Connecting Education and Business in life-sciences during the well-visited mini-symposium

On Monday 22 January, start-ups and biomedical professionals from across the Netherlands joined us for the mini symposium Education and Business in life sciences for start-ups and biomedical professionals. The auditorium in the modern glass building of the Centre for Human Drug Research (CHDR) in Leiden BioScience park promoted the entrepreneurial atmosphere. Speakers from Paul Janssen Futurelab Leiden (PJFL), Health~Holland and Hyphen talked about different training programs that connect business and education in life sciences. The big interest in this event shows that there is a need for these programs, but information is not always easy to find.

Blended learning

Published on 2018-02-08

Written by Mariella Franker, PhD

The training programs presented during the symposium, aim to not only address scientific questions, but also business-related questions such as "How does a new medical intervention make its way to market?" and "How do you write a business plan for your start-up idea?" In the opening talk, Adam Cohen, CEO at CHDR and course director at Paul Janssen Futurelab, emphasized that the only way to keep innovating is to keep learning. He explained that billions are invested in clinical trials, but the systems of regulations have now reached a point that they are impeding innovation. In an attempt to go back to basics and to stimulate innovation again, we have to “cause disruption”.

"“I hope you will cause disruption of your own”, said Cohen. "

Marcel Kenter, director at Paul Janssen Futurelan Leiden, presented his team’s training programs for entrepreneurial professionals in life sciences. The next generation of scientists should be well-rounded and skilled in different aspects of business and entrepreneurship in addition to the scientific questions, according to Kenter. With this goal in mind, PJFL is developing blended course modules (part online and part on-campus) for participants from around the world. Modules about Market Approval, Intellectual Property rights, Finance and Pharmacology and currently under development and, in the future, the modules can be combined into a complete master program. Chrétien Herben, Valorisation Manager at Health Holland, presented the Venture Challenge, a business development program that offers individual coaching to turn an idea into a business case. It takes considerable effort and it can take years to finally bring your idea to market and the program offers guidance to achieve this goal.

Chrétien Herben, valorisation manager at Health~Holland, started his presentation by noting several success stories, including that of the 2010 Venture Challenge winner Eline van Beest for NightBalance - a highly effective intelligent sensor that helps patients with obstructive sleep apnea to sleep in healthy positions and thus preventing breathing obstructions.

Haifen Hu, director at Hyphen Projects, organizes numerous life sciences career events and conferences including the Biobusiness Summer School. This 5-day program aims to bridge the gap between science and business by giving participants basic insights into the business aspects in life sciences industry, for example, commonly used business models and intellectual property. Hyphen also organizes the innovation for Health congress, one of the largest life sciences conferences in the Netherlands that welcomes over 800 delegates.

Saco de Visser, head of education at PJFL, closed the session with his presentation about the Clinical Development program of Paul Janssen Futurelab Leiden.

"“We realize that most of our participants study in the evenings after their full time jobs, so we try to also make it fun to get through the course material”, de Visser explained. "

He showed an enticing trailer of a movie named “Questions!” that tells the story of a newly starting scientist in a biotech company and the adversities she faces when trying to change company procedures. The goal of the course, de Visser elaborated, is to learn how to optimally address and overcome the uncertainties that arise during the development of a medical intervention. During the discussion, de Visser noted that the course is not limited to the development of pharmaceuticals, but the procedures can be applied to any medical field, for example, medical devices and medical foods.

The highlight of the day was the panel discussion where alumni of all three programs took the floor to answer questions from the audience and to talk about their experiences during the course. The alumni emphasized that it is essential to learn the skills you need to take the next steps in your career and each program fit their specific needs. Meta Roestenberg, physician-scientist parasitology and clinician infectious diseases at LUMC, learned about Paul Janssen Futurelab Leiden from her dean. “[By taking the course,] I learned to speak a different language and I am now able to frame things in a more constructive way”, she said. Lars Ottevanger, business development manager at RiverD international, said that the biggest learning point for him was to talk to people who have done it before and to learn from them. Stefan Braam, CEO at Ncardia, shared a fitting quote with the audience:

"“Ask for money and get advice, ask for advice and get money. So start with advice.”"