BioVille is part of a bigger network:
BioVille resident Flanders Vaccine is the umbrella organization within the vaccines and immunotherapy industry in Flanders. Their mission? Create a platform for industry stakeholders, stimulate innovation, and – if possible – accelerate breakthroughs.
Flanders Vaccine was founded in 2016 by the 5 universities of Flanders, flanders.bio and Biomaric. “People felt the need for an industry insider’s platform. Becoming more competitive was another main goal” states Fran Van Heuverswyn, project and general manager at Flanders Vaccine.
Flanders Vaccine is an independent, non-profit membership organization. Fran: “We finance our operations through member fees, the contribution of our partners and through the proceeds of the events we set up. Our members consist of both academic groups and companies – ranging from small biotech companies to large pharmaceutical corporations and law experts. Additionally, we also include several governmental agencies.”
Their aim? Accelerate innovation in the realm of vaccines and immunotherapy. Fran: “Our main work comprises of setting up events. We’ve created a platform where industry stakeholders meet, share knowledge, and inspire each other. This increases exposure for our members and offers them ample opportunity to participate in (inter)national calls for collaboration in research and development.”
More than just COVID
Besides COVID, other important work is being done. “That’s right. The impact of vaccines can hardly be overstated. Vaccines have made several childhood diseases virtually disappear. In 2009 the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination program was introduced, which protects young women from cervical cancer. And, since 2019, also vaccinates boys to protect them from cancers and genital warts. For malaria, there is now an initial vaccine. However, this still has room for improvement. Research should therefore continue to be supported.”
Nevertheless: time, energy, and resources are mainly allocated to Covid right now. Virtually putting the rest ‘on hold’. This is no different at Flanders Vaccine. Fran: “Logically, you prioritize what is most urgent – that which forms the greatest threat to public health. It’s quite a challenge, also for us.”
Confidence in vaccines and vaccination already was topical before COVID. A trend that grew even stronger with the pandemic. “You have people for and opposed. But then there’s another large group of doubters and it can sometimes turn to an emotional debate. Our aim is to correctly inform the doubters. A challenge, because misinformation is everywhere these days, especially on social media. Even the mainstream media sometimes cover things disproportionately. That does not help the cause.”
Before corona, easily protecting ourselves against infectious diseases had become something that people took for granted. “People have become more aware again that many lives are saved with vaccines. They realize that vaccines are an amazing invention within biomedical science. Governments also seem to have woken up and realized that they were not prepared for such an event.”
Top 3 in Europe
Flanders Vaccine wants to promote the industry. And with good reason. Belgium is in the European top 3 for biopharmaceuticals, vaccines, and clinical trials. Fran: “By bringing together people from both the academic world, the Federal Agency for Medicines and Health Products and the pharmaceutical industry, we’re accelerating innovation and effectiveness.
“It’s the synergy between industry and research groups that makes Belgium come out ahead in vaccine development. This is unique and cannot be found in every country. And that’s essentially what we want to facilitate with Flanders Vaccine.”
BioVille is an excellent strategic location for Flanders Vaccine. Fran: “BioVille houses companies that could potentially become members. But the administrative support is also very important to us. As a small organization we can’t do everything ourselves. I regard the people from BioVille as my coworkers.”