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European Biopharmaceutical Review

Hot Spot

EBR: What are Wallonia’s main strengths in the health sector?

Frédéric Druck: Wallonia counts several integrated value chains in key technological areas, in which the region excels both industrially and academically. Our cluster, BioWin, has identified seven major sectors gathering all the players required to deliver innovative products or services, from bench to market. Among these fi elds you find biopharmaceuticals, cell therapy and regenerative medicine, immunology, radiation applications in healthcare, diagnostics (in vitro and in vivo), biotechnology products and services, and, of course, instruments and medical devices.

Can you tell us more about the R&D activities in immunology led by the region?

From the 130 health science companies located in the region, around 20-25% are related to the immunology sector. They are operating in different expertise areas, from drug development for immune-related disorders (UCB and Baxter) and vaccine development (GlaxoSmithKline, Zoetis, Imcyse and Curavac), to immunotherapies (iTeos Therapeutics and Biotech Tools Factory). We can add to this the companies that specialise in specific biotech products and services (ImmuneHealth, UniverCells and ImmunXperts), and who work in collaboration with product development companies or have originated from them. Together with universities, medical facilities and research institutes, this environment creates a strong hub of health sciences innovation and development in Europe.

How do you explain the interactions between all these companies?

We have been working for years with the support of the Government of Wallonia, the regional research administration, universities’ technology transfer offices, the Wallonia Agency for Foreign Trade and Investment, and many other partners, to establish a collaborative mindset and culture of openness between the industrial and academic worlds. Companies, hospitals, universities, research centres and bioincubators all know that cooperation is key to fostering competitiveness and level-up norms and processes to the highest international quality standards. In addition, the geographic proximity within this region favours a very effective and reactive framework.

What challenges are facing this sector today?

We knew from the beginning that our partners would have to target international markets to ensure their development. We have to keep on strengthening the existing value chains in all our key technological areas by attracting international innovation players who are able to operate technology transfer to business and investments in our region. This way, Wallonia will remain at the forefront of R&D excellence, becoming one of the hot spots for health biotech and medical technologies innovation in Europe.

How does this translate in practice?

BioWin is involved in many international networking activities aimed at stimulating and fostering collaborative projects between our members and foreign stakeholders. For the last two years, we have been accelerating the process to connect our members with the best players in the world.

We have been involved in highly targeted technological partnering events, and shifted from a regional to an international focus in our R&D projects approach. We have opened our consortia to foreign partners through international agreements and partnerships, and have established links with companies across Europe, the US and China. This is already the case with the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (US), the Council for European BioRegions, the European Diagnostic Clusters Alliance, and the Juke Biotech Park (China).

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Frédéric Druck is Managing Director ad interim, International Relations and Communications Director at BioWin, and is specifi cally responsible for communications, European and international partnerships, networking activities and international relations for the cluster. His knowledge of healthcare comes from his time with Merck Sharp & Dohme, and with public relations consultancy fi rm Interel, where he was Manager of the Medical Department.
Frédéric Druck
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