Known for its nightlife and the beauty of its canals, Amsterdam is also the home of many innovative companies within the biotechnology sector.
In recent years, Amsterdam has established itself as a startup hub within Europe. Biotechnology is one of the city’s key innovation sectors, with a big focus on agrifood and medical applications, including gene therapy and immunotherapy. This innovation is supported by the University of Amsterdam and leading research centers such as the Academic Medical Center and the Netherlands Cancer Institute.
Since 2019, Amsterdam is home to the European Medicines Agency in charge of regulating new therapies within the European Union. In addition, biotech startups in the region can benefit from a national network of investors specialized in the life sciences industry, including venture capital firms such as LSP and Forbion.
With the help of experts, we have put together a list of the top biotech companies seeking to change the world from the bustling city of Amsterdam.
Agendia is a molecular diagnostics company that develops genomic tests for breast cancer. The company has launched two tests: one to predict the likelihood of breast cancer recurring after surgery and another to classify the type of tumor a patient has. These tests can help determine the most suitable treatment for each patient and avoid giving harsh treatments such as chemotherapy to people who are unlikely to respond to or benefit from them.
A spin-off from Shell, Avantium is developing chemicals and materials made from renewable sources of plant sugars, such as forestry and agricultural byproducts. One of the applications is the development of 100% renewable bioplastics, with ongoing projects to make bottles for Coca Cola and yogurt cups for Danone. Other projects Avantium takes part in include the production of plant-based glycols and the construction of bio-asphalt roads using plant-based lignin.
3. Caelus Health
Caelus Health develops microbiome therapies to prevent and treat cardiometabolic disorders. The company’s technology is based on research at Amsterdam’s Academic Medical Center showing that transplants of gut bacteria increases insulin sensitivity in people with metabolic syndrome. The company’s lead candidate, based on the microbe Eubacterium hallii, is being tested in phase II clinical trials as a treatment for type 2 diabetes as well as a preventive food supplement for people with prediabetes.
Corbion is a biotech company that works across a wide range of applications, including food, chemicals, materials, and medicine. The firm focuses on biotechnology production methods that offer a more sustainable alternative to fossil fuel-based processes, including using food waste as a source material. Corbion also runs a joint venture with the fuel company Total to create biodegradable plastics made of polylactic acid (PLA).
5. Lava Therapeutics
Lava Therapeutics develops cancer immunotherapies that use antibodies to recruit gamma-delta T cells — a type of immune cells that are naturally involved in identifying and killing cancer cells. The goal is to create treatments that are safer and easier to manufacture than existing cancer immunotherapies, such as CAR T cell therapy. In March 2021, Lava raised a €85M Nasdaq IPO to fund the development of its pipeline, which includes a treatment being tested in phase I/IIa trials in people with multiple myeloma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia and acute myeloid leukemia.
6. Leyden Labs
Leyden Labs develops nasal spray medicines for infectious diseases. The company targets common traits within viral families in order to offer protection against multiple strains of a virus with a single dose of a nasal spray. In March 2021, Leyden Labs raised a €40M Series A round, as the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the need for broad-spectrum treatments when preparing for future pandemics.
LUMICKS develops cell analysis instruments that are able to analyze complex data in single molecules or cells. This technology takes just several minutes to study interactions between cells or the effects of a drug candidate compared to the days it takes for current methods. The company has established collaborations with a number of cell therapy developers working in the immuno-oncology field as well as international research centers.
Meatable is developing the technology to make animal meat by growing the fat and muscle cells that comprise it from a biopsy sample. The aim is to produce meat without the need for antibiotics or animal slaughter, in a process that could significantly reduce the amount of land and water required compared to traditional farming. With €40M raised in a Series A round in March 2021, the company belongs to a group of innovative businesses developing sustainable meat alternatives.
9. NorthSea Therapeutics
NorthSea Therapeutics aims to treat metabolic, fibrotic, and inflammatory diseases with drugs known as structurally engineered fatty acids (SEFA), which are made by introducing chemical modifications to naturally occurring fatty acids. The company raised a €36M Series B round in 2020 and its lead candidate is being tested in phase IIb trials for the treatment of NASH, a liver condition for which there are currently no approved therapies.
Oncosence aims to treat cancer by leveraging senescence, a natural mechanism by which old cells are killed. The company develops combination therapies consisting of a first compound that enhances senescence in cancer cells and a second compound that kills senescent cells. Different combinations identified by the company’s screening technology are being tested in multiple clinical trials, including three ongoing phase III clinical trials in metastatic colorectal cancer and breast cancer.
11. ORCA Therapeutics
ORCA Therapeutics develops immunotherapies for prostate cancer using oncolytic virus technology. The company modifies the DNA of an adenovirus, a common cold virus, to selectively infect tumor cells and induce an immune response against the tumor. ORCA’s lead drug candidate is currently being tested in phase I/IIa clinical trials in patients with localized prostate cancer.
12. Scenic Biotech
A spinout of the Netherlands Cancer Institute and the University of Oxford, Scenic Biotech looks at the genetic code to find drug targets. In particular, the company seeks genetic modifiers that can block the effects of a genetic mutation causing disease. The company is running preclinical programs targeting cancer and two rare metabolic disorders known as Niemann Pick Type C and Barth Syndrome.
13. UbiQ Bio
A spinout of the Netherlands Cancer Institute, UbiQ Bio sells products to enable and accelerate drug discovery research targeting the ubiquitin system — a group of proteins involved in a wide range of cellular processes. The technology has applications in multiple fields, including cancer and infectious diseases such as leishmaniasis or Covid-19.
uniQure develops gene therapies for severe genetic diseases. The company is known for having developed glybera, the first gene therapy to receive approval in the EU. While the treatment’s marketing authorization was discontinued due to a lack of patients being able to receive it, uniQure has a pipeline of therapies focusing on liver, neurological, cardiovascular, and muscle diseases. Its leading program, focusing on hemophilia B, is being tested in phase III clinical trials in partnership with CSL Behring.
15. VectorY Therapeutics
VectorY develops treatments that combine gene therapy and antibody technology to treat muscle and central nervous system disorders. The technology consists of antibody drugs encoded within a gene therapy vector, which improves the drug’s ability to reach its intended target and the duration of its effects. In June 2021, the company raised €31M to fund preclinical trials testing this approach in ALS and Alzheimer’s.
These are just a few of the many biotech companies that can be found in Amsterdam. Over the years, the capital of the Netherlands has become a hotspot for innovation within Europe, and we can expect this trend to continue in the future as the biotech market keeps growing. The city is expected to expand its overall startup base, including those in the biotechnology sector, which benefit from the support of a network of research centers, biotech companies, and investors that can be found across other biotechnology hubs in the country, including the cities of Delft, Leiden, Maastricht, Naarden, Rotterdam, and Utrecht as well as internationally.
As the ecosystem evolves, we will be updating this list regularly with the most relevant companies to be found in Amsterdam. And for a look at the whole European ecosystem, check out our list of top biotech companies in Europe.