Category: Innovative Technologies
Marc Kaptein, Medical Director of Pfizer in the Netherlands is clearly upbeat at the outcome: ‘We just broke the news that our interim analysis was not efficacious…. but very efficacious! More than ninety-percent efficacy, which is fantastic,’ he enthuses. ‘We are not there yet, but if all goes well, we will upscale our four production facilities even further and will hopefully produce 1.3 billion doses by the end of next year. I’m happy, not just because I work for Pfizer, but because of the impact this will have on society.’
Tuning in to the very high quality of research in the Netherlands
Pfizer’s headquarters are located in New York, and the company has R&D and manufacturing facilities across the globe. Although the Rotterdam operation is not technically an R&D facility, it does engage in a significant amount of research.
The conditions for growth in the Netherlands also come in for praise: ‘The life sciences ecosystem is growing very rapidly, with some four-hundred-plus biotech companies already established here. The Netherlands is sometimes referred to as Boston on the Meuse river – and we are working on eventually becoming the European hub for biotech and pharma.’
Collaboration with academic medical centers across the Netherlands
Pfizer has had operations in the Netherlands since the 1930s, in or around Rotterdam, and Kaptein explains the rationale behind this. ‘We’ve always had an excellent relationship with Erasmus University and Medical Center, and we can literally jump on our bicycle and be there in minutes. However, we also cooperate, for example, with University Medical Center Groningen and Amsterdam Medical Center.’ The Netherlands’ compact size means that nowhere is very far away, and collaboration between the regional clusters, hubs, science parks, and industry is frequent and intense. ‘Our country is about the size of Rhode Island – one of the smallest states in the US,’ explains Kaptein, to emphasize the point.
The benefit of having EMA in your backyard
Kaptein also sees the recent arrival of the European Medicines Agency to the Netherlands as a welcome boost.
A well-connected life sciences ecosystem
‘The importance of collaboration has really increased because of Covid-19, and hopefully, we can extend that beyond this pandemic.’ The rapidly growing Life Sciences & Health ecosystem in the Greater Rotterdam – The Hague Region is a subject about which Kaptein is equally enthusiastic.
The company just completed a 1.5 million-euro revamp of its offices in the city. The premises were redesigned and opened-up to stimulate collaboration by opening up the building. ‘We used to have five coffee-points on each floor whereas we now have one large social space, with a massive espresso machine. People gravitate here and we notice that they are enabled to enter into discussions like never before, stimulating collaboration and networking and ideas.’
Supporting the growth of the ecosystem
As a corporate multinational in Life Sciences & Health, Pfizer also plays a significant role in nurturing the local biotech ecosystem. Revamping the offices led to the creation of extra space, which the company plans to use to best effect. ‘We are looking at the possibility of renting out space to start-ups and scale-ups in the Rotterdam area. It enables sharing ideas and knowledge in a creative and relaxed manner and stimulates the local Biotech ecosystem.’
Heightened interest in collaboration and investments
A collaborative nature is deeply ingrained in the Dutch DNA due to the collective effort required for creating a leading economy in a small, low-lying country. The current pandemic has highlighted the real value of collaboration and has helped drive numerous advances in virology and life sciences in general. Kaptein is confident that the Dutch government sees this and is keen to provide further stimulus. ‘What I hear from government officials is that they are keen to keep on investing, and even to invest more in science in the Netherlands, and that is fantastic.’