Stop and Smell the Tulips: 9 Amazing Biotechs in Amsterdam

11/10/2016 - 7 minutes

Most people head to Amsterdam to play rather than work: the city is famous not just for its scenic canals and architecture but also its red light district and relaxed attitude towards recreational drugs. Other Dutch cities like Leiden and Utrecht might be more attractive to the business-minded biotech crowd, but beside the VC hub of LSP, Forbion, and Inkef, we found nine biotechs in the Amsterdam area that would capture the attention of even the most hedonistic tourists. 


uniQure is the biggest fish in the Amsterdam pond, with a €194.5M market cap that has quadrupled since the end of last year. It is famous for Glybera, which became the world’s first approved gene therapy in 2012. Glybera is a one-off gene therapy that aims to restore LPL enzyme activity in patients with severe familial lipoprotein lipase deficiency; the European Commission granted its approval for use under ‘exceptional circumstances‘.

The company has remained active in the research and development of human gene based therapies. It has since developed a pipeline of adeno-associated virus (AAV)-based gene therapies both internally and through multiple collaborations. It currently has three candidates in clinical development, all of which are still in early phases.

The most advanced one is for Sanfilippo B; the second most advanced targets Hemophilia B and is being codeveloped by Chiesi; and the third is the result of an academic partnership to create a treatment for Parkinson’s disease.

Kiadis Pharma

Kiadis Pharma focuses on oncology and hematology to develop T-cell immunotherapies for blood cancer patients in need of a stem cell transplant. There are a number of risks and limitations involved with this kind of procedure, such as Graft-versus-Host Disease (GVHD), cancer relapse, opportunistic infection and limited matched donor availability; Kiadis is working to address them with two key candidates, ATIR101 and ATIR201.

ATIR stands for ‘Allodepleted T-cell ImmunotheRapeutics‘ and refers to the product’s design to support a patient’s newly transplanted immune system before it becomes fully functional. These therapies will facilitate transplants from donors that are not a perfect match for the patient. ATIR101 is currently in Phase II trials for its application to blood cancers; ATIR201 is slated to start Phase I/II trials for thalassemia this year.

Since it was founded 1997, the company has built up its Theralux platform to bring these treatments to and through the clinic. Kiadis went public just last year, and it has since reached a market cap of €153M.

Figure 1. Stem cells


Avantium calls itself ‘a leading chemical technology company’ that develops efficient processes and sustainable products made from biobased materials. It was spun out of Royal Dutch Shell in 2000 to develop catalytic methods for use in bioplastics.

The company just partnered with BASF, the German chemical giant, to form a new joint venture, Synvina. This JV targets the production of furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA) from renewable resources, the company will market this compound and its derviative, polyethylenefuranoate (PEF), which can be generated from FDCA.

Avantium has been quite active, racking up awards and partnerships, and it is one of the key players in the field of bioplastics. Read our review to get the lay of this land!

AIMM Therapeutics

Founded in 2004, AIMM Therapeutics is a clinical stage antibody discovery company leveraging antibodies to fight cancer and infectious and inflammatory diseases. Their antibodies are obtained from humans who have overcome the disease in question or immunized animals, and the company’s most advanced candidates, one for RSV and one for Influenza, are wrapping up in Phase II of clinical trials.

These hinge on AIMM’s proprietary B cell immortalization technology, which transforms the cells into long living plasmablasts that express the B cell receptor and secrete antibodies indefinitely. Immortalisation therefore stands to be up to 10,000 times more efficient than the usual hybridoma approaches.

Audion Therapeutics

Audion Therapeutics is a biopharmaceutical company working on the discovery, development and commercialization of new treatments for hearing loss by regenerating sensory hair cells in the inner ear. The loss of these is at the core in the vast majority of hearing loss cases, and Audion is developing small molecules to rectify this.

To start, it has validated an industrialized screening cascade to find new small molecule compounds to be developed into therapies. The next steps are to bring the candidates they’ve identified to the clinic. To fund this effort, the company has raised €8.3M2.5M of which come from the Dutch VC firm, INKEF Capital; the other €5.8M comes from Horizon 2020, which Audion joined as coordinator of the REGAIN consortium.

Figure 2. Hair cells of the cochlea.


thromboDx develops molecular blood-based diagnostics via its proprietary platelet-powered technology platform with the aim of making such procedures minimally invasive and easily accessible. The company hopes to leverage their technology to diagnose cancer, monitor infectious disease and run prenatal tests.

Thrombocytes, the scientific term for ‘platelets’ from which the company takes its name, are responsible for the formation of blood clots. thromboDx discovered that these cells retain disease-specific nucleic acids, which could then be used as flags for cancer, infections and progress markers during pregnancy.

California-based Illumina acquired thromboDx last January for €70M, so it is now part of the daughter company, GRAIL, which is funded by a cushy €90M Series A. thromboDx will continue to operate out of its Amsterdam offices.

Qameleon Therapeutics

A young spin-off of the Netherlands Cancer Institute (NKI), Qameleon Therapeutics was established in 2015 to accelerate finding drug combinations that overcome initial or acquired resistance to targeted therapy in oncology.

This company is just getting started, so it has been floating under the radar; but behind it is a solid team of Agendia veterans like founder Rene Bernards. While we hadn’t heard of Qameleon, big pharmas like Merck and Roche have recognised the company’s potential and partnered up.

UbiQ Bio

Founded in 2010 as a spin-out of the Netherlands Cancer Institute (NKI), UbiQ specializes in ubiquitin-related reagents, peptides and assays for a variety of indication development strategies. In August, it launched a fluorogenic proteasome activity assay to study activating factors of proteasome activity, after it began marketing DUB probes and enzyme cascade probes this spring.

Figure 4.
Figure 3.


Arthrogen is a biopharma company focused on the development of local gene therapy for inflammatory diseases using viral-mediated gene transfer. It was founded in 2005 as a joint venture between the Dubai Bone & Joint Center (DBAJ) in the United Arab Emirates and the Academic Medical Center (AMC) in Amsterdam, where Arthrogen is located.

So far, the company has raised €10M to fuel its ambitions to deliver alternative gene therapies while decreasing healthcare costs. Its lead candidate, ART-I02, is a recombinant adeno-associated virus (rAAV) type 5 vector that codes for human interferon-β (hIFNβ); this target has anti-inflammatory qualities when triggered, and Arthrogen hopes to take advantage of them via ART-I02 to treat arthritis. While it is not yet in clinical development, Phase Ib is slated to start before the end of the year.

Figure 4.

There you have it, 9 solid companies making their mark in biotech! Check out our Job Posts to see if they’re hiring.

Featured Image: S.Borisov/
Figure 1: Juan Gaertner/
Figure 2: Provided by Audion
Figure 3: sruilk/
Figure 4: Standret/


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