R&D in Spain, key to the future of medicine

Spain is considered one of the leading countries in areas such as agrobiotechnology, biochemistry and molecular biology. In addition, our pharma industry is a major developer of innovative medicines against cancer, acute myocardial infarction and other cardiovascular diseases, malaria, Alzheimer's disease and HIV/AIDS.

Spain’s outstanding health system is based upon world-class medical research. Our country is the most important in Europe and third in the world for advancements in agrobiotechnology, fifth in molecular biology and biochemistry research, and the fifth largest exporter of health technology. Furthermore, Spain stands third among the most successful countries in terms of assisted reproductive technology, courtesy of fertility centres such as Instituto Valenciano de Infertilidad (IVI), and is one of the top-ten countries with the highest number of publications in scientific journals and the strongest impact of scientific research.

The Spanish health system is supported by a network of public and private centres and multidisciplinary groups which carry out biomedical research. Among them is the Spanish National Research Council (Spanish acronym: CSIC), one of the world’s most prominent public institutions devoted to research.

Research results have turned our country into a worldwide reference in the fields of transplantation and the battle against cancer, cardiovascular diseases and HIV/AIDS.

Santiago Ramón y Cajal (1852-1934) and Severo Ochoa (1905-1993), both Nobel Prize winners, are two of the pioneers of thr Spanish research. Enormous talent has been displayed by younger generations of researchers, some of the most outstanding being Mariano Barbacid, Margarita Salas, Pedro Cavadas, María Blasco, Pedro Alonso, José del R. Millán, Ander Ramos, Mateo Valero, Jesús María Prieto Valtueña, Joan Massagué Solé and José María Benlloch, among many others.

Competitive industries

Spain’s biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries have become two of the most competitive and fastest-growing emerging sectors in the world. The reasons are well-established scientific capabilities, highly qualified scientists, outstanding infrastructure and technology, plus an integrated health system that consists of an extensive network of public and private hospitals.

With more than 78,700 scientific texts published in SCOPUS (a database containing summaries and citations from scientific journals) and more than 58,100 in WOS (Web of Science, a site that provides access to multidisciplinary research across subjects and around the world), Spain ranks eleventh in the world and fifth in Europe in terms of scientific output, as it is mentioned in the 2017 edition of Indicadores del Sistema Español de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación book, a report published by the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology (Spanish acronym: FECYT).

The Spanish pharmaceutical industry plays a key role in biotechnology research and innovation. Spain is the country with the second largest number of biotech companies in the world, coming only behind the USA. There are over 3,000 biotech firms in our country, with more than 130,000 employees carrying out R&D activities in the fields of health and agri-food.

Also, Spain stands out in areas such as personalised medicine and the development of innovative medicine against cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and autoimmune and infectious diseases.

The Centre for Genomic Regulation (Spanish acronym: CRG) is a major biomedical research centre based in Spain and a leading institute at the European level for basic research in cancer and rare disease genomics.

Spanish R&D with international outreach

In Spain, there is an ever increasing number of internationally renowned firms specialising in R&D in healthcare, a sector with a huge potential for growth. Life Length, for instance, is the first company in the world to offer telomere length assessment, as telomere length is an indicator of biological age that may predict whether an individual is at risk for developing health conditions.

Oryzon is a biopharmaceutical research firm and a world leader in epigenetics, the study of gene-environment interactions in living organisms. Oryzon develops experimental treatments for cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. Plebiotic, together with Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid, has developed a molecular dynamics simulator, which labs can use to speed up time-to-market for the medicines they develop.