Biocant Park - Response to Covid-19.

Jan 6, 2021
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, biotechnology companies based in Biocant Park, in Cantanhede, have been involved and committed to creating innovative solutions in areas of diagnosis, treatment and prevention, based on the experience, practice and knowledge of their teams of researchers.

A stem cell-based medicine to treat critically ill patients with COVID-19, an infrastructure that allows the scale-up of diagnostic tests to COVID-19, an inhalation vaccine, and the ArCovid19 project, which involves the development of a methodology to detect the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in air samples, are some of the projects developed by companies and laboratories based in this technological park.

Crioestaminal, a leading stem cell laboratory in Portugal and one of the largest in Europe, has developed an experimental medicine based on stem cells from expanded umbilical cord tissue to treat critically ill patients with COVID-19. The experimental medicine, already available for hospital use, was developed in the new unit of Cell Therapy Medicines production of Crioestaminal, an investment of around 1 million euros. According to André Gomes, CEO of Crioestaminal, the company "is in a position to produce around two dozen doses per week, with the possibility of expanding production, if necessary”.

In an investment of more than 35 thousand euros and with a team of five professionals, HeartGenetics, in partnership with Biocant Park, has developed an infrastructure for the scale-up of diagnostic tests to COVID-19. The COVID-LAB project became operational in May, “at a time when there was a shortage of diagnostic tests in Portugal, and after approval for the use of this diagnostic technology by the National Institute of Health Doutor Ricardo Jorge (INSA)”, recalls Ana Teresa Freitas, HeartGenetics CEO.

Using a cleanroom provided by Biocant for handling samples in high security, this genotyping technology was capable of carrying out 800 tests per day.

Another project under development is a vaccine for SARS-COV-2 by Immunethep, “motivated by the development of a national solution that allows vaccination and protection of citizens as soon as possible”, says Bruno Santos, the company's CEO. This company used previous experience in immunotherapy to develop this vaccine, administered by inhalation, and which is now undergoing animal testing, in partnership with the Institute for Research and Innovation in Health (I3S), in Porto.

ArCovid19 is the name that Microbiology Laboratory, the unit specialized in microbiology of Biocant - Technology Transfer Association, in partnership with the company Biocant R&D, gave to this innovative and unique methodology in Portugal that allows the detection of SARS-CoV- 2 in air samples. According to Joana Branco, executive director of the Biocant Association, this methodology “may be relevant in critical environments such as Intensive Care Units, Continuing Care, Nursing Homes and various hospital services, to detect the presence of the virus early and thus prevent new transmission chains”. The consortium foresees that, in a second moment, it will be possible to apply the technology developed in other spaces such as public transport or shopping centres, spaces where the crowding of people and the possibility of spreading SARS-CoV-2 is higher.

Biocant Park is a science and technology park specialized in Biotechnology whose mission is to promote bio entrepreneurship and support business initiatives focused on the economic valorisation of knowledge across life sciences. Through the provision of specialized laboratory spaces and technological platforms, the park currently hosts around 35 companies in the sector, as well as a training centre in biotechnology at the Center for Neurosciences at the University of Coimbra. This ecosystem also includes a core of Bioindustries for companies that are already in production at scale.

In operation for over 15 years, the park represents a growth vehicle that has been essential for the sector in the national panorama.