Aiming to leverage European Union funds to reindustrialise its economy, the Spanish government has approved a public-private collaboration instrument to transform its health sector. The project looks to position Spain as a leader in precision medicine R&D and strengthen its healthcare sector with an investment of EUR 1.46 billion that will offer investment opportunities for a variety of companies and organizations.


The plan, officially called Recovery and Economic Transformation Strategic Project (PERTE) for Vanguard Health, follows the Spanish government’s “transformative eagerness” to promote strategic sectors and will rely on EUR 982 million from public funds and EUR 487 million from the private sector. It is the second PERTE project approved after an even bigger one for electric vehicles was announced earlier this year, and the first step of the upcoming Strategic Plan for the Pharmaceutical Industry that is expected to be approved in 2022.

During the announcement speech, Spanish president Pedro Sánchez stated that the plan is about “taking advantage of the historical opportunity that European funds offer to bet on science, on the national health system, and on a fair economic recovery through public-private collaboration.”

Calling it a “historic budgetary commitment,” Sanchez stressed the importance of having an entrepreneurial State that invests, collaborates and talks to the private sector in order to secure the financial sustainability of the public healthcare system and guarantee access for patients.

The new PERTE agreement is part of the Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan that the Spanish government sent to the European Commission earlier this year, which included reforms to medicine regulations, a new reference pricing system and investment in high-tech equipment for the national healthcare system.

Spain’s Minister of Science and Innovation, Diana Morant, explained that the new project will allow the country to become a leader in personalized healthcare since “the present and future of cancer treatment depends on it, but also that of most rare diseases and diseases such as diabetes or neurodegenerative diseases.

The project has four specific goals: position Spain as a leader in R&D of advanced therapies aimed at “curing” diseases such as diabetes and neurodegenerative diseases; foster personalized and precision medicine by favouring the development of “competitive companies”; develop a digitalized national health system with an integrated database; and promote primary healthcare through advanced technology for all citizen-facing activities.


Opportunities for the pharma industry

According to the approved text, both industry and scientific bodies will benefit, amongst other things, from “innovative” and pre-commercial public purchases, investment to create an R&D network for advanced therapies, co-financing for companies with production capacity in Spain, agreements with autonomous communities, and new public tenders.

The agreement could be considered a win for the pharmaceutical industry, which was heavily involved in crafting the plan that served as the main basis for the approved PERTE project.

The industry’s original proposal, called Essential Medicines and Strategic Industrial Capacities (Medes), was led by Farmaindustria, the industry association representing most of the research-based pharmaceutical companies, in collaboration with the Spanish Association of Generic Medicines (AESEG), amongst others.

“The pharmaceutical industry is eager to participate in this PERTE, both in the research opportunities and in the modernization of the productive fabric,” said Juan López Belmonte, president of Farmaindustria.

While generics companies are not involved in the development of precision medicine and advanced therapies – the central theme of the project – they do fit with the objective of securing the sustainability of the healthcare system and reindustrializing the pharma sector.

According to Ángel Luis Rodríguez de la Cuerda, president of AESEG, whose members operate at least 13 production plants in the country, companies willing to invest could receive public funding for around 10 percent of the total cost.

“AESEG and its members are in a great position to help Spain become a leader in at least two of the five European priorities, guaranteeing the sustainability of the system and increasing industrial investment,” he told PharmaBoardroom in a recent interview, revealing, at the same time, that of the 40 companies involved in the project, six are generics manufacturers.