Tech Spirit Barcelona has once again mobilized the city's startup and technology ecosystem. The second edition wants to become the leading event for the local innovative community with a global outlook and ambition. The event, organized by Tech Barcelona with the support of Acció (Generalitat de Catalunya), Barcelona City Council / Barcelona Activa and other private entities, was held on 22 and 23 November at La Llotja de Mar in Barcelona (Barcelona Chamber of Commerce) and attracted more than 5,000 registered attendees.

Biocat has been one of the Spirit Partners organizing two sessions in the context of healthcare digitization in the Adevinta Stage, from the perspective of AI and its transformative capacity in the system, industry, personalized medicine and clinical trials. The sessions, moderated by Montserrat Daban, Scientific and International Relations Director at Biocat, have had international speakers from the sector (IBM, Novartis, Veristat) and experts from the EATRIS Plus project, leaders of the European consortium EATRIS+, who also supported organizing the sessions.

During the first session, Angela Spatharou, Senior Partner GBS Healthcare & Life Sciences at IBM and member of the Supervisory Board of EIT Health, has highlighted the main findings of the “Transforming Healthcare with AI” Report published by EIT Health and McKinsey & Company in March 2020. She emphasized issues such as investment, the need for adoption at scale to maximize the impact of AI, as well as the need to increase industry automation. She also highlighted the acceleration that Covid-19 has brought in the digitization of health systems and healthcare, the implementation of policies that prioritize the incorporation of technology to strengthen the resilience of the system (digital first approach). Finally, she reviewed the three areas of work to be addressed in order to improve the implementation of AI in the sector: the talent of healthcare professionals (new digital curriculum, upskilling and reskilling); funding (defining European priorities, consolidating funding for rapid testing of solutions, promoting specialized artificial intelligence R&D centers in the different countries, supporting professionals in interoperability tasks by ensuring a minimum of requirements for data sets in European countries and, at the same time, structuring and cleaning them up) and regulation (common European standards, promoting healthcare ID - eID for European mobility, as well as eliminating barriers in terms of security, confidentiality and legality, with an initiative that is reflected in the European RGPD).

During the second session, speakers were asked questions regarding the impact of technologies and digitization that Gary Saunders, Data Director at EATRIS, answered directly: "How will AI impact healthcare?” The answer is no one knows.” It is how the technology is applied to the standardization of data that will give us the key to unlocking its potential. "Is technology tractional enough to enable digital transformation? The answer is no. Common, country-tailored policies and regulation are needed to empower innovation. Technology alone cannot do this.”

Souders also highlighted the difficulty in data processing in four ways: data availability, data access, interoperability and challenges in international data processing.

The speech by Mariska van der Heijden, VP European Sales Vice-President of Veristat, focused on the decentralization of clinical trials, i.e. a new way of conducting clinical trials that combines the clinical environment with the patient's own environment (at home and virtually) or totally virtual. This new modality has been possible thanks to technology (e-Consent, telemedicine [video, apps, wearables], e-source, ePRO, nurses at home and logistic support [IP delivery, lab]) and has brought benefits that impact on the improvement of the patient experience, patient selection, data quality or the efficiency of the trials when saving time and costs. However, van der Heijden highlighted the many challenges that decentralized trials face in advance, such as regulation (standardization of data and country-specific requirements), logistics and clinical endpoints, which are difficult to measure outside clinical facilities. Van der Heijden also pointed out the influence of the Covid-19 pandemic on the disruption of trials, and anticipates that they will continue to expand to 90% (of pharma trials and CROs) in the future.

César Velasco, Head of Innovation at Novartis, summarized the main topics of the debate, highlighting that AI and data are not the solution by themselves (they are drivers and facilitators of the transformation and will consolidate the process). Regarding GDPR, he reminded us that the owners of the data are the people and, therefore, we need to offer a lot of value to patients to give a secondary use to their data (legislation can be a constraint, but it is key to put the patient at the center of digitization). He also remarked on identifying the correct clinical need to find the right medical solution and that volume payment requires platforms with data and data analytics. Velasco ended by recognizing the importance of the BioRegion's ecosystems as key environments for the emergence of talent and innovation.

Tech Spirit Barcelona has hosted other sessions and presentations that have been held over the two days, as well as a Pitch Competition, organized by ACCIÓ, which has brought together investors and startups. Among the 24 finalist startups that have made their pitch before the entrepreneurs and investors in attendance, Nixi for Children has won the award for the best Catalan startup of 2021, in recognition of its business model, technology and team. The company, created by Tomàs Lóbez Pérez, has developed a virtual reality system to reduce preoperative anxiety for pediatric patients.

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