In recent years, Europe has seen a boom in biotech startups. These startups are helping to drive innovation in the healthcare sector and are providing new solutions to some of the continent’s most pressing medical challenges.
Rare diseases is one area where biotech startups have had a major impact.. An estimated 36M people live with a rare disease in Europe, many of whom do not have access to treatment. However, startups are working on developing new therapies for these conditions and are helping to improve patient care.
Another area where biotech startups are making a difference is in developing personalised medicines. This is a rapidly growing field in which treatments are tailored to the individual patient’s genetic makeup.
This approach is already starting to transform how diseases are treated and could potentially lead to more effective treatments for conditions such as cancer.
Biotech startups are also playing a vital role in the fight against antibiotic resistance and other solutions, which could save millions of lives.
Biotech startups in the Netherlands
The Netherlands is quickly becoming a leading destination for life sciences and healthcare innovation. Dutch startups are working on various innovative projects, including developing new treatments for diseases, creating digital health tools, and improving patient care.
Talking about the evolution of the biotech startup ecosystem in Amsterdam, Luc Sterkman, CEO of Caelus Health, tells Silicon Canals, “From my perspective, the startup ecosystem has evolved in a very positive way. It is hard to indicate one specific element as the key driver. However, the basis is a healthy and dynamic academic environment based on two universities and two academic medical centres with increasing efforts to initiate technology transfer. The City of Amsterdam has strongly supported these initiatives in various ways by investing in the universities, supporting grants, having an economic board, and hosting numerous events. In addition, the universities contributed in various ways by supporting initiatives like Rockstart, setting up ACE Ventures, setting up the startup community at the campus, and much more.”
However, biotech startups in Amsterdam face various challenges, including funding, people, and facilities, according to Sterkman.
The general funding climate in Europe is much worse than the US, and Holland is probably worse compared to Germany, France, and the UK, says Sterkman.
“In general, there is an increasing lack of well-educated and motivated staff; in a competitive environment, this is even worse. In addition, tech talents are more based in Eindhoven, Twente, and Delft and may not come to Amsterdam easily. Housing and lab facilities are scarce and come at a high price in Amsterdam,” he adds.
Another major challenge biotech startups face is the high research and development cost. Biotech startups typically have to spend large sums of money on laboratory equipment, personnel, and facilities.
Stekman says, “Amsterdam (city and universities) should put in more efforts to establish new facilities which provide access to entrepreneurs at reasonable rates; Leiden may be an interesting example to study.”
Sterkman also reveals that commercialising research can be another big challenge due to access to capital, limits in access to IP (for academics), lack of entrepreneurial support (by experienced entrepreneurs), and poor biotech climate (in Europe).
Will the funding scenario change in Amsterdam?
“This is very hard to predict and highly depends on other developments (like wars, viruses, energy costs, etc.). However, suppose a structured approach is applied in Amsterdam to enhance entrepreneurial efforts, stimulate university spin-outs, and address the aforementioned challenges. In that case, it will be sure that Amsterdam has a chance to stand out versus other cities that operate in the same (healthy or unhealthy) environment,” says Sterkman.
We have listed five Amsterdam-based biotech startups changing the healthcare landscape. We have sourced this list from Amsterdam StartupMap created in association with Dealroom. Check it out.
Founder/s: Willem de Vos and Max Nieuwdorp
Caelus Health is an Amsterdam-based biotech company dedicated to developing and commercialising microbiota-based products to prevent and treat cardiometabolic disorders, including Diabetes and other unmet medical needs.
Founder/s: Dr. Klaus Linkenkaer-Hansen and Dr. Simon-Shlomo Poil
NBT Analytics is a spin-off company from VU Amsterdam. The Amsterdam company provides extensive insights on how drugs influence the brain through a comprehensive selection of EEG biomarkers and the identification of drug-specific indices.
Founder/s: Roel Lakmaker and Jochem de Boer
CTcue makes Electronic Health Records (EHR) data accessible and useful. The company says that searching in electronic health records remains a major hurdle.
Since most valuable patient information is archived as text (clinical notes, transfer notes, multidisciplinary meeting notes, discharge letters, etc.) in the Electronic Health Records (EHR), it is not possible to automatically search these criteria.
Powered by natural language processing and machine learning, CTcue enables clinicians to use valuable data from their EHR with user-friendly interfaces.
Founder/s: Dr Arjan Griffioen and Diederik Engbersen
CimCure is an Amsterdam-based biotech company founded as a spin-off of Amsterdam UMC’s TTO Innovation Exchange Amsterdam. The company focuses on designing and developing a novel class of active cancer immunotherapies.
The Dutch company develops cancer vaccines through its proprietary Immune-Boost (iBoost) technology of targeted conjugate vaccines. It targets the tumour blood vessels, which efficiently attenuates tumour growth and does not induce resistance.
Founder/s: David A. Fraser, Hilde H. Steineger, Patrick Round, Rob de Ree, and Tore Skjæret
NorthSea Therapeutics (NST) is an Amsterdam-based clinical-stage biotech company developing first-in-class, oral, structurally-engineered lipid therapeutics.
The company is focused on developing structurally engineered fatty acids (‘SEFAs’) for treating NASH and other metabolic disorders. The startup has licensed the rights to its lead compound icosabutate and a library of SEFAs from Pronova BioPharma Norge AS.
NST says Icosabutate has been found safe and effective in two prior phases 2 clinical studies for the treatment of hypertriglyceridemia and mixed dyslipidemia. It is currently in clinical development for NASH.
The icosabutate phase 2b ICONA NASH trial is scheduled to read out in the first quarter of 2023.