With a potential additional annual GDP impact of €7bn by 2030, the Benelux region’s biotech outlook has never been better.
With ambitious incubators fuelling start-up growth, and consistently high rankings in the biotech space, Benelux is undoubtedly leading in biotech.
But what makes Benelux such a thriving region for biotech, and how are these factors contributing towards future growth?
The global biotechnology market size is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13.9% from 2022 to 2030.
With so many new avenues for the biotechnology industry to pursue, from personalised medicine to cell and gene therapy, the industry is continuing to excel and expand.
In the Benelux region – Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg – there is a high density of life science activity, with the region already considered to be an established leading biotech hub.
What are the strengths of Benelux’s biotech industry, and why is the Benelux region leading in biotech?
Part of being a leading hub for biotech is having biotech companies in the region to bolster growth and interest.
Benelux is hardly short of biotech companies that are at the forefront of innovation.
Argenx, with headquarters in the Netherlands, has a lead drug that is an antibody fragment branded as Vyvgart, which was approved (by the U.S. FDA in 2021 and the EU in 2022) for the treatment of the autoimmune condition generalised myasthenia gravis.
With hopes to expand with further approval decisions in 2023, Argenx is just one example of a biotech company leading innovation in the Benelux region, with further plans to publish results from a phase 2a trial of efgartigimod (Vyvgart) for the treatment of inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy.
Galapagos NV, with headquarters in Belgium, is another strong performer in biotech, particularly over the last decade.
Having secured a drug development deal with Gilead worth billions in 2019, the Belgian biotech has since pivoted into cell therapy, acquiring CellPoint and AboundBio, whilst refocusing its drug development efforts to oncology.
In short, exciting developments are abundant for biotechs in Benelux!
The governments in Benelux have approached biotech activity in the area in a way that stimulates growth, including the promotion of public-private partnerships and offering tax benefits for R&D work.
Partnerships with other biotech hubs and global connectivity and presence are part of Benelux’s biotech appeal.
Every top ten global biopharmaceutical company undertakes activities in Benelux, such as Janssen Pharmaceuticals and GSK, with major production and R&D facilities in the region.
International investors also show interest in the region, as evidenced in Gilead’s €4.5bn investment in Galapagos, to enable growth or investment of €116mn from a European investment syndicate for a large phase III study for AM-Pharma.
Benelux has also been known to focus on global partnerships with hubs such as Boston, MA, which contributes to increased international career options and a more supported local talent pool.
It would be difficult to stay at the forefront of innovation in biotech without ambitious plans.
The Luxembourg government, for example, has announced plans to increase the pace of innovation based on research in the areas of molecular biology, systems biology and personalised medicine.
This initiative includes major projects to further research in the field of molecular biology and even the formation of a centralised biobank/tissue repository.
Incubators and open innovation or ecosystem approaches to supporting enterprises are also increasingly commonplace in Belgium, such as ‘JLABS’, created by J&J (parent of Janssen Pharmaceutica), which is an innovation incubator.
This incubator helps young companies to turn their scientific findings into breakthrough therapies by giving them access to expertise, funding, educational programs, and facilities they need.
As incubators like the above continue to appear in Belgium’s biotech scene, they will continue to boost growth for the industry on a wider, global scale.
Benelux consistently ranks highly for patents, concentration of R&D companies and academic centres, and other resources that contribute to it being a leading hub.
For example, the Netherlands ranks no. 6 worldwide for biotech patents and is home to more than 3,100 R&D life sciences companies, and 420 biopharmaceutical companies.
The Benelux region itself is home to 5% of the top 100 life sciences universities in the world, with €115m venture funding raised per year, and a €19bn collective market cap of top three life science players.
Despite a relatively turbulent year for biotech, Belgium remains a frontrunner in the European biotech landscape behind Germany and Denmark.
Maintaining the third position in Europe, Belgium has a total market value of €41bn and excellent stock market performances.
Though Luxembourg’s biotech industry is considerably less mature than that of Belgium or the Netherlands, it still ranks 21st out of 54 countries, in part due to its high ranking for education and workforce.
If Benelux’s biotech industry continues to expand and grow, McKinsey estimates that the result could include approximately 100,000 additional jobs, and a potential additional annual GDP impact of €7bn by 2030.
As a region, Benelux has continued to evolve and adapt even after the ripples resulting from the pandemic, and has created volatility and downturns for many other locations.
We also can’t forget the key role that biotech talent plays in the growth of biotech in Benelux, as the attractive nature of working in the region has only contributed to its success.
The future for Benelux is undoubtedly bright, and with so many innovative projects and collaborations in the pipeline in 2023, we can’t wait to see where Benelux’s biotech industry goes, particularly since this growth will require the very best life sciences talent to take it even further.
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