Biotech SpainA few days ago I attended the official presentation of Asebio‘s Annual report. Asebio is the Spanish Association of Biotechnology Industries and next year will be celebrating its 10th anniversary.

A long road has been completed from the early 90’s that I remember in the executive search profession. Then, the searches assigned to EuroGalenus  were coming from foreign corporations just starting commercial operations in Spain. Usually Regional or Country Managers and their key board executives: CEOCSO, Regulatory Affairs Director and/or Technical/responsible person. These executives were sourced from Pharmaceutical companies as the problems they were facing were very similar: approval, reimbursement, marketing, etc. Most of those companies are now big consolidated names in the world of international and Spanish Biotechnology.

In 1992, the Spanish sector consisted of Biokit (part of the Werfen/Izasa group), Pharmamar (part of Zeltia)…and not much more. So the development in 15/20 years is more stunning than just the past 10 years. Now, Spain has over 250 companies employing more than 100.000 people. Even more, we have successful companies ready to make the “big jump” and become truly global. To Pharmamar, we now have to add Advancell, Oryzon Genomics, Digna Biotech, Cellerix, Bionostra, Lipotec, 3P Bio or Palau Pharma, to mention a few. Spain now ranks 8-9th in the Biotechnology world league according to the latest OECD report.

These new companies face very different scenarios and needs than the pioneers : Discovery and Development senior scientists, Manufacturing and scale-up Directors, Intellectual property (IP) experts, Business Development Directors… Less than two years ago, one of the CEO’s in the industry, Ms. Cristina Garmendia of Genetrix was appointed Minister of Science and Innovation; unfortunately when the worst of the economic crisis was starting to hit traditional sectors such as construction, housing, tourism, etc. Not the ideal situation to fight for Biotechnology in front of the other Ministers in the councils.

However, my professional perspective is that the foundations of this sector in Spain are solid: the traditional high scientific level and creativity of our Research centres and Universities starts to find a new perception from venture capital and finance groups. The country government and regions are supporting the development of Biotech Parks and clusters, where Academia, Science, Business and Finance can work and grow together.

Next November 26th the Alumni of the IE Business school will celebrate an Open Forum in Madrid to discuss the current challenges of the sector in Spain, but the great appointment will be BioSpain next year 2010 at the end of September, with Pamplona as the city host.