SM Genomics, a spin-off of the University of Barcelona (UB) based at the Barcelona Science Parc (PCB), has just opened a financing round of 450,000 € to bring to the amateur sport Spanish market their Genetic Injury Report (GIR), a test that assesses the predisposition of an athlete to sustain non-contact muscle, ligament and tendon injuries, and to estimate severity and recovery time.

To achieve the necessary investment, the biotech has released a capital increase of 300,000 €, reserved for business angels and venture capital companies, advised and managed by INEO Corporate, a consulting firm related to the Roca Junyent Law Offices. In parallel, SM Genomics has launched a equity crowdfunding campaign led by Capital Cell.

"Our goal is not only to bring the GIR to the amateur sport sportsman who does sports regularly. We also want society to participate, to contribute and to get a sports and economic benefit to our project. This is the reason why we launched the equity crowdfunding campaign, since it allows family, friends or anyone interested in this initiative to invest modest amounts in exchange for a stake in the company", says Oriol Llampayas, co-founder and director of SM General Genomics.

Currently, SM Genomics is already marketing the GIR in the national and European markets of professional football, and is about to close scientific collaboration agreements with some of the leading public and private sports entities in Catalonia.

The proceeds gained from this capital injection will be used to carry out marketing activities, hiring of staff and investment in equipment in order to standardize processes and reduce costs to introduce the GIR into the Spanish market of amateur sport later this 2015.

Genetics at the service of sport and the welfare of society

In 2009, Dr. Rosa Artells, a researcher specializing in genetics and professor at the Faculty of Medicine of the UB, and Dr. Ricard Pruna, head physician of FC Barcelona, started a research project to study the influence of the genetic component in soft tissue injuries (muscles, ligaments and tendons) caused by the non-contact mechanism. This work took the form of the doctoral thesis of Dr. Pruna, the publication of several scientific articles and won the XV National Research Award of Sports Medicine. Significant results in subsequent studies within the same area have resulted in a patent property of the UB number EP15382132.7 'Genetic markers as intrinsic risk factors related to shoulder tone injuries', which has been transferred exclusively to SM Genomics, a spin off of the UB created in 2013 by Rosa Artells and Oriol Llampayas to give continuity to the project given its great potential.

Starting from the patented technology, the biotech has developed the Genetic Injury Report (GIR) a complete medical-genetic assessment that allows to estimate the predisposition of the professional athlete to sustain non-contact muscle, ligament and tendon injuries as well as their severity and recovery time. The test is based on the analysis of a set of key polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with risk of injury and is made from the DNA obtained from the athlete´s saliva.

"Genetic analysis provides a reliable, objective and invariable information which, applied to sport, allows us to evaluate the predisposition to sustain injury. From here, thanks to the GIR customized training protocols based on the results can be designed, which help professional athletes to improve their performance, through improved prevention aimed at reducing the risk of injury and at decreasing its severity and recovery times", explains Rosa Artells, co-founder and director of R&D at SM Genomics.

"Now we want to bring non-professional sportsmen closer to our service and professional expertise in the application of genetics to sports so that athletes can sports in a correct and balanced manner, thereby reducing the negative impact in the medium and long term. Playing sports has many positive effects; but if sports are not played properly and according to the physical and anthropometric characteristics of each person, they may also cause important adverse effects: injuries, premature osteoarthritis, orthopedic treatment, surgery, absenteeism, economic cost, pain and discomfort, and many others, which, in some cases, result in the abandonment of the athlete´s physical activity”, says Oriol Llampayas.

The figures of amateur sports

In Europe, 41% of citizens (ie, more than 208 million people) performs some sort of physical activity at least once a week, according to the Special Eurobarometer 412: Sport and physical activity of the European Commission. Based on this source, the INE, the 2013 Sports Activity Annual Report of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports and other epidemiological scientific publications in Spain, 15% of the population engages in some sort of physical activity or sport more than four times a week and 31% does it at least once a week.

The origin of the lesions is multifactorial and, although some of the causes are due to extrinsic factors (workload, climatology, playground, lifestyle, etc.) and others are due to intrinsic factors (age, sex, previous injury are due, etc), genetic influence on injury predisposition is becoming increasingly clear. It is estimated that it affects the physical and psychological condition of the athlete by nearly a 50% (Source values: Genetics and Sports. British Medical Bulletin, 2009 and Genetic influences in sport and physical performance. Sports Medical 2011).

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