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The sky no longer the limit at the Dutch Biotech Event 2024


Last Friday, the Dutch life science sector came together to celebrate the power of biotech. With a great line-up of inspiring keynotes and fascinating break-out sessions, this year’s program highlighted once again that people in our sector will go above and beyond to positively impact the wellbeing of people, animals and our planet with biotech.

Hollandbio’s Annemiek started the day off with a warm welcome at the beautiful lakeside venue of Innstyle, Maarssen. In the light of our ten-year anniversary, she mentioned how hollandbio’s footprint has grown over the years, allowing us to build the right connections and show more and more people that biotech makes life better, all with the aim of having ground-breaking biotech innovations reach society easier and faster.

One of these disruptive technologies forms the base of Deep Branch, a Netherlands- and UK-based biotech company that captures carbon from the air to create sustainable food ingredients. As our first keynote, the company’s co-founder and CEO Pete Rowe explained what it takes to scale a new industrial biotech process and stay successful. “Companies need different things at different times. When something throws you off balance, be honest with yourself and those around you – only then you can adapt with it.” He ended his presentation with an offer to the audience to reach out to the community if they face similar challenges, as he would gladly discuss his lessons learned over a pint of beer.

Annemiek then went on highlighting another way in which we empower biotech start-ups on their road to success. Namely, the member benefits we offer as part of the hollandbio membership, including exclusive deals on leading biotech events, lab materials and services. New to our list of partners is life science supplier Eppendorf offering our members great discounts on high quality lab equipment and future-proof workflow solutions.

Next, Chretien Herben took the stage to welcome six ambitious teams of trailblazing biotech entrepreneurs that participated in the LifeScience@Work Venture Challenge. After performing their one-minute pitches on stage, life science start-up FETCH was announced as the winner of the Spring 2024 edition. We wish the company’s CEO Michiel Stevens and his team good luck in further developing their innovative tumor cell analysis method for precision diagnostics and personalized therapy for metastatic cancer patients!

Sander van Deventer, co-founder and CEO of VectorY concluded the plenary program by showing why and how his company aims for the high hanging instead of the low hanging fruit in drug development for neurodegenerative disease. “Using a completely new strategy combining antibodies with AAV-based delivery, we are able to target the untargetable and develop an effective precision gene therapy for sporadic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) that targets the entire pathology for up to ten years. But unfortunately, in our current healthcare system it remains to be seen if therapies like this that are developed in The Netherlands will also be available in The Netherlands.” According to Sander, politics, physicians and insurers need to catch up with drug development, in order for innovative drugs to reach patients in need.

After the inspiring plenary session and a short networking break accompanied by Revyve’s deliciously innovative filet americain bites made from upcycled beer yeast, it was time to put our brains to work again at one of four parallel break-out sessions aimed at boosting entrepreneurship in biotech: 

  • What can AI do for you? Venkatesh and Dario from TU Delft and Erasmus University’s MKB Data Studio were present to share practical tips on the implementation of AI in any company. Together with Amgen’s Niels Oskam, they presented some prime examples of AI use within biotech and demonstrated and discussed a few of the gazillion available useful apps, such as Perplexity and Co-Pilot. Participants proceeded to discuss their data and AI-driven challenges and desired results, assisted by a Data Science Project Canvas. For those who still need some more support after this session, the MKB Data Studio helps SMEs tackle AI challenges, by connecting companies with students that can help solve their hurdles as an extracurricular activity. Feel free to reach out to them!
  • How to pitch a winning story? Pitch coach Giuseppe Marzio, founder and managing director of Chiaro, hosted a fun and interactive session in which he covered the four essential elements needed to deliver an irresistible story, defined more than two thousand years ago by the Greek philosopher Aristotle: logos (reason), ethos (trust), pathos (empathy), and kairos (timing). One participant took the stage to put his learning’s into immediate practice and receive feedback on his story from the audience. As a bonus, Giuseppe provided everybody with a copy of his bestselling book “Winners Have a Story”.
  • How to manage a board? In an insightful break-out session, Felice Verduyn (EQT), Mirjam Mol-Arts (Mol Arts Consultancy) and Eline van Beest (Hybridize Therapeutics) shared their view on effective board management. Drawing from their respective experience as serial board member across Europe, executive team member and CEO, the three experts delved into essential aspects of board management, addressing questions like “Where do you learn to manage a board?” and tackling common issues, such as unproductive discussions leading to rushed decisions. They further emphasized the importance of thorough preparation, maintaining dialogue with the CEO, and implementing well-structured, annual board evaluations, and discussed the pitfalls of overly large boards and how to make sure everyone has a voice.
  • Why has raising funds become more difficult? In a panel discussion, Robert-Jan van der Vorm (Van Lanschot Kempen), Lisanne Blauw (Thuja Capital), and Bas Oosterman (Sentryx) compared the current biotech financing landscape to that of 2021, when raising funds seemed much easier. The current challenges mainly come from a preference of investors to re-invest in their existing portfolio to extend their runway, they concluded. When a certain disease area is no longer a hype, biotech companies have to explore alternative financing models to fund their innovations. That being said, the experts do see an increased interest in biotech, with funds growing and ticket sizes increasing. The urge to invest in human and planetary health indicates a positive shift for biotech companies seeking funds, although that also means they are facing more competition, which urges them to move more quickly.

We want to thank all speakers, participants and fellow organizers for making this year’s edition a great success. We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did to meet other biotech professionals and exchange the struggles and passions of working in this ambitious sector!