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The Spanish National Cancer Research Centre obtains record revenues from agreements with international companies seeking excellence in cancer research


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The Spanish National Cancer Research Centre obtains record revenues from agreements with international companies seeking excellence in cancer research

The CNIO is one of Spain's leading public cancer research centers. In 2023 it obtained almost 4 million in revenues from contracts with pharmaceutical and biotech companies. "This is an amazing achievement for a public research institution," says CNIO's Director of Innovation.

According to Maria A. Blasco, CNIO Scientific Director, these record figures reflect "the effort to translate research into advances for patients".

The CNIO's scientific output has once again been "excellent", says Blasco. The impact of the research carried out at the center on the international scientific community has exceeded that of previous years.

The large increase in the number of both patents licensed to the Spanish National Cancer Research Center (CNIO), and collaboration agreements with industry, is “an amazing achievement for a public research institution”, says CNIO’s Director of Innovation, Roke I. Oruezábal, in the center’s 2023 Annual Report, which has just been published. The impact of the CNIO’s scientific production also exceeds that of previous years.

Collaboration agreements with some of the main biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies in the world have resulted in revenues of almost 4 million euros for the CNIO, an increase of 66% over the previous year.

As for patents on inventions and developments by the center’s research groups, in 2023 36% of the total were licensed to companies.

Maria A. Blasco, CNIO Scientific Director, considers that “these achievements represent CNIO’s and our researchers’ worldwide leadership and influence in innovation. We promote the transfer to society of the knowledge generated at the CNIO, in order to transform it into benefits for patients”. 

Development of drug candidates

Blasco highlighted the CNIO’s drug discovery program: “We continue to work on the co-development of drug candidates based on novel targets validated at the CNIO, with the aim to generate new therapeutic agents against cancer and aging-related diseases”.

The CNIO is one of the few research centers in Spain capable of producing chemical compounds – based on the results of research at the center – that are potential new drugs. Researchers identify molecules on which to act chemically, and generate compounds capable of achieving a therapeutic effect. Once patented, they can be further developed by industry (it will be more than a decade before they reach patients, provided they pass all the trials).

“The bridge between basic research and the pharmaceutical industry”

In 2023 the CNIO worked on more than five families of new compounds. The previous year a CNIO compound obtained US FDA designation as a rare pediatric disease drug for the treatment of neuroblastoma tumor.

As Joaquín Pastor, Director of the CNIO Experimental Therapeutics Program, explained, “we are the bridge that connects basic research with the pharmaceutical industry; we know both worlds and we know how to bring them together”.

In addition, a new CNIO spin-off company, TNC Terapia, created together with the Foundation for Biomedical Research Hospital 12 de Octubre (FIBH12O), was born in 2023. Both institutions are co-owners of the LUMICA technology, which uses precision nutrition as a therapeutic tool against cancer, and which derives from the work of the Breast Cancer Clinical Research Unit, directed by Miguel A. Quintela.

High-impact science

Knowledge generation –the CNIO’s scientific production–, was also “excellent” again in 2023, says Blasco, with 129 research articles published, 59 of them in journals with an impact factor over 15. This figure “represents the highest point in the historical series since the CNIO began its activity”. The impact factor provides information on the relevance that the scientific community attaches to the studies carried out.

CNIO Deputy Director, Óscar Fernández-Capetillo, highlights the progress in all areas of research, and mentions as examples the “bioinformatics projects under development to make predictions about drug response and the atomic-level visualization of the molecular machinery that repairs DNA”.

Further “fascinating works,” says Fernández-Capetillo, include the development of “innovative cell-based immunotherapies, deciphering the basis of resistance to RAS gene inhibitors, the potential to therapeutically target the RANK signaling pathway for the treatment of breast cancer, or our contribution to the most comprehensive project for the genomic characterization of rare tumors”.

Success in competitive European projects

The precision oncology project on female cancers, Digital Twins, and the development of the IMPaCT_VUSCan platform to search for undiagnosed hereditary cancers were both awarded innovation grants by the Spanish Research Agency, co-financed by the NextGenerationEU European funds. 

The project to develop a liquid biopsy, a non-invasive technique for early detection of cancer cells in blood in patients, also obtained a grant from the European program “Innovative Health Initiative Joint Undertaking (IHI-JU)”.

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