Under the Microscope: the Evolution of the Netherlands’ Biotech Ecosystem

With a stable regulatory environment and abundant opportunities for collaboration, the Netherlands developed the formula for biotech success.

1 March 2021

The Netherlands has long been a leading location for Life Sciences & Health operations, yet the COVID-19 pandemic has propelled the biopharmaceutical sector into the global spotlight. Our world is continually striving to find the next greatest health advancement, expediting vaccine trials and searching for a cure for cancer. We know that health and safety are essential for securing our future, but how do we get there? The answer is biotech.

A connected biotech ecosystem

Innovation in biotech is stimulated in the Netherlands as companies are working around the clock, generating novel solutions that contribute to a healthier world – and it shows. In fact, the Netherlands ranks No. 6 worldwide for biotech patents. The Netherlands is home to one of the world’s most concentrated Life Sciences & Health communities, featuring more than 3,100 innovative R&D life sciences companies and 420 biopharmaceutical companies. There are also 26 campuses, 8 University Medical Centers, and 12 universities engaged in life sciences research. This high density of networked research centers in a relatively small geographical area makes the Netherlands a veritable hotbed of innovation.

Biotech leaders cite many reasons for choosing the Netherlands as their preferred location in Europe. Not only is Holland home to the European Medicines Agency (EMA), but it is centrally located in Europe, with great access to partners and customers. The Dutch approach to research and innovation, combined with excellent business infrastructure and a highly educated, dynamic workforce, makes the Netherlands an ideal location for biotech business expansion and acceleration.

A healthy dose of collaboration in biotech and biopharma

If the COVID-19 pandemic taught us anything, it is that breakthroughs seldom emerge when people work in silos. The inherent collaborative nature of the Dutch helps nurture public-private partnerships and an innovative life sciences ecosystem. An innate willingness to cooperate and share knowledge for the greater good will get us through this crisis, as the example of Oss located BioConnection illustrates. The contract services and manufacturing organization announced in December last year that it is collaborating with AdaptVac for the Drug Product manufacture of their COVID-19 vaccine in its state-of-the-art-GMP manufacturing facility in the Netherlands.

When questioned about the Dutch Life Sciences & Health ecosystem, Joep Rijnierse, Medical Director at Amgen the Netherlands, asserts that aspects such as close collaboration and the ability to have good discussions with the regulatory authorities in a very open manner are unique to the Netherlands. ‘We are open to innovation and to trying new things,’ states Rijnierse. The collaborative Life Sciences & Health ecosystem in the Netherlands provides a fertile environment for biotech companies in which to flourish. Not only that, it distinguishes itself from competitors by providing the tools to help them grow.

Where biopharmaceutical businesses blossom

Pharmaceutical companies are currently investing billions of euros in the production of medicines in the Netherlands, and this number only continues to grow. The country has welcomed a wave of investments from big pharma companies in recent years. Merck & Co, the largest pharmaceutical company in the Netherlands and parent company of MSD, is bolstering its Dutch presence by expanding its MSD Netherlands facilities in Oss, Haarlem, Boxmeer, and De Bilt. The Oss facility will help meet the growing demand for cancer treatments worldwide.

And that’s not all that’s happening in this Brabant city. With its innovative power and rapidly developing scientific insights, Organon & Co, an MSD spinoff, is poised to become a global leader in women’s health. Organon’s additional focus areas include oncology, inflammatory diseases, and the development of new medicines.

Pioneering solutions

Global biotech company Abbott has been innovating in the Netherlands for 60 years and continues to grow. It has nine state-of-the-art locations across the country where it produces medical nutrition products and related packaging for its European customer base. In 2020, Abbott opened a dedicated distribution center in Breda and invests in expanding its production site in Zwolle to support the high demand for its products.

Of course, home-grown companies are also pivotal in biotech innovation in the Netherlands. An example is Pharming, a pioneer in developing protein replacement therapies and precision medicines for the treatment of rare diseases.

Source: Invest in Holland