which can be safely administered long term and, which once its efficacy is confirmed in these situations, would allow for the disease to be controlled better, leading to a decrease in the use of medications which are often associated with the appearance of secondary effects and drug resistance.
Picture: A sandfly vector of Leishmania parasites taking a blood meal through human skin (Source: WHO)
By Xavier Córdoba, Director of the Bioibérica’s Animal Health Division
The progressive increase in population —the FAO estimates that in 2050 the world will reach 9 billion people— and the consequent demand for food have turned aquaculture into a solution which currently produces more than half of the fish consumed in the world.
Aquaculture, an industry which has existed for 30 some years, involves breeding aquatic organisms from coastal and rural zones in order to improve the production. Thanks to this technique humans currently cultivate around 567 species of fish, crustaceans, molluscs and plants. This allows for species to be saved which would otherwise disappear with extractive fishing, thus ensuring greater genetic diversity.
One of the global challenges is to make aquaculture more sustainable. With this goal, we aim to improve the nutrition which is provided to the fish with natural ingredients such as nucleotides and bioactive peptides in order to fight against diseases by reinforcing their immunity system and their digestive capacity, among other aspects which affect food quality and security, as well as the environment. Even so, in a scientific congress in Chile Dr. Daniel Benetti, one of the world’s leading experts in sustainable aquaculture at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science de Miami (USA), explained that recent decades have seen immense advances in sustainability and that aquaculture has a bright future (see the article on the website Aqua.cl).
Asia continues to be world’s leading producer, with 88.5% according to data from the FAO in 2012. In Europe, aquaculture represents 20% of the fish production and provides employment to 85,000 people, 20,000 in Spain, a country which leads the sector and which will preside over the Aquaculture Committee of the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean for the next four years.
Sources and resources of interest for more information:
Carles Canet, director of the documentary “Heparin: 100 years saving lives”
When someone asks you to direct a new documentary, I suppose the first thing you feel is very similar to a writer experiencing ‘blank page syndrome’. In our case, it was more like ‘blank screen syndrome’. How do we explain, in simple terms, that a hundred-year-old biomolecule saves more than a hundred million lives a year? How can we use images to transmit, in an interesting way, the importance and development of heparin over the last hundred years? How can we make something audiovisually comprehensible which is so small that we can’t see it, but which yesterday, today or tomorrow could save any one of our lives? It’s taken months of research, trying to understand and a great deal of reading, and complete immersion in the medical, clinical and industrial manufacturing worlds. In these fields, when it comes to making sure that others, through you, understand what you’ve already had to make sense of, I’m certain that being a novice is more of an advantage than a hindrance.
It’s been a fascinating project, not just because of realising how important heparin has been over these last hundred years, but for what we’ve learned in trying to disseminate this knowledge in the most educational and simple way possible.
The most exciting and enriching aspect on a personal level – which I often find – has been the constant awareness that behind every discovery, scientific advance or story, there are people. I’ve observed time and again that no matter how important the story we’re telling – in this case heparin – only people’s passion and enthusiasm can push us forward as a society. I’ve found such passion in many places: surrounded by cutting-edge scientific instruments at Bioiberica; at the Ronzoni Institute in Milan; in the medieval town of Maastricht; at Barcelona’s Hospital de San Pau and the Germans Trias Hospital in Badalona; and in the middle of a livestock farm in Lleida, to name a few locations included in the documentary. These important locations would contribute nothing were it not for the people we found there, including Dr. Coen Hemker, Dr. Juan Carlos Souto, Carlos Grande, Vicens Novell, Joan Bassa and Marco Guerrini, people who on a personal or professional level have influenced us with their passion for their work and for heparin specifically. There are too many people to name them all here, but thanks to each and every one of them we’ve developed understanding, knowledge, respect and admiration for heparin. We’ve also learned to appreciate and value heparin through their work, which is more a passion than a job.
All of this came together to gradually fill the ‘blank screen’ with magic, content and information. If the documentary succeeds in conveying all this to whoever watches it, we’ll have achieved our goal. And I’ll continue believing that one of the best rewards of my job is having the luxury and pleasure of sharing encounters – albeit short – with people who can teach you so much on a human and professional level. With people as passionate as they are, I don’t doubt for one second that heparin will continue to save millions of lives for years to come.
Anna Botta, R&D technician, Bioibérica Plant Physiology
“Agriculture both contributes to climate change and is affected by climate change. The EU needs to reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions from agriculture and adapt its food-production system to cope with climate change.” This was the warning given by the European Environment Agency at the end of 2015, to which were added the following observations:
- Flowering and harvest seasons for cereal crops are now happening several days earlier.
- Extreme heat waves and reduced rainfall and water available hamper agricultural productivity.
- Interannual crop yields are increasingly varying due to extreme weather events and other factors such as pests and diseases.
- Nitrogen-based fertilisers release nitrous oxide emissions and also nitrates to soil and water bodies.
This is why, at the Plant Physiology division of Bioibérica, we are convinced that bioestimulants can play an important role in the fight against climate change, precisely because of their mode of action. These products also take into account the plant metabolism and act on the physiological mechanisms of the crop to increase the resistance and the recovery of the plant in abiotic stressful situations, maintaining the balance between biostimulation and the provision of nutrients during the most critical times for the crop.
Being natural products composed of different raw materials with synergistic effects, biostimulants are also an alternative attempt to reduce the use of plant protection products such as pesticides. Our range of natural plant defence inducers are alternative products, which aim to early and largely promote the plant’s own defences against pathogen infections. In this way, a reduction is achieved in both the number of applications and the dose of plant protection treatments. This translates into less chemical wastes.
Our aim is to continue working for a sustainable agriculture and for the farmer to have the tools needed to adapt to the new conditions and demands of the market, both environmental and technological.
The Spanish biotech sector is in good shape, a message being perceived this week at the Biospain 2016 event organised by the Spanish Bioindustry Association (Asebio) in Bilbao: over 1,500 executives; 50 investors, 700 businesses and 3,000 partnering meetings.
The eighth edition of Biospain has a clearly international and public-private cooperation focus, as Asebio general manager Ion Arocena emphasised yesterday, and has drawn representatives from over 26 countries (guest country USA). Plus many news outlets are devoting their pages and social networks to the meeting, including Cinco Días which said that investors are seeking out Spanish biotechs.
“The Spanish biotech industry conveys a positive message: entrepreneurship, internationalisation and innovation,” said Francisco Javier Garzón, CEO of the Spanish Institute for Foreign Trade (ICEX) at the opening event. However, as Ion Arocena went on to say, it “requires economic and political stability. We have success stories. What’s missing are consistent long-term efforts”.
Heparin centenary reaches Bilbao
The 100 years of heparin, which Bioibérica is promoting this year with an extensive programme of international activities, is continuing at Biospain.
How? At our stand and organising an exclusive presentation of the cooperation agreement between the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC), the ISGlobal Barcelona Institute for Global Health and our company to study new strategies based on the creation of new heparin derivative compounds to fight malaria.
The collaboration stems from research work by Dr. Xavier Fernández, director of the Nanomalaria Unit at IBEC-ISGlobal. “We have discovered that heparin has an antimalarial activity and is more affordable thanan antibody,” Dr. Fernández told a packed press conference yesterday.
Congratulations to the Asebio team for the excellent organisation once again of the biennial biotech event in our country.
Can happiness and well-being be measured? The answer is yes and thanks to Big Data it is a reality. In the video at the top of this page, Professor Martin Seligman tells us the details.
A few years ago, we here in Bioibérica put into place “Bioflow“, a training programme which all the employees follow regularly in order to improve their personal strengths and maintain a positive attitude. The programme is based on positive psychology, a discipline which scientifically studies what is it that makes people or communities feel fulfilled, happy and actualized. In the video at the top of this page, Professor Martin Seligman, the founder of this discipline, tells us about its origins.
“Building well-being in companies is a good corporate strategy“. Professor Martin Seligman started his conference in Bioibérica with this phrase. But, is it a means to achieve results or a goal in itself? You have the answer in the video at the top of this page.
A few days ago, the 2015 Asebio Report was published, drafted each year by the Spanish Biotechnology Companies Association (Asebio) to compile the situation and trends of the biotechnology sector in Spain. Sponsored by Bioibérica, Merck and Celgene, the report highlights the growing weight in revenues that the companies record within Spanish GDP, a figure which reached 10.35%, as well as the increase of employment and investment in R+D. Catalonia reaffirmed its position as the autonomous community with the highest biotech concentration (21.21%).
The sector’s global revenues hit 107,788 million Euros in 2014, 13.28 more compared with the previous year. This growth was provided mostly by companies with more than 250 employees such as Bioibérica, currently with a team of 500 people, which make up 88.6% of the total of the sector’s revenues.
Private internal investment in R+D, has also been very favourable, after years of decrease, it seems that investment has begun to recover. In 2014, the amount reached 533.8 million Euros, which means 3.75% more than the previous fiscal year. Employment grew by 2.91% up to 177,973 employees.
The act included a round table debate including the participation Josep Vergés, Bioibérica’s Medical and Scientific Director, who defended the importance of social innovation in biotechnology. In this sense, Vergés highlighted that “if there is no R+D, there are no advances in medicine”. His statements are among the most popular topics on Twitter with the hashtag #InformeASEBIO2015. In fact, the presentation managed to be a trending topic in Spain, which delights us because we see that science “truly awakens interest”.
As a final conclusion, looking toward the future, we can say that the biotechnology sector will continue progressing and consolidating if we understand, as Vergés said, that “research is not an expense, but rather an investment”.
Is there a relationship between people’s level of well-being and business profits? The answer is yes, but the ideal situation is for well-being to be a goal in itself and not as a means to reach objectives. Furthermore, “happiness can be measured and taught” as Professor Martin Seligman explains, one of the founders of positive psychology and director of the Positive Psychology Center at Penn (University of Pennsylvania), in La Contra in La Vanguardia days after visiting our company in Barcelona.
With a Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology, Seligman went from studying depression to researching the bases of well-being and happiness to discover that “we knew how to treat the negative and pathological aspects of human beings really well, but nobody was worried about the positive aspects, about how to lead a good life”. In this sense, he notes that when studying the bases of psychological well-being, of happiness, of human strengths and virtues was proposed within the scientific framework, he arrived at the conclusion that “positive emotions, the quality of relations and in short, happiness, can be measured and can be taught”.
Seligman also highlights the importance of strengthening abilities in order to strengthen our well-being, and also to increase positive relationships, emotions and commitments.
Over the last few years, we here in Bioibérica have applied Professor Seligman’s theory in our human resources philosophy, which we call Bioflow, with very positive results in terms of team involvement and motivation. Over the next few days, here in the blog, we will offer you some video extracts of the workshop that Seligman gave to Bioibérica’s management team about the importance of improving well-being in teams and how to turn this into a goal.
Today we’re joining the World Environment Day, a day which has been promoted by the United Nations (UN) since 1973 with the goal of motivating and raising awareness among the populace so that we become active agents in sustainable development. It is now celebrated in 100 countries.
Faithful to our commitment to contribute to improving the health and well-being of people, animals and plants, we in Bioibérica are working on the research, development, production and sale of biomolecules in the most sustainable manner possible. So much so that since 1994 our company has been considered a pioneer in implementing environmental management processes.
One of the most important actions that we carry out is in the central plant in Palafolls (Barcelona) and we want to share it with you: we treat an average flow of 500,000 daily litres of waste waters which come from the production processes of our products with a water treatment plant that could clean the water for a town with 35,000 residents. In this video our colleague Jordi Cararach explains how we remove the oils, fats and dissolved solids in the water before being biologically treated, so that later the water can be reused internally.
Also, thanks to the daily work of a team of environmental experts which collects samples and oversees the entire process, we have managed to reduce the discharge parameters to three times below the legal limit.
Innovation and technology are crucial for humanity’s evolution, but the environment continues to be our lungs.
We will be following Twitter #DMMA2016 #WED2016 #WorldEnvironmentDay
Alba Soler, Bioibérica Communications Director (@asolerc)
A few days ago we attended the presentation of the 2015 Biocat Report in Barcelona, the study which analyses the situation of life and health sciences in the Catalonia BioRegion, sponsored by Bioibérica and Ferrer, along with the more than 200 people from the sector who attended. Although the figures really stood out, I want to highlight, perhaps by professional default, how the presentation had excellent staging with interactive infographics and hand made drawings (Amazing!).
Health and life sciences (which includes biotechnology activity) is growing at the global level and in Catalonia, where our plant and central headquarters are located. They now represent 7% of the GDP (5.8% in 2013), the companies generate 14,369 million Euros and employ 42,133 professionals (4,000 in R+D). Today in Bioibérica we have a staff of 358 people and sales of 246.8 million Euros.
Being part of this atmosphere of scientific excellence is a true luxury. As the General Director of Biocat, Dr Albert Barberà noted, the number of companies in the sector has increased (from 512 to 734 since the 2013 Biocat Report), along with their size, the investments attracted and large business operations, which demonstrates the consolidation of the BioRegion created 10 years ago. Of these companies, 221 are biotechnology companies, and Bioibérica is one of the ones with the longest history as it was founded in 1975.
The main therapeutic areas are oncology, dermatology, infectious diseases, and nervous and respiratory system diseases. If you want to know how we are innovating in Bioibérica I suggest that you read the success case published by the Biocat Report.
As for pending challenges, the report noted that the high level of research does not translate into socio-economic value, the investment in public and private R+D decreased by almost 11% between 2009 and 2014, and in spite of the successful investments in 2015, access to capital continues to be one of the obstacles that Catalan companies face.
With this snapshot in our hands, we will continue working so that the biotechnology from the Catalonia BioRegion translates into new treatments which cure illnesses or improve the quality of life for millions of people across the globe.