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On September 9th 2014, Barcelona will held the first European Biomedical Investor’s Day, an event focused on new medical technologies organized by six pioneering institutions that deliver biodesign-like programs around the world.

During the aforementioned investors’ day, the three teams of 2013 Design Health Barcelona (d·HEALTH Barcelona) program, as well as a selection of teams representing the equivalent initiatives BioInnovate Ireland (Ireland), the Center for Technology in Medicine and Health (Sweden), Stanford Biodesign (California, USA) will pitch innovative solutions in healthcare to a panel of international investors, entrepreneurs, business managers, policy-makers and healthcare professionals.

The European Biomedical Investors’ Day will put an end to the first edition of d·HEALTH Barcelona, which was born in April 2013 to make Barcelona a 21st century world capital of research, development and biomedical entrepreneurship.

Barcelona has unique assets related to climate, quality of life, culture, creativity, leisure, architecture, sport and gastronomy. From a business perspective, it also has infrastructures, great universities, knowledge institutes, science parks and a diversified economy. It holds 50% of all the researchers in Spain and 40% of all the grants from European funding

"We created Design Health Barcelona to meet the current need of experts with the skills to foster innovation and entrepreneurship in the Catalan biomedical field" says Montserrat Vendrell, CEO of Biocat. "The program can act as an ignitor to promote innovation in the Catalan hospitals, increase the international competitiveness of our industry and attract investment for new products and services."

A ¿quiet? revolution

Over the last years, innovative, affordable and elegantly designed devices that add value to existing medical processes and make them simpler, cheaper and more accessible are emerging with regularityin different parts of the world. It is a revolution that, maybe, not many outside the healthcare sector are aware of. However, it has begun to attract serious interest from industry and also some solid venture capital backing.

Traditionally, innovation in medical devices has emerged from research and technological centers. However this new wave of products is the result of the catalyzing forces of a select group of academic programs that follow the biodesign methodology developed at Stanford University andchallenge their fellows to address unmet needs in healthcare through a clinical immersion in top hospitals.

“Healthcare is, nowadays, the most attractive sector in the world, the one that provides more business opportunities but in order for discovery and innovation to matter, you have to be where the patiens and caregivers interact” says Jorge Juan Fernández, Head of Academics at Moebio, the talent development arm of Biocat, and Director E-Health at Hospital Sant Joan de Déu in Barcelona.

The essence of biodesign

The biodesign methodology is a successfully proven approach for medtech innovation. Since its conception in 2001, the Stanford Biodesign Fellowship has trained over 850 professionals, has led to the creation of 26 companies that have raised $200 million in venture capital funds and their technologies have benefited more than 195,000 patients. Comparing with all the money spent in medtech or biotech industry that has gone wasted, this kind of program allows a good return for the industry.

Innovation is not just having ideas, but creating ideas through a process and the fundamental principle behind the biodesign methodology is that innovation can be reproducible, learned and taught. “Given the high stakes of medical technology innovation, this is exceptionally important to try to master the process and avoid many of the common pitfalls” says Fernandez. The biodesign process starts and ends with patients, not technologies. The first thing d·HEALTH Barcelona program teaches its students is that they must focus on the patient and their needs first to truly understand what is required to help them before thinking about any technologies or solutions.

During the first month of the academic year the fellows learn how to examine clinical needs within a hospital setting and to identify opportunities for medical technology innovation. Then, they put the acquired knowledge into practice. As part of three four-people multidisciplinary teams of doctors, engineers and scientists, they lived two months under the roof of three top hospitals in Barcelona (Hospital Clínic, Hospital Sant Joan de Déu i l'Institut Guttman) and observe surgeries and patients interacting with the healthcare system.

During this clinical immersion, the three teams of 2013 d·HEALTH Barcelona, all together, identified nearly 1400 new ideas and business opportunities.“15% of these needs represent improvement opportunities for hospitals. 25% require new scientific breakthroughs prior to become real business opportunities, thus they promote scientific research in the region. 20% are ideas to improve already existing products and the remaining 40% are clinical needs that really provide new business opportunities” resumes Fernández.

Filtering down all these needs to select one per team it is an arduous process that requires extensive market research, building a matrix of scores to rank and sort accordingly the needs over multiple rounds.

The three innovation projects of the first edition of d·HEALTH Barcelona area system to reduce the excessive noise in neonatal units, an online platform to make Barcelona the first cardioprotected city in the worldand a device for combating constipation in patients with spinal cord injuries.

Throughout the 28 weeks of the academic year, the fellows learned how to validate needs, brainstorm solutions, prototype and develop business plans but also participated in a slew of amazing events in which they build a valuable network for their professional future comprised by entrepreneurs and executives with multiple big successes, top VCs, lawyers, clinicians and policy-makers.

Future perspectives

Next 9th September, at the European Biomedical Investor’s Day, Design Health Barcelona fellows will pitch their innovations to a panel of international investors. The event will mark the beginning of their road to raise funds to bring the new products and services to patients, the start of their lives as medtech innovators.

“After years collaborating with hospitals, I have realized that there are tons of people who want to do something in healthcare industry but don’t know exactly what,” says Fernández. “Also, if you consider the increasing number of health accelerators in the world, you will find people with technical background wanting to do something in the healthcare sector, but lacking the knowledge, the contacts, the skills. Our mission at d·HEALTH Barcelona is to change the milieu of innovation and to contribute to develop a medtech innovation ecosystem in Catalonia by training the people that will launch new companies or will join, as intrapreneurs, the innovation department of hospitals, research tech transfer, consultancy firms, medtech and pharma companies."

Healthcare it is one of the last sectors to undergo technology-based transformation. Technology and entrepreneurs can bring needed change to the industry and biodesign-like programs are powering the future by lowering the barriers for them to succeed.

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