(This is the English-language version of this book; there is also a Dutch-language version.)
The Flemish biotech sector is world-renowned. Flanders is a world player in ‘life sciences’, the study of all life forms, and in particular in biotechnology, the practical application of that knowledge through technology. Thanks to a fruitful cross-fertilization between high quality healthcare, excellent scientific research, daring entrepreneurship, risky financing and a supportive government, an academic and industrial network has emerged in Flanders over the past forty years that is considered unique in Europe. ‘Flanders Biotech Valley’, between Meuse and North Sea, has become synonymous with quality.
In those 40 years, Flemish researchers and pioneers have made discoveries that affect more than two million patients a year and are used daily in agriculture, labs and medical cabinets. Entrepreneurs and their teams have had hundreds of meetings to convince investors to back these Flemish innovations and their story over all those other investment proposals that landed on their desks. With success. More than 10 billion euros found its way through Euronext, Nasdaq, Easdaq or private investments to Flemish biotech companies. Every euro invested in the sector became at least four euros ten years later, and every euro the Flemish government invested in the research of the Flemish Institute of Biotechnology (VIB) is worth eleven euros today. Some sixty thousand people today work directly or through supporting jobs in the Flemish biotech sector. That is a stunning story, without question. It is a story of people and teams. Of perseverance, of trial and error and of chance discoveries and encounters.
This book is based on interviews with dozens of privileged witnesses to the story of Flemish biotech and on a great many public documents and reports. It answers questions such as: what is a cell and how did we evolve in half a century from the first tentative sketch of the DNA molecule to profound insights into the role of genes, proteins, sugars and fats and in disease and health of humans, animals and plants?
Above all, Biotech in Flanders – A Stunning Story is an inspiring guide for those who want to gain insight into the ins and outs of an innovative and research-driven sector, working
day after day on products that continually make the lives of millions of people safer, healthier and more sustainable.
As the driving forces behind the Flemish Institute for Biotechnology (VIB) and flanders.bio, Jo Bury, Johan Cardoen and Dirk Reyn have been closely involved in the development of the Flemish biotech industry. When they realized that some of the iconic pioneers of the Flemish biotech story were quietly retreating and becoming less visible, they decided to write down the story of Flemish biotech in this book.