Dutch Biotech event 2018: a perfect day for biotech

Blessed with awesome speakers, a great audience and wonderful weather, HollandBIO’s Dutch Biotech Event 2018 was a big success. Nearly 200 biotech professionals gathered to be inspired by leading biotech entrepreneurs, to meet peers and to upgrade their professional skills during hands-on workshops.

In her opening speech, HollandBIO’s Annemiek Verkamman stressed the importance of biotechnology for our society. Biotech contributes to no less than 11 of the 17 United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, for example to Good health and well-being and Climate action. Unfortunately, authorities are struggling to keep up with the innovative nature and drive of our sector. Through active and effective advocacy, HollandBIO aims to remove obstacles that prevent biotech frontrunners to thrive in a global market. And thanks to the support of our growing member base, HollandBIO’s impact is on the increase too.

Open for collaboration – David Nicolson

The first keynote speech was delivered by a true biotech veteran, David Nicolson. As the EVP and Chief R&D officer at Allergen, he gave an impressive overview of Allergan’s many and most recent research areas. Allergen has all types of partnerships with biotech companies, on a broad range of health. And the company is ever looking for more collaborations. But, for those active in immune-oncology, David’s presentation came with a warning. He urged the audience to work on different drug areas as well: “… Or we’ll be lemmings on a cliff.”

Hybridize wins the VENTURE CHALLENGE 2018

Chrétien Herben, Director at LifeSciences@Work, announced Hybridize as the winner of the Venture Challenge 2018 spring edition. In addition to flowers and a big round of applause, the prize included a cheque worth €25.000. Hybridize is a LUMC-spinoff, recently founded by Anton Jan van Zonneveld and Jurrien Prins. The company develops a RNA treatment against BK virus, which major cause for severe complications in kidney transplant patients.

VarmX completes €12.5m Series A funding

Hybridize wasn’t the only company with a reason to celebrate. During the plenary program, Colja Laane and Hans Schikan had the honor to announce the completion of a series A funding for VarmX, a company co-led by BioGeneration Ventures InnovationQuarter. VarmX aims to turn snake venom into treatment and will use the €12.5 million to bring their company to the next level.

A radically new way to treat disease – Sebastian Nijman

The keynote of Scenic Biotech’s founder Sebastian Nijman addressed the potency of evolution-inspired medicine. Scenic Biotech is applying a novel approach to target discovery by harnessing genetic suppressors. Sebastian explained his fascination: “Among us, there are people that should be sick, based on their genes, but they are not.” In these people, other genes might be turned on which suppress disease. Scenic’s genetics platform Cell-Seq allows the discovery of genetic suppressors for future target development, yielding radically new ways to treat disease.

In biotech, simple often is difficult enough – Arthur Lahr

Bringing his rich experience to one of The Netherlands most advanced biotech companies, Arthur Lahr took on the job of CEO at Kiadis Pharma. The company’s lead product, ATIR101, a patient-specific immunotherapy, is designed to reduce the risk of Graft Versus Host Disease and relapse after stem cell transplantation. If all goes according to plan, the product will be launched in the EU in the second half of 2019. Although the future of a biotech is always uncertain, Arthur felt attracted to Kiadis because of the relative simplicity and elegance of its lead product. A perfect match to one of the most important lessons he learned in his career: in biotech, simple often is difficult enough. Simple as that.

WORKSHOP – Trends in deal-making

Deal-making is a hot topic in the biotech industry. Attracting almost half of the event’s participants, the deal-making workshop confirmed this once again. The presentation of M. Ventures’ Roel Bulthuis immediately led to a passionate discussion about trends in deal-making and the role of VCs, emerging biotechs and established biopharmaceutical companies. One of the session’s hot topics: wearables. Although in most cases used for personal use, wearables can really change the way of gathering clinical data. And with more and more VCs seeking a piece of the pie, this trend will open up opportunities for biotech companies all over the world.

WORKSHOP – Frontiers in science

Guided by Genmab’s Martine van Vugt, Arie Baak (Euretos) and Peter de Keizer (UMC  Utrecht & Cleara Biotech) shared recent scientific developments with a possible profound effect on therapy development. Euretos has brought Artificial Intelligence (AI) to the level where it not only analyses data, it provides biological evidence as well. Peter the Keizer’s research identified senescent cells as a key factor in aging and cancer. Peter recently founded the company Cleara Biotech which discovered a way to eliminate senescent cells by steering them into apoptosis. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. But at HollandBIO, we can’t wait to see the full impact of these frontiers in science.

WORKSHOP – The patient’s perspective in the driver’s seat

To develop products and treatments which are truly focused on the patient, the patient must be involved from day one. But this is easier said than done. Maryze explained that people often forget to think about what it takes for a patient, for example to come over and share their experiences. That clearly needs to change, because it often takes a lot. During this interactive session everyone shared their experiences on bringing patient engagement into practice. It turned out to be a educative session where everyone could learn from each other’s best and worst practices.

WORKSHOP – How to sell your story

What it the first thing that to mind when you hear DSM? Yeast? Too bad. Biotech companies often start with what they are doing. Instead, to sell your story, you should start your story with why you are doing what you do. The “why” is the sole purpose of a company’s existence. The purpose of DSM is to create brighter lives for people today and generations to come. How? By delivering innovative business solutions for nutrition, health and sustainable living. During this workshop, Ellen Oerlemans urged the public to think about the story of their company. And, lucky for our sector, each and every biotech company has a strong story to tell, as biotech contributes to 11 of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals.

FIRESIDE CHAT – Lessons in leadership

During the last session of the day, HollandBIO chairman Markwin Velders invited seasoned biotech entrepreneur Hans Schikan to unravel the secrets of successful leadership. In a cosy and laidback setting, Hans shared the ups and downs of his impressive career. After studying pharmacy, he gained experience at Organon. At a junior position, you have to do a lot of work yourself. Moving to leadership position, you need to learn to use your team to get things done. Driven by his inborn high dose of enthusiasm, Hans eventually made it to leadership positions at Organon, Genzyme and Prosensa. His tips for the audience: lead by example, never despair, just make it work, and bring a healthy dose of humour.

BEERS & BBQ

The weather, the view, the beers and BBQ delivered a perfect ending to a perfect day, offering our guests plenty of opportunity to network. HollandBIO is already looking forward to next year’s edition!