Foreword Chrétien Herben

Ten years of building life sciences business, we have only just begun!

Ten years ago, an idea to create a programme to support life sciences researchers with entrepreneurial aspirations came true with the start of LifeSciences@Work (LS@W). This idea was born a couple of years earlier when the startup that I started, based on my own PhD work, was sold. The five years that I was part of this life-changing adventure of taking a research result out of the university and translating it into a commercially viable product while building a team, a company, and raising venture capital to pay for it all had taught me so many lessons. I wanted to do something for all those other scientists out there with brilliant PhD results that, just like me at the time, probably have no clue what it actually takes to start a science-based company.

The Netherlands Genomics Initiative provided the opportunity to shape a national startup support programme for Life Sciences researchers that considered starting their own company based on their research results. Using what I learned from taking the journey myself and building on successful programmes such as BioPartner, we set up LS@W to provide coaching, education, financing and networking through the Venture Challenge, the Biobusiness Masterclass and the Pre-Seed Grant.

And now, ten years later, LS@W has seen almost a thousand proposals and supported almost 150 biotech and medtech startups. Together, these startups have attracted nearly 350 million euros, generated over 500 direct jobs and a multiple of that in indirect jobs. Four new therapeutics are in advanced clinical trials, six diagnostics and six medical device startups have products on the market, and another eighteen startups offer their services. Successful alumni of the programme include Quirem Medical, Nightbalance, NCardia, and T-Cell Factory, which is now Kite Pharma.

"LS@W has seen almost a thousand proposals and supported almost 150 biotech and medtech startups."

Currently, LS@W and the Venture Challenge are supported by Health~Holland, the Top Sector Life Sciences & Health and a couple of private sponsors such as Loyens & Loeff. Both the Top Sector and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy recognise the importance of the programme for the Dutch Life Sciences and Health sector. LS@W brings together the best ideas from all the regions and offers specialised support in this niche of science-based startups.

Over the years the programme has changed. The Pre-Seed Grant has sadly disappeared as government policies opted for a more generic approach through the NWO grant Take-off, and new activities have been added such as the Medtech and Biotech Partner meetings and the Value Vouchers. One part has remained since the start: The Venture Challenge which has become a recognised programme by both the investor community as well as the scientific community.

"...starting a business in the life sciences is a long process, but a worthy one. So we have only just begun!"

In this special issue of the Health~Holland Update, we like to share some of the success stories through interviews with LS@W Alumni together with an overview of the results and some quotes from the participants. For me, it is inspiring to see the growth of the companies. It shows that starting a business in the life sciences is a long process, but a worthy one. So we have only just begun!

Chretien Herben, Programme director of LS@W and Valorisation Manager of Health~Holland

LifeSciences@Work Special
LifeSciences@Work started in 2008, and now in 2018, it proudly celebrates its tenth anniversary. To mark this festive occasion, this special edition of the Health~Holland Update is devoted to the LS@W accelerator programme. In this special Update, you will find an overview of the last ten years, interviews with entrepreneurs, facts & figures about the programme, and lots of experiences of LS@W participants. Get inspired and discover where the Dutch life sciences sector has his roots.