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Ingredients of the Barcelona health hub: hospitals, research, and pharma

Ingredients of the Barcelona health hub: hospitals, research, and pharma

Barcelona has become the beating heart of the health and life sciences sector

The health and life sciences sector in the Barcelona region includes over 1,000 companies and 89 bodies dedicated to research. According to Biocat data, the sector is one of the largest in Catalonia and generates 31,087 million euros per year, representing 7.2% of gross domestic product (GDP) and, with more than 223,000 employees, 7% of all employment in Catalonia.

These figures give us an idea of the importance of this key sector, which has done all it can, and more, to meet the extraordinary challenges of the current health crisis. The sector is supported by a powerful ecosystem made up of a variety of different players.

In addition to Catalan hospitals’ tremendous commitment to the care of patients with Covid-19, the scientific ecosystem has launched research into possible therapies and vaccines, and into the design of technologies to treat the disease, including innovative respirators and protective materials to predictive methods.


One of the main elements in this ecosystem is Barcelona's network of high quality hospitals. In total, there are 103 hospitals in Catalonia (including 18 university hospitals) and 199 community and mental health centers. These centers employ almost 93,000 workers. Some of Barcelona's hospitals are among the very best in Spain and are considered to be benchmarks in Europe. One of these is the Hospital Clínic (recently placed 21st by Newsweek in a ranking of the best referral hospitals in the world).

To meet the demands of the Covid-19 crisis, Barcelona's hospitals have expanded their capacity, with a series of measures to increase the number of beds and ICUs. They have also worked closely with the private healthcare sector.

Algunos pabellones deportivos cercanos a los mismos hospitales también se han convertido en espacios sanitarios, lo que se conoce como «pabellones de salud», algunos de ellos han sido muy elogiados por la comunidad internacional como los del Hospital Vall d’Hebron o el Hospital del Mar.

"Some hospitals in Barcelona are among the best in Spain and are European references"

Further central components of the ecosystem are the first-class, internationally-recognized health research centers. These include the ICFO (Institute of Photonic Sciences), the CRG (Centre for Genomic Regulation), IRB Barcelona (Institute for Research in Biomedicine), ICN2 (Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology) and the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC). With some of these centers located in the Barcelona Science Park, these leading institutions are increasingly committed to technology transfer and benefit from the work of many internationally-renowned researchers. Many of the centers are also directly involved in international scientific research to combat Covid-19.

Barcelona is also home to some of the most advanced medical infrastructures in the world, such as the Barcelona Biomedical Research Park (PRBB) located next to the Hospital del Mar, which has six research centers, and the research institutes attached to the main university hospitals, such as VHIR, IDIBAPS and IDIBELL.

Pharmaceutical industry

Barcelona and its surroundings are home to the headquarters of large companies in the pharmaceutical sector such as Almirall, Esteve, Ferrer, Grífols, Bioibèrica, Lacer, Reig Jofré and Uriach. Other world leaders in the sector present locally include Amgen, Novartis, Sanofi, Roche, Bayer, B.Braun, Boehringer Ingelheim, Chiesi, Hartmann, Lundbeck and Menarini. This industry plays an important role in the vigorous health and life sciences ecosystem in Barcelona.

"Many research centres in Barcelona are involved in international scientific projects to combat Covid-19"

Furthermore, this whole ecosystem is supported by increasingly robust investments in the Barcelona area. In addition to local investors specializing in the healthcare sector, such as Asabys, Ysios Capital, Caixa Capital Risc, Inveready and Alta Partners, there has been impressive growth in the number of foreign investors who have invested in Catalan companies in the health and life sciences sector. According to Biocat, in just 10 years, the number of foreign investors participating in these companies has gone from zero to more than 50, and in the last five years alone, the figure has multiplied tenfold.

The home of clinical trials

One of the factors that makes Barcelona really special is the very large number of clinical trials conducted here, especially (once again) in the field of oncology. According to Biocat data, the city is in the top 10 in Europe for clinical trials and in the top 20 in the world; in oncology alone, it is in the top 5 in Europe and in the top 10 in the world.

Vall d’Hebron, Hospital Clínico, Hospital de Bellvitge, Sant Pau u Hospital del Mar son algunos de los centros de Barcelona con más participaciones en ensayos clínicos. Estos hospitales acogen a los líderes de opinión clave (KOLs) que son reconocidos mundialmente en varias áreas terapéuticas: El Dr. Josep Tabernero en oncología, el Dr. Jordi Bruix y el Dr. Josep Maria Llovet en hepatología, el Dr. Bonaventura Clotet en VIH y el Dr. Xavier Montalban en esclerosis múltiple, por nombrar sólo algunos.

Moreover, all the major global pharmaceutical companies, such as Johnson & Johnson, Roche, Pfizer, Novartis and Sanofi, conduct clinical trials in Barcelona.

At the end of April 2020, Catalan hospitals were participating in around 30 clinical trials related to Covid-19..

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