d·HEALTH Barcelona: 6 years training healthcare entrepreneurs and innovators

The Design Health Barcelona (d·HEALTH Barcelona) postgraduate fellowship, promoted by Biocat to develop future leaders and businesspeople in healthcare innovation, guides multidisciplinary teams of fellows through a full innovation cycle, from identifying unmet clinical needs to designing and prototyping a feasible solution, as well as scouting for funding. d·HEALTH Barcelona is inspired by the prestigious Stanford University Biodesign Fellowship.

The sixth class of healthcare innovators graduated from d·HEALTH Barcelona in 2019, pitching their projects in public at the graduation ceremony held at the Movistar Center in Barcelona. The 2019 projects focused on a COPD screening system for primary care centers to increase the number of people diagnosed with this disease, a minimally invasive device that can detect the best time to implant an embryo for in vitro fertilization, and a digital platform to detect and predict relapses in patients with bipolar disorder.

At the graduation event, the fellows got feedback from the panel of judges, which featured Frédéric Tétard, head of Pharmacovigilance at Boehringer Ingelheim; Irene Sánchez, Business Creation manager for EIT Health Spain; and Yaakov Nahmias, academic director for BioDesign: Jerusalem Medical Innovation. Nahmias was the keynote speaker for the event, presenting some success stories of innovative start-ups that have come out of the Israeli biodesign program. Finally, Montserrat Delgado, Education manager for EIT Health Spain, presented some of the lines of work of the main European healthcare consortium, including the innovation fellowships that d·HEALTH Barcelona is part of.

Extending the impact to the whole ecosystem

In mid-2018, a new collaborating hospital was announced: Germans Trias i Pujol Hospital. The 2019 class of fellows did their immersion at this hospital, in the Pneumology Department. During the closing event for the sixth edition, a fifth new hospital collaborating with the d·HEALTH Barcelona program was also announced: Bellvitge University Hospital.

Plus, in 2019 Boehringer Ingelheim became a partner in d·HEALTH Barcelona. The clinical immersion one team did in the Pneumology Department at Germans Trias i Pujol Hospital gave Boehringer Ingelheim a first-hand look at real unmet needs of both the patients and healthcare staff involved in this unit, as part of their commitment to innovation in respiratory health. Another pharmaceutical corporation, Ferrer, also sponsored the program, focusing on unmet needs associated with strokes, for the first six years of d·HEALTH Barcelona.

Each year, d·HEALTH Barcelona impacts more than 1,100 people in the Catalan healthcare ecosystem, including hospital and healthcare staff, patients, mentors, venture capitalists, and research and technology centers. During their clinical immersion at Hospital Clinic, Vall d’Hebron Barcelona Hospital Campus and Germans Trias i Pujol Hospital, the 2019 d·HEALTH Barcelona fellows identified more than 950 unmet clinical needs. In total, over the six years, the d·HEALTH Barcelona program has identified over 5,970 needs.

d·HEALTH alumni have had a real impact on the ecosystem, at start-ups created through the program and in their positions at organizations and private companies in the sector. After the close of the sixth edition, the d·HEALTH Barcelona alumni community now includes 62 professionals: 95% currently hold positions in the healthcare sector and 30% are working on their own project. 

International exchanges

Since 2016, d·HEALTH Barcelona has been part of the Innovation Fellowships program of EIT Health, the main European consortium in health, which gives fellows opportunities for international mobility with other programs and the chance to validate their business model and needs in other European ecosystems. In 2019, the teams of fellows traveled to Paris (France) to validate their projects in the European market. Past fellows went to Oxford, Galway, Stockholm and Rotterdam, among other cities. After finishing the program, the fellows also become part of the extensive European EIT Alumni network.

d·HEALTH Barcelona fellows on Graduation Day.

Keys to Bioentrepreneurship

The introductory bioentrepreneurship course Keys to Bioentrepreneurship is geared towards students and graduates in the life sciences (biology, pharmacy, biotechnology, medicine, biochemistry, veterinary sciences, chemistry), masters students, PhD candidates and young researchers.

The 2019 edition took place on April 30 and May 7 and 14 at the Esther Koplowitz Center, with 10 speakers and 74 participants. The program featured three three-hours sessions, which explained the role entrepreneurship plays in biotechnology development; the first steps in bioentrepreneurship, from idea to the first rounds of funding; and the phases and partners that make up the life cycle of a biotechnology company.

The course was offered with collaboration from Associació de Biotecnòlegs de Catalunya and CataloniaBio & HealthTech, and support from the Dr. Antoni Esteve Foundation.

Participants in the ninth Keys to Bioentrepreneurship program in 2019.