This article was originally published in September 2021, and has since been updated by Willow Shah-Neville on April 27, 2023.
The Netherlands has established itself as a biotech and life sciences hub, possessing leading academic and research institutions and an excellent business infrastructure that makes it an attractive place for biotech companies to grow and thrive. In this article, we take a look at some of the top biotechs in the country.
The Netherlands is home to more than 3,000 life sciences and biotech companies, and ranks within the top 10 in the world for the number of patent applications in biotechnology, with several universities and medical centers encouraging opportunities for collaboration.
The country’s business initiatives, such as tax relief for R&D efforts and government support in research initiatives, as well as a highly skilled workforce, really widens the appeal for both established biotech companies and startups alike.
Moreover, since 2019, its capital, Amsterdam, has been home to the European Medicines Agency in charge of regulating new therapies within the European Union, and 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 15 biotech companies in the Netherlands seeking to change the world.
Table of contents
Agendia is a molecular diagnostics company that develops genomic tests for breast cancer. The Netherlands headquartered biotech 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 sustainable 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.
This biotech company, based in Amsterdam in the Netherlands, is focused on the design and development of a novel class of active cancer vaccines. Through its proprietary Immune-Boost (iBoost) technology of conjugate vaccines, it can directly target and destroy endothelial cells in the tumor blood vessels, thereby preventing tumor growth. iBoost has shown proof-of-concept in preclinical studies in colon cancer, melanoma, and glioblastoma, as well as in an efficacy study in client-owning dogs with spontaneous bladder cancer.
Corbion is a Netherlands based 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 formed a joint venture with the fuel company Total to create biodegradable plastics made of polylactic acid (PLA).
ISA Pharmaceuticals is a clinical-stage immunotherapy company developing rationally designed, fully synthetic immunotherapies against cancer and persistent virus infections. These immunotherapies fully harness and direct the body’s own defense mechanisms toward fighting the disease, and are designed to work either alone or in combination with existing therapies. The company’s lead clinical candidate is for advanced stages of head-and-neck cancer and cervical cancer to be used on top of chemotherapy.
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 an €85 million ($100.5 million) Nasdaq IPO to fund the development of its pipeline, which includes a treatment being tested in phase 1/2a trials in people with multiple myeloma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia and acute myeloid leukemia.
Leyden Labs develops nasal spray medicines for infectious diseases. The biotech company based in Leiden (Netherlands) 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 €40 million ($47.2 million) series A round, just 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 cell therapy developers working in the immuno-oncology field as well as international research centers.
Based in Maastricht in the Nertherlands, Mosa Meat is a biotech company producing cultured meat by collecting myosatellite cells from cows and growing them in a lab. Mark Post, the company co-founder, is known for having developed the world’s first hamburger made from cultured meat in 2013, made from 20,000 muscle fibers grown from cow stem cells. One of the company’s main focuses is bringing down the production costs of cultured meat so that it can be affordable and accessible for consumers.
NorthSea Therapeutics aims to treat metabolic, fibrotic, and inflammatory diseases with drugs known as structurally engineered fatty acids (SEFAs), which are made by introducing chemical modifications to naturally occurring fatty acids. The company raised an $80 million series C round in December 2021 and its lead candidate is being tested in phase 2b trials for the treatment of NASH (nonalcoholic steatohepatitis), a liver condition for which there are currently no approved therapies.
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 1/2 clinical trials in patients with localized prostate cancer.
ProQR is developing RNA-based therapies for severe genetic diseases. It is pioneering a technology called Axiomer, which uses a cell’s own editing machinery, called ADAR, to make specific single nucleotide edits in RNA in order to reverse a mutation or modulate protein expression. The company’s two lead pipeline programs are designed for the treatment of cholestatic diseases and cardiovascular disease.
A spinout of the Netherlands Cancer Institute and the University of Oxford, the company 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.
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. In 2022, it also received FDA approval for its gene therapy for hemophilia B, developed in partnership with CSL Behring.
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 Netherlands headquartered biotech company raised $38 million to fund preclinical trials testing this approach in ALS and Alzheimer’s.