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Ambition at the forefront at the Dutch Biotech Event 

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Last Friday, the Dutch life science sector came together to celebrate the power of biotech. From the announcement of our new branding to the inspiring stories of our keynotes and fascinating break-out sessions, this year’s program displayed the unfailing commitment of entrepreneurs and supporting organizations from academia and the government to make the best of biotech.

At the always sunny event location Innstyle in Maarssen, hollandbio’s Annemiek kicked off the Dutch Biotech Event by unveiling the new hollandbio branding. With this new look, we aim for more impact with the same vision in mind (and a bar of chocolate to celebrate): biotech makes life better. And surely it does, as shown by the line-up of fascinating keynotes that followed, starting with Joshua Cohen and Justin Klee, Co-CEOs and Co-Founders of Amylyx Pharmaceuticals. These young entrepreneurs set up their company while still in university with the goal to combat ALS. They shared with us their inspiring journey towards a publicly traded company with links to the Netherlands that will always put patients first. “Starting a company is hard, but you will find a way and the world will be a better place for it.” 

Still sitting at the start of their entrepreneurial career, were the six innovative teams that participated in the LifeSciences@Work Venture Challenge. After a set of one-minute pitches on stage, life science startup ExCulture, developing a proprietary fermentation bioprocess to produce the world’s most commonly used blood thinner heparin, was announced as the winner of the Spring 2023 edition. Congratulations! 

Next, Corjan van den Berg, Growth Officer and Co-Founder of revyve, took the stage to tell us more about the extremely bumpy road of scaling up an alternative protein startup in Europe, with turns out to be a lot more difficult than in the United States. Regardless, Corjan managed to grow revyve into a company that is ready to produce highly functional ingredients from existing microbial biomass at an industrial scale.

Top Team Topsector Life Science and Health-member Hans Schikan then gave a passionate talk on his mission of turning the Netherlands into the global number two biotech hub by 2040, right after the undisputed number one: Boston. If it were up to Hans, “Biotech NL is the new ASML”, so innovations can reach the patient faster. 

Erwin Nijsse, the brand-new Director-General Enterprise & Innovation at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy, continued on this visionary path by emphasizing the essential role of biotech in health and welfare. He highlighted therein the Dutch government’s ambition to turn the Netherlands into the ‘Boston by the North Sea – Europe’s connected life science & health metropolis. Erwin then asked Ap Reinders, the Mayor of Stichtse Vecht, on stage, surprising ‘mister biotech’ Hans Schikan by naming him Officer in the royal order of Oranje Naussau for his tremendous and continuous efforts towards the life science sector. 

After the inspiring plenary session and a short networking break, it was time to delve into topics near and dear to every entrepreneur’s heart at one of the four parallel break-out sessions: 

  • In a panel discussion featuring Oskar Slotboom (BioGeneration Ventures), Marieke van der Lans (Leyden Labs) & Pieter Wolters (dsm-firmenich Venturing), the rough biotech financing landscape was discussed. Although it currently seems more difficult to attract financing, investments are ‘back to normal’ when compared to pre-corona times. Unfortunately, this seeminly decrease does come with a situation where companies that are performing well are not making it. Therefore, finding that first investor who says yes and will also support you during the next rounds is more important than ever.
  • Sue and the Alchemists showed participants how behavioral influence can help you gain visibility and trust – an essential asset in the often-unfamiliar biotech sector. “We generally try to convince people with rational arguments or facts, even though the decision a person makes is not based on rational information. Instead, we have to work outside-in and ask ourselves what their brain’s deeper drivers, motives and primal needs are to look for the job-to-be-done.” 
  • Meneer Wateetons introduced the audience to an important culinary innovation that has been used for centuries to conserve food, enhance digestibility, and create powerful flavors. “Fermentation is like chemical warfare between microorganisms. You kill the bad guys using acid, poison, or suffocation, and end up with something pretty damn good!” With a bite to eat for every type of application, participants for excited to start fermenting food themselves. 
  • By managing to crack all the code(s), participants of the ‘Break into the Box’ game gained access to insights on the job market, NLwerktaanwerk, and the employer service point, which – apart from being a buzzword – turned out to be an interesting discovery for entrepreneurs that experience labor market challenges. 

We want to thank all speakers, participants and fellow organizers for making this event a great success by coming together and sharing passions and discussion with likeminded people with the goal of bringing society forward. We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did! 

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