Knowledge transfer: from basic research to industry and the markets

Recently, the swiss company Biocartis and Hospital del Mar announced their license agreement that enables Biocartis to develop a new colon cancer test. The test is based on research results published by Dr Montagut and her team in Nature medicine on 2012. They described a specific epidermal growth factor receptor mutation which makes colorectal tumours resistant to cetuximab, whilst they remain sensitive to treatment with panitumumab. This is a clear example of how basic research results derive into benefits for the society, in this case by allowing better and personalised therapy for colon cancer according to each patient’s characteristics. Often it is perceived that basic research results have scarce or none practical applicability. And sometimes this is true, as basic research seeks knowledge as an objective itself, independently from market parameters. But fundamental research also leads to innovative and applicable new ideas. In biomedical research, for example, better knowledge of molecular mechanisms involved in pathologies enables finding new and more efficient therapeutic alternatives.

Catalan researchers publish at a comparable level to other European countries of similar size, such as the Netherlands or Denmark. However, transfer is one of the debilities of our research system, and when we compare Catalonia with these countries on patents per million of inhabitants or the ratio publications/patents, our results are not so good. Therefore, we should not forget basic research, it is necessary to foster it and provide stability and continuity to research projects, but at the same time knowledge transference has to be one of our priority objectives


A bibliometric study of research in Catalonia

Online resources of “Fundació Catalana per a la Recerca i la Innovació” provides links to two indicators produced by the “Research Group of Biometrics” and the institution CERCA (http://fundaciorecerca.cat/ca/butlletins.asp?accio=carrega&id_butlleti=79).

One of them “Bibliometric analysis of the publications in the journals Science and Nature Between 1998 and 2012″, authors (R.I. Méndez – Vásquez, E. Suñén – Piyol, L. Rovira, Oct 2nd, 2013) has carried out a study about publications in Nature and Science (according to the web of Science of Thomson Reuters) and arranged all results in an online application, which enables selecting the publications from one journal or both of them, as well as selecting two different periods of time: one comprising 15 years from 1998 to 2012, and the other the most recent 5 years (2008-2012). In order to restrict the analysis to original research papers only articles, reviews and proceeding papers published in this period  have been selected for the study. For every period and subset of data countries of host organizations, production profiles using the JCR categories are available.

The authors have included and highlighted data about Catalonia. This has allowed them to position research in Catalonia in the international rankings, according to six different indicators: number of citable documents, number of citable documents per millions of people and RCA (Relative Citation Average: ratio between the average citations per citable document of the country and the global average citations per citable document of the journal for the same period of time). Additionally, these same indicators were analysed specifically for the different Autonomous Communities of Spain.
So, if you visit the web site:


We can confirm the good situation of Catalonia. Taking into account the indicator number of citable documents per million, Catalonia is in the position 12 versus a total 135, and Spain (including Catalonia) does not appear until position 26. By far our small nation ranks first in the Autonomous Communities of Spain, and although the economic crisis and their subsequent grant reductions, the evolution of the published documents in this country keeps growing.

It is also interesting to see the wide profile of our research (JCR categories) as compared with those of other autonomous regions. This gives us the idea of ​​a plurality of different research centres and scientific areas where our researchers focus their work.




The Autonomous Community of Madrid, where the paper published in these journals have clearly declined in the last two years:



Or the Basque Country and Andalusia where the tendency in number of publications continues to grow.

 The Basque Country:


Andalucia :



Or in Castilla – La Mancha, a community which has undergone a scientific standhill:


Finally, as a curiosity, the authors offer the possibility to check the trend of the publication output of Catalonia, comparing  the evolution of the number of citable documents attributed to two different countries. Here clearly, following the always universal trend of Catalan character, Catalonia leads this indicator.




Research at the University: Catalan universities, leaders in scientific production

On July 22nd, Science and Development Foundation presented their annual report on Spanish universities. In this report, a ranking of universities and institutions was established on the basis of indicators such as the total volume of scientific production, scientific quality measured by impact indicators, and the percentage of papers published within the 10 % most cited in each category. The ranking was based on scientific publications from the Scopus database between 2007 and 2011. The authors of the report developed also a normalized impact index, taking into account the different specialties and the diversity of publication and citation patterns of several scientific fields. According to this index, the first four institutions in the ranking are Catalan: Barcelona University, Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona Autonomous University and Rovira i Virgili University. Furthermore, when the percentage of excellence was measured, Rovira i Virgili University ranked the first position, with a rate above 10%, followed by Lleida University, with a rate of about 9%. Other Spanish rankings, such as UGR Ranking of Spanish Universities according to Fields and Scientific Disciplines, also show good positions of Catalan universities. In the international setting, the Performance Ranking of Scientific Papers for World Universities 2013, which has been recently published, shows that Barcelona University is the only Spanish university included among the best 100 worldwide universities. This ranking evaluates productivity and the impact of publications of top 500 worldwide universities for the period 2002-2012. Barcelona University has advanced to position 89 as it was listed as 115th in the previous edition of the ranking.

According to Luis Sanz, Director of the Institute of Public Goods and Policies, who prepared the report for the Science and Development Foundation, the reasons for the success of the Catalan university system are essentially three: the development of a strategy based on the flexibility and autonomy of schools and universities, that for example, allowed creating the ICREA program of international talent recruitment; second, the encouragement of alliances that led to the emergence of partnerships and foundations with several partners; but, above all, scientific excellence benefits from the existence of an environment supporting it. The commitment of the autonomic government, providing additional resources and stability, something that has not happened in other autonomic communities, has been one of the keys of success.

Therefore, in an independent Catalonia we should not be worried about our future as researchers. The aim of boosting research is in our nature. As we stated in our manifesto, we need a well-funded research system, efficient and competitive, and that will be more easily secured if we are independent.

Two catalan researchers awarded the prestigious Dr. Josef Steiner Cancer Research Award 2013

Two catalan  researchers from Barcelona will share Dr. Josef Steiner Cancer Research Award 2013. They are Eduard Batlle, ICREA Professor, Oncology Programme Coordinator and Director of the Colorectal Cancer Laboratory at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona) and Joan Seoane, also ICREA Professor, Director of Translational Research at the Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology (VHIO) and Principal Investigator of the Gene Expression and Cancer Group, both for their dedicated work in oncology. “This recognition is very positive for cancer research and recognizes Barcelona as an epicentre for cancer research of excellence with many internationally renowned groups and institutes”, they affirm.

You can read the entire report by clicking the link:



The AIDS vaccine is cooked in Catalonia

Last week took place in Barcelona a Global Congress on AIDS vaccine, AIDS Vaccine 2013. This is possible because Catalonia has a large critical mass of researchers who do quality research in this area. In recent days the media have been debating about it, because this vaccine is one of the greatest challenges of modern biomedicine.

AIDS Vaccine 2013 is organized by the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise and the HIVACAT Program for HIV vaccine research, of this year’s local organizer. HIVACAT is an unprecedented public-private consortium , located in Barcelona, formed by the two largest HIV / AIDS research centers in Catalonia, the IrsiCaixa Institute for Research on AIDS and the Infectious Diseases and AIDS IDIBAPS / Hospital Clinic of Barcelona team, in collaboration with Esteve and supported by Obra Social “La Caixa”, the Government of Catalonia and the Clínic Foundation.

The message these days was that, even though the HIVACAT program funding remains intact thanks to its scientific quality and the commitment of its donors , more investment is needed to remain competitive internationally and finally defeat the disease. A minimum of 4 million Euros would allow the first steps towards a clinical trial featuring some of the recent discoveries made by scientists Catalans. An extra effort is necessary to take the leap between excellence and success.

Probably this is a reality that an independent Catalonia would have to face. We have a solid base but we must redouble our efforts to change the current trends in research funding. The wealth of a country is also measured in terms of scientific production, in biomedicine and in any other field, and its ability to transfer this knowledge to the market. We must work hard as a country to grant success in the quest of a AIDS vaccine and to reinforce research and innovation in the broadest sense.

Listen to the Congress Opening Press Conference at: www.aidsvaxwebcasts.org

Listen to Dr. Gatell, from IDIBAPS-Hospital Clínic of Barcelona and co- director of HIVACAT, at TV3 program Els Matins (In Catalan):

Listen to Dr . Bonaventura Clotet from IrsiCaixa and co-director of HIVACAT in TVE program Los Deseayunos (from minute 40) (in Spanish):

View interviews with the Congress organizers by Barcelona Press Room:


Investment in R & D provides profits in the catalan food sector

Agromillora Iberia S.L. is a Catalan company based in Subirats (Alt Penedès) since 1986 is engaged in the production and marketing of high genetic quality of nursery plants. Today is considered the largest nursery in the world. The company market rootstock and grafted plants, and creates varieties especially designed for mechanized harvesting.

Since 1997, the company has invested heavily in R & D, establishing a fully equipped research center in Monistrol d’Anoia with the latest technological advances in the agriculture and food sector.

In 2012 it achieved sales of 28 million euros, with an annual growth of 15% in the past two years, thanks to international expansion and the creation of five laboratories for plant multiplication (Spain, USA, Turkey, Brazil and Chile).

The conference ‘Claiming entrepreneurial potential’ recently organized by the Consortium of the Zona Franca de Barcelona, the President of the company explained that the goal is to increase production and stop relying on subsidies because “the subsidized agriculture has no future” but it is essential to change the mentality and the way we do today.

Companies like this show the excellent results and the applicability of investments in R & D, as well as the continuing validity of the mentality that has always been known as the catalan businessman. The food industry is no exception


Barcelona is attractive for major scientific conferences

In recent years Barcelona has become an even more attractive destination to organize a conference. It is the fifth city in the world in terms of number of international congresses held, according to the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA). Almost half of them were medical or scientific conferences. Recent examples are the congress of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD), which last week brought about 20,000 diabetes specialists to Barcelona, or the European Respiratory Society Annual Meeting, which crowded the city with pulmonologists during the first half of September.

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