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Today, Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS) announces that it has selected Leiden Bio Science Park as European location for a new CAR-T cell therapy facility. Therefore, the biopharmaceutical company benefits from the growing life sciences region in the Netherlands.

With the construction of this production facility, BMS invests in the expansion of its global network to bring cell therapy closer to European patients. In doing so, the organization expands the capacity to treat patients while making it possible to research new treatment options.
“We are pleased that we are expanding our presence in the Netherlands in this way. The Netherlands offers an innovative hub for life sciences and has top-notch industry talent. We’re looking forward to filling hundreds of vacancies in the coming years to shape the new site,” said Véronique Walsh, M.D., General Manager BMS Benelux.

CAR-T cell therapy

CAR-T stands for ‘Chimeric Antigen Receptor T cell’ therapy. T cells are immune cells that can attack and eliminate cancer cells. Within the procedure, white blood cells are collected from cancer patients first. These will be genetically modified in the production center, after which they will be administered to the patient in specialized academic centers. This process helps to fight hematological cancers through the body’s T cells.

Life Sciences & Health ambassador Clémence Ross-van Dorp welcomes the arrival of BMS on behalf of the Netherlands: “This is not only a great step for BMS, it is also important news for the Netherlands. With this move, BMS underlines that our country is an international frontrunner in the field of CAR-T cell therapy. Our growing LSH ecosystem is thriving because of the collaboration between companies like BMS, universities, academic hospitals and the government. Through this connected approach, together we are ensuring that many more people get the care they need.”

Leiden Bio Science Park will be BMS’s fifth cell therapy facility and the first in Europe. The facility will have the latest technology and production equipment to develop cell therapy for patients.

Chris van Voorden, Director of Internationalisation at InnovationQuarter: “We are excited that BMS has selected the Leiden Bio Science Park as the location in Europe for their CART-T cell therapy facility.  This facility will not only be a valuable addition to the Netherlands and the Leiden Bio Science life science community where there is a strong focus on new stem cell and gene therapies but most important for the patients in Europe that are waiting for these life-saving therapies.”

The design and development of the location in the Leiden Bio Science Park is currently underway. Construction is scheduled to start later this year and is expected to be completed by the end of 2024. BMS expects the facility to generate at least 500 jobs in the region

Lissa Culbertson Boxy

Senior Account Manager Life Sciences & Health

 

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Millions of people worldwide rely on orthoses or prostheses in their everyday lives. However, producing a precise fit is not only expensive but time consuming. Delft-based Manometric has found a solution to these challenges by developing an innovative 3D scanner with an automated 3D printing process that creates custom braces to exact specifications. This rapid production method reduces manufacturing time from five hours to five minutes. To help strengthen its team and scale up this unique technology, Manometric has secured a capital injection from NextGen Ventures and InnovationQuarter.

The quality of life of patients suffering from conditions such as rheumatism and osteoarthritis is greatly improved by using orthoses or prostheses. A brace relieves pain, provides support and affords the wearer greater freedom. Currently, the production of orthoses is labour intensive and expensive and often results in dissatisfied patients due to the suboptimal fit and aesthetics of the end product. Manometric’s disruptive 3D technology solves these problems and is the first to offer a total solution by rapidly and precisely printing a personalised brace with a strong focus on comfort, functionality and design.

Collaboration with health insurance providers and hospitals

Due to the added value the technology has for both patients and medical specialists, most Dutch health insurance providers are currently working with Manometric to ensure its products become available nationwide. The innovative technology delivers on ease of use and time efficiency because, unlike the traditional measuring and production process, patients no longer have to return to hospital for multiple fittings. They also appreciate the design and comfort of the products: in a recent clinical trial by the Reinier de Graaf Hospital, results indicated higher patient satisfaction and therapy compliance compared with traditional braces.

Available nationwide, scanned in your region

With the investment from NextGen and InnovationQuarter, Manometric aims to develop new orthoses and bolster its sales and marketing team. But the start-up’s primary goal is the national roll-out of the scanning technology to enable patients throughout the Netherlands to be scanned locally. Although currently focusing on hand and arm conditions, the company will eventually develop innovative orthoses for the rest of the body.

Pieter Smakman, founder and CEO of Manometric:

“We are incredibly pleased with the new investors and share the same ambition. From the very first meetings we have had good conversations about strategy, products and people. We cannot wait to put this investment to use and make our revolutionary products – designed from a blank sheet with only one interest in mind: the user – accessible to everyone throughout the Netherlands.”

Manometric, established at tech incubator YES!Delft, was founded in 2017 by Pieter Smakman and Robin Jones, both industrial design engineering (MSc) graduates from TU Delft. The company has grown to a team of 14 and includes orthopaedic technologists, industrial designers and software engineers. A previous investment round secured funding from ReumaNederland, proof-of-concept fund UNIIQ and Rabobank.

Peter Haasjes, investment director at NextGen Ventures:

“NextGen Ventures invests in businesses that improve healthcare and contribute to lowering healthcare costs. Manometric is a perfect example of this. With its unique 3D scanner and printing technology, the company has shown that the production of orthoses and prostheses can be improved and made more efficient. We were quick to recognise this innovation as a decisive breakthrough in this discipline.”

Kees Recourt, senior investment manager at InnovationQuarter:

“As life-cycle financiers, we are delighted to support Manometric with the development and commercial roll-out of its innovative platform for 3D printed hand and wrist braces. Arthritis patients with a variety of conditions will soon benefit from orthoses that fit perfectly, resulting in a significant improvement in the quality of life for an enormous number of patients.”

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Fleur Rooker

Business Analist Investments
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BIOND receives UNIIQ investment

BIOND Solutions (Bi/ond), a spin-off of Delft University of Technology, has developed a microchip that can nourish, stimulate and monitor tissues and cells. The company has just secured €250,000 of growth capital from early-stage investment fund UNIIQ. Bi/ond will use part of the investment to expand its already strong team with engineers to work on scaling up the highly promising technology. It will also invest in research and development and intellectual property activities. The investment was announced digitally by Bas Vollebregt, member of Delft city council.

Going beyond

Humans are all different in unique ways, but modern medical treatments ignore genetic variations among individuals. People of different ethnicities, genders and ages have to take drugs that were developed based on genetic criteria entirely different from their own.

Moreover, current research methodologies for developing cures for diseases compel biologists to choose between two options: tests conducted on animals or in vitro studies involving cells cultivated in labware such as petri dishes. Both of these approaches do not sufficiently address human diversity. They fail to adequately predict what will happen in people because the environment created for the cells does not sufficiently resemble conditions in the human body. Bi/ond has devised a tool to overcome this problem.

BIOND microchip

The power of microelectronics

Founded in 2017, Bi/ond has developed a computer chip and platform where biologists can place an individual’s cells. The microchip nourishes, stimulates and monitors the cells as though they were in the body. Bi/ond’s patented organ-on-chip technology allows treatment to be optimised for different applications, including heart, lung, brain and cancer tissues. These dynamic functionalities allow researchers to find the right medicine for a specific individual, paving the way for personalised medicine. The product’s uniqueness derives from the power of microelectronics.

Bi/ond’s relatively cheap and highly customisable technology can be used to conduct ground-breaking research by growing 3D cell cultures in an environment that mimics the human body. Organ-on-chip is a very promising methodology that is expected to lead to improved success in drug development, lower costs and less animal testing.

Step forward

Two of Bi/ond’s co-founders, CSO William Fausto Quiros Solano and CTO Nikolas Gaio, possess in-depth knowledge of microelectronics and experience with biological solutions. Their insights led to the technological breakthrough. “With our product, we aim to bridge the gap between biology and engineering”, Nikolas Gaio explains. “To build that bridge, we currently have a diverse, interdisciplinary team of six members.” Bi/ond will use part of the €250,000 investment to expand its team with engineers who will work on scaling up the product.

The company’s third co-founder, CEO Cinzia Silvestri, is delighted with UNIIQ’s confidence in Bi/ond’s team and technology: “Thanks to the investment, we can strengthen product development, further invest in our IP portfolio and broaden our customer base. Prestigious hospitals and universities in Europe are already using our product for various purposes, including assessing chemotherapies and studying rare diseases. We want to provide a reliable tool for biologists to develop personalised, inclusive drug testing. This investment is a step towards achieving that goal.”

Hans Dreijklufft, fund manager at UNIIQ: “By developing personalised medicine and reducing animal testing, organ-on-chip technology has the potential to significantly impact human health and animal well-being. We are therefore very happy to invest in Bi/ond. The company’s strong, diverse team is active in many national and European consortia and able to connect with big players in the medical and research world. UNIIQ is pleased to finance this spin-off of Delft University of Technology to help it grow and develop its advanced chip and plate application.”

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Suzanne Kroeze

Investment Manager UNIIQ
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Developer and manufacturer of medical instruments Shenzhen Coriton Instrument Co., Ltd. has opened a branch in Zoetermeer to better serve the European market. Sales, logistics and administrative tasks will be carried out from this office. Moreover, it is Coriton’s ambition to establish this location as a central service hub to other Chinese companies, so that knowledge and costs can be shared at European market entry. This offers the prospect of Zoetermeer to become an important hub from which Chinese companies can grow, with a positive boost to local employment as a result.

Strategic asset to the life sciences cluster in greater Rotterdam – The Hague

Founded in 2011, Coriton is a major player in the Chinese market, supplying a significant portion of the ventilation equipment for the Wuhan emergency hospital in the early days of the corona pandemic. The pandemic underscored the urgency for Coriton to internationalize and be closer to European customers. That is why the Dutch entity of Coriton, Umedwings BV, was established in May.

Product quality is an important core value of Coriton’s corporate philosophy. Through collaboration with TUV, an internationally recognized German certification organization, Coriton initially created a product quality control system that meets international standards, from product design, to testing, mass production and product changes. Coriton is therefore the only Chinese supplier of medical equipment with accreditation from the German TUV, ISO9001, FDA, and Huatongwei Rohs environmental testing.

Geolocation, logistics, collaboration and talent

Mr. Guo, founder and director of Coriton: “In the early phase of the plan to expand internationally, my choice was between the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium. In doing so, I discovered that the Netherlands is at the intersection of the North Atlantic route and the European sea. Overlooking the North Sea, with the European continent on its back, it is known as the ‘gateway to Europe’. In addition, he says, the Netherlands has a well-developed logistics system, excellently connected airports, seaports and road transport routes, as well as an international and open business environment.

He also mentioned in particular the life sciences cluster in the Rotterdam-The Hague region. Medical Delta, a partnership between Erasmus University, Erasmus MC, TU Delft, Leiden University and LUMC, offers the prospect of great collaborations and ensures the growth of technically and medically trained talent. That is why the first location, Coriton’s European headquarters is located in Zoetermeer. As the company grows, its product design activities and R&D partnerships will also be located in Europe.

The Coriton location is also a nice addition to the companies that are already part of the (e-) health and care cluster within Zoetermeer. In addition, the Dutch Innovation Park in Zoetermeer offers numerous opportunities for partnerships with other innovative companies and the IT and Design Faculty of The Haagse Hogeschool (Academy for IT and Design of The Hague University of Applied Sciences)

Plans for the future

With the assistance of the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency (NFIA) and InnovationQuarter, the Dutch entity of Coriton, Umedwings BV has been successfully established in Zoetermeer. Mr. Guo states that the assistance has strengthened his confidence in investing in the Netherlands and has accelerated the localization of the Dutch BV. He hopes to continue working with NFIA and InnovationQuarter in the future, so that Coriton can continue to explore and develop the path of internationalization.

Sasja Heijman

Senior Account Manager Life Sciences & Health
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TCI Biotech is a highly reputable listed company in Asia. Now the original design manufacturer (ODM) of functional foodstuffs and skincare products also wants to conquer Europe. The first European office was opened in Rotterdam at the beginning of 2020.

Yin Liu lives in The Hague, but the managing director of TCI Biotech can be at her office in no time located in De Rotterdam. ‘I board the metro in The Hague and get out at Wilhelminaplein which is almost right outside the door. Fantastic,’ says Yin with a big smile. The good accessibility by public transport was one of the decisive points for TCI Biotech in choosing Rotterdam as its new European location. ‘Rotterdam is a great central location for us to connect with all of our European customers. We are also close to the port and the companies that are of interest to us. Schiphol Airport is not very far away either. What’s more, we were received very warmly by the people at Rotterdam Partners and InnovationQuarter. We were taken seriously and felt very welcome.’

Major player

The arrival of TCI Biotech means a major player has come to town. The Taiwanese company has been operating for 40 years and is active in 55 countries. As an original design manufacturer, it makes functional foodstuffs and skincare products for companies and brands, such as healthy drinks, food supplements, facial masks and other skincare products. TCI can take care of the entire process: from conceiving the formula to its (mass) production, marketing and after-sales. It already does this for Unilever and the French company Sephora, among others. TCI has a total of more than 1,100 customers, who are served from ten offices: eight in Asia, one in the United States and the brand new office in Rotterdam. The move to Europe was made because turnover there has grown significantly in recent years (a 30% increase in 2019 compared to 2018) and TCI sees a great deal of potential here. Because of the excellent business climate for international companies, their choice fell to the Netherlands.

Marathon

‘Our first goal is to get a better picture of the European market. What do European consumers and our customers need? What does the competition look like? That sort of thing’, says Yin, who studied at Leiden University and worked for ten years at another Taiwanese company in the Netherlands. ‘A next step could be to set up our own warehouse, logistics and possibly a research and development department here. In the phase after that, we could start manufacturing in Europe ourselves, in collaboration with others. But that’s really the long-term perspective. We want to take this step by step. For us, this is a marathon, not a sprint.’

First success

TCI Biotech Netherlands has already had its first successes. ‘We have customers in the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, France and the United Kingdom. We have been able to consolidate our collaborations with them, while also welcoming a number of new customers. We are very pleased with that, because it’s not easy to enter an existing market as a relatively unknown player. In addition, all our products have to come from Asia, which entails extra costs. The corona crisis came on top of that, but fortunately we haven’t suffered too much from it. Despite all these challenges, I look back very positively on the first few months here.’

Premium segment

Yin has, above all, great confidence in the quality of TCI. In Asia, we are positioned as a premium ODM. Our European customers are also in the higher segment. Many Europeans ask me, very directly: what makes TCI different from others? The answer is: our strong commitment to making our customers more successful than they already are. Everything we do is focused on that. We believe in our products and our technology, but above all in that vision. It’s not for nothing that 93 percent of our current customers are return customers.’

‘Roll up your sleeves!

In addition to the European market, Yin Liu would like to get to know the local, Rotterdam-based companies better. We want to operate as locally as possible, that’s crucial to our level of success. It helps enormously that Rotterdam Partners provides us with access to the right networks, companies and contacts. It’s up to us to seize the opportunities offered. Roll up your sleeves and make it happen!’

TCI Biotech’s sister company TCI Gene has developed one of the world’s most accurate automated virus scanning machines, which has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the USA. The company hopes the device can help more countries to fight with the COVID-19 effectively.

Want to know more about TCI Biotech? Take a look at the company’s website or contact the managing director, Yin Liu via Yin.Liu@tci-bio.com. During the last edition of the LSH010 breakfast on Thursday 11 June, Caroline Giezeman of LSH010 did officially welcome TCI Biotech to Rotterdam. You can read more about the Network Breakfast from Thursday 11 June 2020 here.

This article originates from Life Sciences & Health 010

Sasja Heijman

Senior Account Manager Life Sciences & Health
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Councilor Paul Dirkse of the municipality of Leiden opened the Medical Delta Fieldlab Phenomix on July 9th at the Leiden Bio Science Park. In this field lab, companies, healthcare institutions and scientists work together on applications of metabolomics. Measuring metabolic profiles provides a rich profile of a person’s current health. For example, with so-called “metabolic profiles”, doctors can make diagnoses earlier or make a personal treatment plan. The field lab is a flywheel for the change in healthcare towards personalized medicine.

In metabolomics, scientists study the unique chemical fingerprints that are left by specific metabolic processes in the body. These chemical fingerprints provide knowledge that can help to shift the focus in care toward prevention or early treatment. The new field lab offers scientists an open innovation setting to tackle projects in healthcare and business.

A flywheel for healthcare innovation

“We see a change in health care: from care, to cure, to prevention,” says Joep van den Eerenbeemt, business developer at InnovationQuarter. “We expect healthcare to transition from generic solutions for everyone, to specific interventions for one person. In order to determine which intervention will be most effective for which group of patients, proper diagnosis is necessary. This is an early step toward personalized medicine: a ‘private’ package of diagnostics, treatment and lifestyle advice for everyone. ”

“Thanks to diagnostic tools, we can apply drugs more effectively and detect diseases at an early stage,” says fellow business developer Lonneke Baas. “Good diagnosis already has a central role in healthcare; laboratory diagnostics are used in more than 70% of all medical research. It is not just about the diagnosis, but also about deciding which treatment is most likely to be successful. and to monitor the treatment over a longer period of time. We therefore see this field lab as the first step towards large-scale screening facility for metabolites. ”

What does fieldlab Phenomix offer?

“Phenomix is a screening facility for using metabolites in diagnostic processes,” says Joep van den Eerenbeemt. “InnovationQuarter is involved in assembling a consortium of pharmaceutical, food and technology companies as partners and customers. We see opportunities: The field lab can enable local (SME) companies to facilitate big pharma, both technologically and commercially, in transforming their business from ‘a few blockbusters around the world ‘to’ many personal medicines linked to relevant diagnostics’. ”

Leiden University and Erasmus MC work together on metabolomics

The scientists of Leiden University and Erasmus MC who collaborate in Medical Delta on metabolomics research, as well as the companies and life sciences & health institutions in the region have a strong reputation internationally. As a result, the field lab has the potential to become an international hotspot for the application of metabolomics. The ambition is that Phenomix attracts companies from the pharmaceutical, agri and food industry to greater Rotterdam – The Hague, thereby accelerating the realization of a metabolomics ecosystem.

More customized prevention and treatments thanks to metabolomics

By measuring metabolic products such as amino acids, glucose or adrenaline, medical professionals can create a metabolic profile for each patient. With metabolomics they can then determine the side effects that a drug will have on patients with a certain profile. In addition, individual health profiles help to take preventive measures in a timely manner, for example by adjusting the diet if a disease appears to develop.

Scientists at LUMC, Erasmus MC and UMC Utrecht are currently using metabolic profiles for investigating, for example, the different ways in which patients react to the coronavirus and to anti-inflammatory drugs. The scientists hope to be able to share their findings quickly, after which the industry and healthcare institutions can better tailor care to the profile of the patient.

“This is a good example of how scientists, doctors and industry can work together. Metabolomics can deliver important benefits not only for the individual patient, but for the healthcare sector and society as a whole, ”says Medical Delta professor Prof. Thomas Hankemeier (Leiden University, Erasmus MC), one of the initiators of the field lab. “This also applies to other sectors and companies, for example in the food industry. My ultimate goal is that every Dutch person can obtain a metabolic profile when he or she needs it. ”

Opportunities through collaboration

The scientists working together in the field lab come from different disciplines. The field lab is thus building on Medical Delta’s scientific program “METABOLDELTA”.

“The field lab provides an extra incentive to translate scientific findings to commercial applications, which means that it has a direct impact on patients and healthcare as a whole,” says Gertine van der Vliet, managing director and board member of Medical Delta.

Leiden University and Erasmus MC participate in the field lab with various companies from the biotech and pharmaceutical industry. It is located at the Leiden Bio Science Park and is being set up with an EFRO subsidy. InnovationQuarter and Medical Delta, among others, are involved in setting up and expanding the field lab.

 

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Early stage life sciences investor BioGeneration Ventures (BGV), a leading early-stage VC in European biopharma, announces the closing of its fourth fund, BGV IV, at €105 million, with an investment focus on entrepreneurial innovation in therapeutics in Europe. Strong market interest expediated the fund raise, with the commitments to date exceeding the fund’s original target.

The BGV IV fund has attracted notable institutions as investors such as, Bristol Myers Squibb, Schroder Adveq and the European Investment Fund, and 3 Dutch regional development organisations (OostNL, BOM and InnovationQuarter). New investors to BGV IV include Industriens Pension and KfW Capital.

BGV is one of the largest VC funds in Europe focused on early investments in new bio-technology companies, with over € 220 million assets under management. Its team has broad experience in investment, life sciences, business development, and commercial operations. It also draws on experienced biotech entrepreneurs as venture partners and advisors, to the benefit of its portfolio companies.

The company’s approach is to partner with scientists from major European institutions and entrepreneurs. The aim is to build new companies, around either single assets or technology platforms with the goal of creating transformational new medicines. This strategy is supported by the strong collaboration between BGV and Forbion, providing a platform across early- to late-stage companies.

The investment strategy for the BGV IV fund will follow the same successful path as BGV’s other funds, which have resulted in innovative new medicines reaching patients and yielded significant returns for investors.

Portfolio successes of earlier BGV funds include Acerta Pharma, which was acquired by AstraZeneca for up to $7bn and whose lead product Calquence® is now approved and marketed in the US, and Staten Biotechnology, which signed a €430 million exclusive option deal with Novo Nordisk. Other companies in the current BGV portfolio include NorthSea Therapeutics, Azafaros, Varmx, and Confo Therapeutics.

Edward van Wezel, BGV’s Managing Partner said:

“Over the last few years, BGV has demonstrated that investing in early-stage companies in Europe can bring innovative science to meet patients’ needs worldwide as well as financial value to investors. With this new fund, we are pleased to have the backing of some of our long-standing investors; we also welcome our new investors, Industriens Pension and KfW Capital. The early-stage science coming out of European Institutions is second to none and we are working with those at the forefront of their fields. We believe we can make a significant difference to companies in helping them translate promising science into transformational new medicines.”

Frederik Fischer Hjerl, Investment Manager at Industriens Pension, added: “As a new investor to the BGV fund, we have had a lot of focus at the BGV team’s strong track record and their approach towards early innovation. There is an urgent demand for new medicines which might accelerate the level of innovation coming out of research institutions across Europe. Having an experienced team like BGV, which in multiple occasions has proven capable of identifying and nurturing the potential future stars, is crucial to bringing new ideas forward. We look forward to working with BGV to help bring new medicines through.”

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Scottish medtech company WheelAir is opeing a subsidiary office in the Netherlands, near its European partners and customers to expand its operations and support business growth in the EU. Wheelair was assisted in its relocation by the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency, Rotterdam Partners and InnovationQuarter.

Solving a pressing health issue

The majority of wheelchair users regularly experience overheating and sweating. This not only causes great discomfort but can also result in the formation of pressure sores. More severely, overheating tends to cause muscle spasms, heat-induced seizures, nausea, fatigue and potential heatstroke. Confronted with this realization and on a mission to solve this problem, managing director Corien Staels formed WheelAir in Glasgow in 2016.

Instant relief

The WheelAir system provides cool air at the interface between body and wheelchair, instantly influencing the microclimate where it affects users. studies demonstrate that the WheelAir system can lower body temperature by 8˚C in 30 minutes and – when used preventively – can avoid any heat and moisture build-up altogether. This, in turn, has a huge influence on pressure sore management and prevention. Countries spend an average of 4% of its healthcare budget in treating this issue.

Business growth

The WheelAir temperature regulation system is the first of its kind and is designed for and to fit all wheelchairs. Since its introduction to the market in 2017, WheelAir systems have been sold internationally to not only retailers but some of the largest custom seating manufacturers in the world, such as Ottobock. There are several other large Dutch partnerships in the pipeline, although we can’t share anything on those yet. After four years based in Glasgow, WheelAir opened a new office in the Netherlands in February 2020.

“With sales increasing in Europe we decided that now is the time to branch out.” Said Staels. “The Netherlands is a very innovation-driven country with a much stronger link between universities, hospitals and entrepreneurs. With our planned clinical trials coming up, this environment will make further developments with the healthcare sector a whole lot easier.”

“It is great to see the arrival of Wheelair in Rotterdam, a new innovative, medical technology company with social impact. Wheelair brings unique expertise in the field of wheelchair temperature control which fits perfectly into our strong MedTech cluster in the region” said Chris van Voorden, director Foreign Investments at InnovationQuarter

Wilbert Lek, director at Rotterdam Partners: “Rotterdam’s healthcare technology profile, combined with our vibrant entrepreneurial community makes it an ideal place for Wheelair to successfully grow their business and connect with the European market”

Sasja Heijman

Senior Account Manager Life Sciences & Health
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Among other things, the partnership is intended to yield new discoveries and smart solutions to issues in healthcare. To this end, the three institutions’ plans include the construction of a new HealthTech Campus next to the Erasmus MC in Rotterdam.

Interim Chair of the Executive Board Hans Smits expects the partnership to yield ‘ground-breaking solutions’ and promote ‘the social embedding and acceptance of new technological and medical developments’. Among other things, the three institutions intend to set up a HealthTech Campus at a location adjacent to the Erasmus MC.

The new collaboration comprises three initiatives: Sustainable Rotterdam Delta, the HealthTech Campus and 30 laboratories in the region that will concentrate on research into artificial intelligence. The three institutions have drawn up a total budget of half a billion euros for the next ten years. They hope that the private sector and the government will be interested in investing in the partnership.

Social challenges

The two universities and the hospital want to jointly take on major social challenges in the areas of health, sustainability, urbanisation and digitalisation. Researchers working in the fields of medicine, health sciences, technical sciences and the social sciences will be collaborating in this context.

“Over the past forty years, new developments in healthcare primarily originated in biology, genetics and pharmacology,” says Ernst Kuipers, Chair of the Executive Board of the Erasmus MC, in NRC Handelsblad. “Today’s knowledge and expertise are also encountered in mathematics, artificial intelligence, robotics, optics (optical and lens technology) and domotics (home automation). We can provide the medical-substantive knowledge, Erasmus University offers economic and social-scientific insights and Delft is a premier source of technological expertise.” At the planned HealthTech Campus, researchers will be working together to make healthcare more effective and improve people’s quality of life. It will take some time before this campus opens its doors, however, since the old Dijkzigt hospital building needs to be torn down before the site can be prepared for construction.

Within the Sustainable Rotterdam Delta initiative, the partners will be studying issues in Rotterdam and the surrounding region. The various studies will centre on social problems in today’s metropolitan areas. Researchers will be focussing on matters like the energy transition, traffic and transport, equal opportunity and employment.

Artificial intelligence

The universities in Leiden, Delft and Rotterdam can already look back on seven years of collaboration. While Leiden won’t be joining the HealthTech Campus, it will contribute in the field of artificial intelligence. In the future, the three universities will all be including knowledge about data science and artificial intelligence in all their students’ curricula.

“At both our Economics faculty and RSM, you can already find a wealth of knowledge relating to data science and artificial intelligence,” notes EUR’s Rector Magnificus Rutger Engels. “But beyond these faculties, we also see a strong research focus on the real-life impact of new technologies. From interactions between humans and machines to deep fakes, and from data-driven improvements in care to the avoidance of biased appraisals in HRM and selection.”

The future

The business plans for the three initiatives will be fleshed out in the months ahead. Academic staff are already allowed to submit research and education proposals to the three institutions involved. In addition, the universities have already started to recruit 34 post-doc researchers. The partners are still working on their application to Rijksinvesteringsfonds. This national organisation awards funding to projects that are intended to strengthen the Dutch economy.

Sasja Heijman

Senior Account Manager Life Sciences & Health
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Can this young company also make a difference in the healthcare field? As inventors and manufacturers of the world’s first sleep robot, Dutch startup Somnox is riding the wave of sleep tech that’s helping everyone from Silicon Valley CEOs to your elderly aunt get better rest.

A robot to help you sleep better

What’s cuddly, shaped like a kidney bean and never snores? A sleep robot, of course. Invented by four young students at the robotics institute of the Delft University of Technology, the robot soothes people to sleep through a variety of methods, including synchronising breathing patterns and playing calming sounds. Buoyed by a successful crowdfunding campaign that concluded in November 2017, the Somnox robot hit the market in early 2019.

What happens after your product goes to market?

Jagtenberg says the team at Somnox are quickly adjusting to the change in business status: “As a startup, you always develop, you pitch, you do some initial marketing, but when you make it to launch, it’s another dynamic. The product is now there – it’s not just a story, it’s real. It’s very interesting to experience this from the first sketches on the back of a napkin to the point that we’re at now. It’s a valuable school, I’d say!”

But this new phase hasn’t overawed them. Now the sleep robot is on the market, Somnox is already looking into expanding its distribution “quite aggressively,” says Jagtenberg. “After all, our mission is to help as many people as possible to sleep better, so we should also be everywhere.”

How Somnox developed a natural way to improve sleep

While Somnox doesn’t claim to provide a medical device or a cure to insomnia, neither does the firm really target the lifestyle ‘sleep hackers’ who want to optimise every aspect of their lives. Instead, they want to help “people who feel the effects of a lack of sleep during the day and who want to improve their sleep naturally,” explains Jagtenberg.

“These are not necessarily people that already sleep well and want to ‘upgrade’ their sleep. We are especially effective for people that have stress- and anxiety-related sleep deprivation. And these people tend to take sleeping pills, so our ultimate goal is to get rid of those addictive chemicals and bring natural or technological solutions to the table.”

Why data can increase stress levels

Sleep tech is becoming more and more popular, with products and apps regularly entering the market. But while Somnox’s team plan a number of additional features for their robot, which works in conjunction with an app and which can be upgraded at any point, they are careful not to make the wrong choices. “I think the whole industry is getting rather obsessed with data and tracking the quantified self. But the thing that happens is that if you get all this data about your sleep, you actually start to become anxious and stressed because the data shows that you might not be sleeping well – whereas your sleep is actually fine.”

He adds that “everyone is tracking sleep, but no one is actually doing anything with the data. There needs to be a transition from not only showing data but actually using it.”

That is exactly what Somnox is trying to do with its adaptive breathing functionality. It is a feature where “the robot senses the breathing of the user and automatically synchronises to it,” explains Jagtenberg, “guiding them subconsciously to lower and deeper breathing rhythms.” But sleep support is not limited to the night-time. “The goal is to offer a solution that works not only during the night but also during the day because your lifestyle habits greatly influence the way that you sleep.”

Further features are also being developed. “We have so many ideas. Over the course of this year, we will be launching a smart alarm and integration with the smart home, meaning that for example Google Home or Alexa can set the lights, the temperature and all other parameters that influence your deep sleep.”

Somnox’s ambitious plans for its future

But the most important plan involves a bigger shift. “We really want to create new product lines that are targeted towards children, for example, but also to set up a new business unit, Somnox Healthcare, that focuses on care institutions that care for elderly people with dementia, and for people with post-traumatic stress disorder in hospitals. We want to explore what we can do and if we can actually help elderly people sleep more and better. That has huge potential because it would mean you could reduce the intake of medication, for example.”

Similar products already exist, but, according to Jagtenberg, there is room for improvement.

“There is already a very interesting development that has been out there for a couple of years: the PARO seal, which is a therapeutic robot for people with dementia and other cognitive disorders. The seal is being used very actively. There have been a lot of studies about its positive effects in soothing people with dementia because they felt like they can take care of something again. There are so many interesting things about it. But it’s really expensive. And you need to send it to the company for cleaning every two months, which is also very expensive.”

Somnox is already running trials to explore the field further. “About 35 care institutions are currently conducting trials with our current product to see what the effects are,” he says.

“And some really touching stories have started coming out of that. We had an elderly lady whose partner passed away a few years ago. She was still stressed out every night, wondering where he was, and she would wander about, looking for him. Providing her with the robot, which was breathing and could also play sound, such as someone telling a bedtime story, really helped to soothe her and make her feel less lonely.”

How the Netherlands helps tech firms to thrive

Jagtenberg says that the Netherlands is the ideal base for developing new ideas and exploring new fields. “We are all graduates from the University of Technology in Delft, and that is a great location to be in, especially for robotics. The University of Technology is known for a lot of inventions and high-quality engineers. It’s home to RoboValley (a research centre for robotics), so from a technology-driven perspective, it’s a really great spot to be in. But in addition, Delft is located right between Rotterdam, Leiden and The Hague.”

Especially the proximity to university city Leiden is helpful, he says. “You have the medical studies and science departments, and we can get there in just 20 minutes by train and have studies set up.”

Working together is key. “There is a lot of collaboration between academia and industry, and even hospitals, which are very open to innovation. For us, the fact that everything is so close by is very valuable. I don’t have a car, I just go by public transport or by bike to the engineering facilities, to the clinical study facilities and so on.”

These advantages have become even clearer recently. “Now that I have been travelling around the world a lot, I’ve realised that I haven’t seen this density of so many stakeholders within one area anywhere else. And there are also so many programmes and meet-ups, which you can just participate in for free. I think it’s a really good place to be.”

This combination of world-renowned universities, a supportive tech community and a collaborative spirit is also the basis of the Netherlands’ life sciences and health ecosystem as a whole. Public and private organisations across the country (such as the Amsterdam-based Netherlands Cancer Institute [NKI] and tech company Stryker) regularly work together on ground-breaking developments to improve medicine and healthcare. Thanks to the modest size of the country, you’re never far from other Life Sciences and Health hubs such as Leiden (40 minutes from Amsterdam) and Delft (1 hour from Amsterdam).

What’s in store for the future of sleep

Back to sleep – where does he think the sleep tech craze is going? “From a society perspective, sleep is becoming more and more important. You can see that the media is absolutely obsessed with it. And this is a great trend. It used to be cool to only sleep two hours a night, and now you see Silicon Valley CEOs ‘hacking their sleep’ to be the best version of themselves. We had nutrition before, right? Avoid McDonald’s, eat healthily. Then we had exercise – sitting is the new smoking. And now sleep is the new health hype. And that’s amazing, and I think it’s also necessary.”

If Somnox gets its way, it will play a big part in the new sleep revolution. “We will create a whole portfolio of products for the day and night to help people sleep in a natural way. We really want to become the leading sleep company that changes the way you live by changing the way you sleep.”

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During an official economic mission from the Netherlands to Boston led by Prime Minister Rutte, representatives from public investment agencies, the biotech industry and other organizations convened to discuss a broad-based partnership to advance ongoing collaboration in life sciences between the Netherlands and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Office of International Trade and Investment and the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy signed a Memorandum of Understanding laying the basis for a Massachusetts – the Netherlands Transatlantic Life Sciences Partnership.

Massachusetts and the Netherlands kickoff international partnership in life sciences

The signature of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is a testimony to the strategic importance of life sciences as well as a mutual recognition of Massachusetts and the Netherlands as two international biotech hubs. Indeed, Massachusetts counts nearly 70,000 people working in life sciences, with Boston-Cambridge alone boasting more than 500 biotech companies, 5 of the top 6 hospitals in the U.S., and 48 colleges. The Netherlands is a younger yet rapidly growing biotechnology hub at the heart of the EU, with more than 420 biopharmaceutical companies, 12 research universities, 85 hospitals, around 200 publicprivate partnerships and is the home to the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

The Netherlands is also one of the most concentrated life sciences and health clusters worldwide, featuring 2,900 companies within a 200km radius. In addition to the signatories, Health-Holland, MassBio, HollandBIO and the Henri A. Termeer Tribute Committee will provide support for accelerating the growth of their life sciences hubs and the global opportunities for their respective domestic research organizations and companies. The partnership entails regular dialogues to promote a mutual understanding of the environment for life sciences in Europe, in the U.S. and worldwide, and facilitate global expansion. Collectively, these organizations will set-up various activities to foster collaboration and partnership across the Atlantic such as exchange of scientific results, pitches of research projects and generally fostering the flow of talent, ideas and people between the two ecosystems.

Focco Vijselaar, Director-General Enterprise and Innovation at Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy: “The Netherlands and Massachusetts have successful life sciences communities. By joining forces in this partnership they can both be strengthened.” Mark Sullivan, Executive Director of Massachusetts Office of International Trade and Investment: “By signing this MoU we underline the great opportunities that lie ahead of two formidable life sciences ecosystems, here in Massachusetts as well as in the Netherlands. This international partnership will help create economic development and investment in the sector.”

John Maraganore, co-chair of The Henri A. Termeer Tribute Committee, Board Member of BIO and CEO of Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Inc.: “This MOU is a great demonstration of the international leadership of Massachusetts in life sciences, as well as the fast-growing development of the Netherlands as an environment that champions a vibrant ecosystem for life sciences and healthcare innovation. As a company headquartered in Cambridge, MA and with strategic and growing European operations in the Netherlands, we are strongly convinced that the collaboration potential between innovators in these two leading life sciences hubs is immense, and patients are waiting for the fruits of our work.”

Hans Schikan, Top Team member of Health-Holland: “Working together is part of the Dutch DNA. By collaborating with the best we can identify innovative solutions that matter.” Robert K. Coughlin, President and CEO, MassBio: “Disease has no borders, and neither should the research and development necessary to create new therapies and cures. We’re looking forward to embarking on this international partnership with the Netherlands and sharing the talent, resources, and capabilities of Massachusetts’ innovation ecosystem so we can all more efficiently bring new tomorrows to patients around the globe.”

Annemiek Verkamman, Managing Director at HollandBIO, the Dutch biotech industry association: “This transatlantic partnership provides a solid basis for increased collaboration between both our vibrant life sciences communities. We are looking forward to helping create opportunities for innovation and investments and fostering mutual understanding of our life sciences ecosystems.”

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From Shanghai to Rotterdam and back again to deliver the best healthcare to patients! Last week a large delegation led by Ahmed Aboutaleb, Mayor of Rotterdam, visited Harbour Biomed at Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park in Shanghai. Harbour Biomed is a global biotech company developing innovative therapies for cancer and immune-driven diseases. During the visit Harbour BioMed and Erasmus MC signed an MoU to advance next-gen immuno-oncology and immunology drug discovery, and clinical development.

The delegation included representatives from the Consulate General of the Netherlands in Shanghai, Erasmus University Medical Center, the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency, Rotterdam Partners, InnovationQuarter and several Rotterdam based companies and educational institutions.

Ahmed Aboutaleb, Mayor of Rotterdam:

“During our week in Shanghai I have witnessed great collaborations between scientists from Rotterdam working together with scientists in Shanghai to develop new methods of testing in the development of cancer treatments. Scientific cooperation goes beyond borders and as the city of Rotterdam we are happy that our Life Sciences & Health ecosystem contributes in this joint mission to provide better healthcare for people around the globe.”

Harbour BioMed and Erasmus MC sign MoU

During the celebration of the 40 years sister city relationship, Harbour BioMed and Erasmus MC signed an MoU to advance next-gen immuno-oncology and immunology drug discovery, and clinical development. Harbour Biomed expects to establish laboratory space in Rotterdam to facilitate scientific collaboration with Erasmus MC investigators across multiple departments.

Harbour BioMed has operations and R&D site in Shanghai and Suzhou, China, business operations and an innovation center including research laboratory in Boston, USA, and an antibody platform innovation center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Apart from their location in Cambridge Innovation Center in Boston, Harbour Antibodies recently opened their office in Cambridge Innovation Center in Rotterdam.

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Sasja Heijman

Senior Account Manager Life Sciences & Health
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By specializing in mathematical optimization solutions and advanced data analytics, ORTEC aims to make the world a better place. The company leverages mathematics and econometrics to improve efficiency and productivity in healthcare. InnovationQuarter is investing €5 million in ORTEC to enable the firm to accelerate its existing healthcare activities. Jeannette Baljeu, member of the Executive Council of the Province of Zuid-Holland, and Charlie Aptroot, mayor of Zoetermeer, announced the investment at the InnovationQuarter Annual Event in the Van Nelle Factory in Rotterdam.

How mathematics can contribute to solutions in healthcare

Healthcare in the Netherlands is facing major challenges. Costs are rising every year due to increasing demand, many healthcare providers face staff shortages and patients expect quicker treatment. Data-driven healthcare solutions are required to tackle these issues in an integrated manner. Such solutions can improve performance by ensuring a more even patient flow through healthcare institutions and a better workload distribution among health professionals.

ORTEC has developed innovative mathematical optimization and data analytics solutions that go far beyond simple statistical analysis. Menno Brandjes, director of ORTEC Healthcare, says,

“We have been able to make hospitals 15% more productive in the areas where our solutions are applied. This means that 15% more patients are being treated using the same amount of resources. At the same time, employee satisfaction has also increased.”

Intelligent healthcare support using artificial intelligence

Value-based care, personalized care, digitization and prevention through healthy lifestyles have emerged in response to the need to reduce costs and improve quality of care. These trends within healthcare are underpinned by simplifying administrative processes, improving patient interaction with e health (blended care) and determining diagnostics based on access to an ever-growing amount of data. Artificial intelligence (AI) is vital to all of this and is playing an increasingly important role in the healthcare sector.

AI provides valuable support to healthcare professionals in their decision making by allowing them to make more insightful predictions and recommendations. ORTEC’s new healthcare initiatives are fully equipped for this and, for instance, make it possible for organizations to better focus on individual patients and subsequently analyze all relevant data. As a result, patients, healthcare practitioners and everyone involved across the entire healthcare chain receive the best possible advice and treatment.

Accelerated growth of healthcare initiatives

InnovationQuarter’s investment will help accelerate the growth of ORTEC’s new initiatives in the healthcare sector. Brandjes says ORTEC is very happy with the extra capital: “InnovationQuarter’s contribution to ORTEC’s healthcare initiatives is helping us scale up our activities more quickly. We are starting in the Netherlands and will eventually expand worldwide. ORTEC has been the market leader in the field of advanced planning software in the Dutch healthcare sector for many years. This investment will allow us to expand our offering in several areas, including integrated capacity management, support in clinical decision making, advanced data solutions for research and the integration of our communications platform for patients and staff”.

Stimulating innovation in healthcare

“Founded in West Holland and now operating across the globe, ORTEC is an outstanding, innovative company that has successfully grown to over 1,000 employees,” says Francis Quint, head of Capital at InnovationQuarter.

“With this investment, we can contribute to ORTEC’s growth ambitions in healthcare, which is an important theme in society. InnovationQuarter will utilize its network and organization to accelerate ORTEC’s expansion in this area, not only by linking with our shareholders, such as regional academic hospitals, but also by drawing on the commitment of the healthcare experts in our business development team. The investment also allows us to expand our SME portfolio and our role as a lifecycle investor in the region.”

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Investering voor LeQuest

Supplier of medical technology education LeQuest has received a € 7 mln. injection from new investors MedFinance and InnovationQuarter and the company’s existing financiers NextGen Ventures, Noaber Ventures and Philips Health Technology Ventures. Hermineke van Bockxmeer, director of Urban Development of Rotterdam congratulates CEO Hicham Shatou with the investment in LeQuest.

Reinventing medical personnel training

LeQuest was founded in 2011 with the mission to reinvent how medical personnel is trained on medical technology. Goal of LeQuest is to improve the quality in healthcare, increase medical technology efficiency and reduce adverse events. LeQuest focuses its simulation-based educational solutions on high risk medical technology in hospitals and more specifically in OR’s, ICU’s and Radiology departments.

Over the last few years LeQuest experienced a strong demand for its services from hospitals as well as manufacturers in order to effectively train and certify healthcare professionals in the use of medical technology. LeQuest is working with Philips, Siemens, Medtronic, GE, and other large medical device manufacturers, and has active users in more than 15 countries in Europe, North- and South-America.

Increasing the quality of care

With this investment round LeQuest will accelerate its growth by intensifying its collaboration with the device manufacturers and expanding its services to hospitals geographically.

“We are proud of the strong network of partners and customers we have attracted and together we look forward to increase our impact globally and serve our customers even better in the coming years. This could not have been possible without the strong will of our dedicated and talented team that want to improve the use of medical technology and increase the quality of care.” says Hicham Shatou, founder and CEO of LeQuest.

Francis Quint, head of InnovationQuarter Capital, is pleased with the opportunity to invest in LeQuest alongside strong consortium partners Noaber/NextGen, Philips Health Technology Ventures and MedFinance: “LeQuest is a good example of how a young, dynamic company can grow from startup to scale-up. The ability to constantly adapt its business model to developments in the market while remaining flexible has brought LeQuest to where it is today. This investment round will enable LeQuest to accelerate its growth together with its strategic partners.”

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Idris Oncology one of first companies to receive free human tissue through Codex4SME’s

The Leiden based biotechnology firm Idris Oncology is one of the three SME’s in Europe to receive human tissue through the Codex4SME’s consortium, in order to help them progress their diagnostic product towards clinical application.

Read our story on the transition to personalized medicine here! (in Dutch)

“It is always hard for SME’s to obtain human samples of any kind,” says Idris CEO and founder Hans Peter Mulder. “That’s why we are so happy with the support from Codex4SME’s and its regional partner InnovationQuarter. What has really speeded Idris’ product development is the fact that Codex4SME’s also covers the costs and assists with the supply form BioBank Graz. This way we can treat cancer better.”

“I’m very happy that Idris was one of the first to obtain these free samples* as it will help making cancer treatment to become more personalized,” says Stéfan Ellenbroek, senior business developer Life Sciences and Health at InnovationQuarter. “There are currently a couple of other Zuid-Holland companies in discussion with the BioBank Graz for prospective tissue collection, but I also urge the rest of the ecosystem to check out this nice chance as the vouchers for free samples are limited in amount. Any companies with questions can contact me!”

Idris Oncology one of first companies to receive free human tissue through Codex4SME’s

*Costs covered through the Codex4SME’s Inttereg NWE grant. All tissues are obtained with informed consent.