Starting with only a handful of biotech companies in the 1980s, the Netherlands' biotech community has mushroomed to 138 entrepreneurial firms specializing in areas such as agri-foods, biologicals, blood transfusion technology, cardiovascular disease, cell growth and cancer, cognitive neurosciences, genomics and proteomics, and therapeutic vaccines. The Netherlands has witnessed the establishment of 75 new biotech companies since 2000.
The Dutch biotech industry had a banner year in 2003, generating sales of more than $207 million — a 10% increase over 2002, according to BioPartner's 2004 Netherlands Life Sciences Sector Report. The annual publication also reported impressive performances in 2000 and 2001, with biotech sales topping $89 million each year. Last year's sales surge resulted in a seven percent jump in employment and increased the size of the total life sciences workforce in the Netherlands to 2,100 full-time employees, according to the report.Most of the revenues generated by the Dutch biotech industry are ploughed back into research and new product development.
The Dutch life sciences industry is clustered primarily around eleven cities: Amsterdam, Delft, Eindhoven, Rotterdam, Groningen, Leiden, Maastricht, Nijmegen, Twente, Utrecht, and Wageningen. This "bio-belt" region accounts for 60% of the dedicated life sciences companies and more than 70% of the life sciences workforce in the Netherlands. Home to 10 university hospitals, the bio-belt provides a proven infrastructure dedicated to developing highly educated and skilled professionals. Almost one-quarter of Dutch research schools are devoted to biotech, and the Netherlands is the only country in Europe to offer laboratory training in dedicated, vocational laboratory schools.
The Netherlands' highly educated, multilingual talent pool weighed heavily in Centocor's decision to build a new production facility at Leiden's BioScience Park in 2003. The Pennsylvania-based biopharmaceutical company is the world's leading producer of monoclonal antibodies.
"Leiden provides Centocor with a significant base of knowledge about antibodies and the production of biotech goods," says Tetteroo. "It's the ideal scientific environment for a company like ours." Over the years, the city's healthcare community has proven a valuable ally. Since coming to BioScience Park in 1984, Centocor has established contacts with clinical experts who oversee clinical trials. Leiden University also gives the company access to library and research resources, lecture halls, and, with each new graduating class, a ready supply of skilled labor.