State Secretary Thomas Dermine supports Ghent CESPE Innovation Accelerator

(30-09-2021) State Secretary for Recovery and Strategic Investments Thomas Dermine supports Ghent plans for innovation in pharmaceutical production technology

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Geoffrey Pot (Takeda & president bio.be/essenscia), Hendrik Waegeman (Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant), Tineke Van hooland (bio.be/essenscia), Benoit van den Hove (Euronext), Eva Leclercq (Univercells), Thomas Dermine (Secretary of State), Julien Moindrot (Sanofi), Frédéric Druck (bio.be/essenscia)

Belgium has an excellent position in the development of new medicines. "To continue to play that leading role, we also need to focus on innovation in the production of medicines," according to Professor Thomas De Beer. With the CESPE Innovation Accelerator, Ghent University offers an answer to the need for top research infrastructure for innovation in pharmaceutical production technology. This is necessary to further anchor Belgium's leading position in the field of drug development research and to guarantee its production in our region. State Secretary for Recovery and Strategic Investments Thomas Dermine also supports Ghent's plans for innovation in pharmaceutical production technology.

Since the start of the corona crisis, the Belgian biotech and biopharma sector has played a key role in the global fight against the pandemic. A momentum to make this industry a spearhead in the economic recovery of our country. For example, 10,000 new jobs have been created in the sector over the past ten years and companies have invested 5.5 billion euros in the renewal of their production installations. With an effective policy framework, we can develop even more advanced biotechnological production capacity in Belgium. In this way, the sector can grow into an industry of the future with the necessary job opportunities for technical, digital and scientific talent. The unique research infrastructure of the Ghent CESPE Innovation Accelerator was mentioned as a game changer for the pharmaceutical industry in Flanders. That was the message at the annual event of bio.be/essenscia, the Belgian federation of companies active in biotechnology and life sciences, with Thomas Dermine, State Secretary for Recovery and Strategic Investments, as the central guest.

Since the outbreak of the corona crisis, the whole world has turned its attention to the vaccines, therapies and innovations of Belgian pharma and biotech. Our country therefore has a long and rich history in drug development and biotechnology, in which the unique ecosystem of universities, research centers, hospitals, spin-offs and start-ups, SMEs and international players continues to grow. The ten largest (bio)pharmaceutical companies in the world all have a branch in Belgium – some even for more than 50 years – and this in all links of the value chain, whether it concerns research, production or logistics.

10,000 more jobs in 10 years

That is also reflected in the numbers. In 2020, the sector had more than 35,000 employees. That is 10,000 more than ten years ago. Last year exports of pharmaceutical and biotech products amounted to 53 billion euros and expenditure on research and development amounted to more than 5 billion euros. Both figures have almost doubled in the past decade. 

This growth is now continuing in numerous recent investment projects that create additional jobs: from expansion of the production capacity for vaccines, including for corona vaccines, innovative cell and gene therapies and the latest bioproduction technologies to innovations in the field of digitization and sustainability, such as reuse. of treated wastewater and increasing energy efficiency. Over the past ten years, the sector has already invested 5.5 billion euros in the biotech and biopharma production of tomorrow. Thomas Dermine, State Secretary for Recovery and Strategic Investments: “The recovery plan focuses strongly on research and innovation projects, such as the Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant and the CESPE innovation accelerator in Ghent, which contribute strongly to Belgian excellence in the field of biotech and pharmaceutical production.”

Thomas Dermine, State Secretary for Recovery and Strategic Investments: “The recovery plan focuses strongly on research and innovation projects, such as the Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant and the CESPE innovation accelerator in Ghent, which contribute strongly to Belgian excellence in the field of biotech and pharmaceutical production.”

Unique research infrastructure

With the CESPE Innovation Accelerator, Ghent University is also strongly committed to the biotech and biopharma production of tomorrow. “If you look at pharmaceutical manufacturing innovation over the last few decades, it hasn't kept up with the speed of drug development. Innovation in the pharmaceutical sector primarily focuses on the development of medicines. But the increasing complexity of medicines and their supply needs also requires innovation in production technology,' says Professor Thomas De Beer. He is director of CESPE, the Center of Excellence for Sustainable Pharmaceutical Engineering & Manufacturing at Ghent University, which is the basis of the new innovation accelerator for production technology in the pharmaceutical sector.

'Innovation in the pharmaceutical sector primarily focuses on the development of medicines. But the increasing complexity of medicines and their supply needs also requires innovation in production technology.' Professor Thomas De Beer

“Unlike other sectors in the manufacturing industry, pharmaceutical products are often developed before it is clear how they can be produced on a large scale in a competitive, sustainable and flexible way. By linking the development of a medicine at an early stage to the development of the production process, you shorten the lead time,' explains Professor De Beer. “The Corona pandemic has also increased the need for agile production technologies. Just think of the supply of intermediate substances in the event of an abruptly rising demand or local production of critical medicines, and the associated cold chain distribution at -80°C of certain vaccines. This requires new technologies and we will research and develop them in the new CESPE center in collaboration with the industry,' says Wouter De Soete, manager of CESPE at Ghent University.

The CESPE Innovation Accelerator will include cleanrooms, lab and office space as well as a (bio)pharmtech incubator. “This combination of research infrastructure in the field of production innovation is unique in Belgium. With this we are not only making a huge difference for academic research, but also for industry,' emphasizes Professor De Beer. “The main goal of CESPE is to be the leading innovation hub in Europe for end-to-end pharmaceutical production of the medicines of tomorrow,” according to Wouter De Soete. “That means that we examine the entire drug production chain, from development to its supply to the market, and investigate how we can model and optimize it as best as possible. For this we have to call on different expertise. Just think of experts in the field of big data, AI, automation and robotization, energy-efficient production, …' According to De Soete, the center in Zwijnaarde will already be a game changer for the pharmaceutical industry in Flanders, which will also provide a lot of jobs.

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