The tremendous success of last year’s BIO Europe Spring in Barcelona was hard to beat. But the follow-up this year in Amsterdam organised by EBD Group together with Health Holland crystallised as a worthy successor.
The twelfth annual BIO Europe Spring international partnering conference in rainy Amsterdam was held at the RAI Convention Center. The organisers expected to draw over 2,400 attendees and more than 15,000 one-to-one meetings during the three-day conference. Given the vast dimensions of the RAI Convention Center there was plenty of space to breathe which made the Amsterdam event markedly less hectic than previous editions. Besides tulips and stroopwafels, Health Holland captured its guests with impressive venues for the evening receptions. The Welcome Reception was held at the Royal Industrieele Groote Club and the Tuesday night reception at the National Maritime Museum. Unquestionably, the highlight was the Monday networking evening where the visitors munching their truffled bites admired the the Royal Concertgebouw concert hall.
Businesswise, Health Holland was presenting Regmed XB, a new institute for regenerative medicine. As a virtual institute of Dutch and Belgian public (universities and governments) and private (health foundations and companies) partners Regmed XB will work together to develop regenerative medicine solutions to health challenges. “In the Netherlands, collaboration is in our genes,” said Annemiek Verkamman, Managing Director of HollandBIO. “In a joint effort, the Dutch are pioneering solutions that combine health, affordability and innovation: organoid and organ-on-a-chip technology to realise better disease models, FAIR data technology unleashing the power of our research infrastructure, and public-private partnerships such as Oncode Institute and RegMed XB that bundle scientific excellence and best practices in valorisation, to name a few.”
Although talks and presentations were held in a remote corner of the Convention Center far away from the exhibition and partnering halls, they were well-attended. Tuesday featured two sessions on cell and gene therapies, “New advances in cell and gene therapies: Next generation technologies” and “Commercialising cell and gene therapies". David Venables from Edinburgh-based Synpromics Ltd. promoted the company's synthetic biology approach to transcriptional regulation that could catalyse a new generation of gene therapies: “Our idea is to have promoters that can be induced by environmental, biological or chemical cues. So if gene therapies go astray you can regulate the effect. For instance in Rett syndrome, there is a narrow therapeutic window that is hard to hit.”
The plenary session “A day in the life of experienced dealmakers” featured Andre Hoekema from Belgium-based Galapagos NV. Looking back, he pondered about a not too successful IPO and a lead programme that was given back by big pharma twice (and which nevertheless is set to hit the market in less than two years). Encouraging biotech start-ups to strike also less-than-perfect deals he said: “Our very first deal was not good at all. It was clear to us: Even with all the milestones reached we would lose money. But it was a door opener for other pharma deals. After the first deal people look differently at you.”