GSK meets Belgian Universities Event

Vaccine-related technologies are the focus of the first GSK meets Belgian Universities Event

Regional associations BioWin, flanders.bio and Flanders Vaccine bring together scientific researchers from industry and universities

This is a good time to reflect on research into new vaccines and the strength of the pharma and vaccine industry in Belgium. With 15 pharma and vaccine company headquarters, 14 R&D sites and 32 production sites and employs 4,472 researchers in their R&D departments, scientific research is thriving in Belgium. In addition, there are 12 University centers of research, 7 University hospitals and 14 bioincubators(1). All the elements needed for successful innovation and development of new vaccines are available within a small area.

BioWin (the Health Cluster of Wallonia), flanders.bio ( Life sciences cluster organization in Flanders) and Flanders Vaccine ( a catalyst for public-private partnerships in vaccine related research and business) play an important role in supporting biotechnology across the regions. On 19th April, they connected over 70 scientists from GSK Vaccines (Rixensart and Wavre) and about 100 of their members from Belgian Universities at an Event, held at The Square, Brussels. The aim was to facilitate the exchange of ideas and start a dialog on common research challenges related to vaccines.

GSK is one of the world’s leading vaccine companies, with a comprehensive portfolio of 41 vaccines for infants, adolescents and adults and 14 more vaccines in development. It has more than 16,000 people working worldwide to deliver more than 2 million vaccines every day to people in 166 countries.

In the morning session, the company’s current R&D projects (with an emphasis on the Research & Development Centre Belgium) were presented: Technological platforms, Adjuvant platform, Therapeutic vaccines, Older adult franchise, Lifecycle management of registered vaccines.

“This Event has enabled GSK to take an inclusive approach as we seek to understand the different perspectives, needs and priorities of academia, connect with the best scientists and pursue the innovation needed to develop new vaccines”, said Emmanuel Hanon, Senior Vice President, Head of R&D, GSK Vaccines.

In the afternoon session, keynote external speakers from Belgian Universities gave state-ofthe-art presentations, on: Protein sciences, Prof. Savvas Savvides, Ghent University and VIB-Inflammation Research Center; B and T cell immunology, Prof. Sophie Lucas, de Duve Institute – UCLouvain, Brussels; Immunity in special populations, Prof. Niels Hellings, Biomedical Research Institute, Faculty of Medicine & Life Sciences, UHasselt; Bioinformatics, Prof. Yvan Saeys, VIB Group Leader Data mining and modeling for biomedicine, VIB-UGent Center for Inflammation Research; Novel approaches to induce and modulate the immune response, Dr. Thomas Marichal, Team Leader, F.R.S.-FNRS Research Associate, Cellular and Molecular Immunology, GIGA-Research, ULiege; Formulation and delivery technologies, Prof. Nathalie Wauthoz, Faculty of Pharmacy, Department of Pharmacotherapy and Pharmaceutics, ULB, Brussels.

Following each session, Round Tables provided plenty of opportunity for discussions between small groups of experts.

Overall, the day was very much appreciated by the scientists, as expressed by Catherine Sadzot, GIGA Insitute Univeristy of Liège: “I think it would be important to organize this kind of event on a regular basis”. This quote echoes the opinion of the different organizers and encourages them to repeat this kind of activity at a national level in the future.

(1) Figures based on the 132 members of pharma.be. Association Générale de l’industrie du Medicament. ”Chiffres pharma 2016 : Le secteur pharmaceutique belge a le vent en poupe”