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With a new research facility, VIB (Flanders’ strategic research center for biotech) and UGent (one of Flanders’ top-notch universities) are responding to the growth of Flanders’ biotech sector. What’s more, the EUR 29 million investment also helps the two knowledge institutes stay at the top of their game, as the demand for state-of-the-art laboratories such as this one is on the rise.

A look behind the scenes

“You need to be in good shape to work here. Due to the constant negative pressure, which is necessary to prevent pathogens from getting out, it feels as if you’re working at 2,500 meters altitude,” says Nico Callewaert, director of VIB’s Center for Medical Biotechnology, who was happy to share a look behind the scenes of VIB and UGent’s new research building with Flanders’ main financial newspaper De Tijd.

In this heavily secured, high-tech lab, on the fourth of six floors, cutting-edge research on airborne pathogens, such as influenza and coronavirus, is carried out. “Our people first receive three weeks of training to learn how to master all safety procedures,” Callewaert adds. “They wear two layers of protective clothing and custom-made face masks. They also always enter in pairs – just in case something should happen.”

The first of its kind in Ghent

The new facility is a BioSafety Level 3 lab, guaranteeing the second-highest safety level possible. “In the Ghent area, this is the first lab of its kind,” says Jérôme Van Biervliet, codirector of VIB. “The new lab is essential to do research that we couldn’t do before. Here, researchers will be able to study how viruses enter human cells and multiply? They will also conduct research on new therapies.”

Biotech scene growing fast

The new Ghent research lab also forms an additional asset for the Tech Lane Ghent Science Park, the beating heart of Flanders’ biotech sector and, in particular, of the Ghent biotech valley. The new building covers over 15,000 square meters and will house 200 researchers from the VIB-UGent Center for Medical Biotechnology. The EUR 29 million in funding for the project comes from both VIB and UGent.

Flanders' biotech sector is growing rapidly. This is evident from the larger funding rounds raised by start-ups, which are also increasingly supported by international investors. With this new research building, we respond to the need for additional infrastructure.

Jérôme Van Biervliet
codirector of VIB

The success story that is VIB

Since its founding in 1996, VIB, which provides supportive research facilities, already helped launch 34 biotech start-ups. At the time, the strategic research center co-founded Ablynx, now part of French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi. More recently, VIB backed both Confo Therapeutics and Biotalys, among others.

In the spring of 2022, the government of Flanders decided to fund a new 5-year VIB research cycle, with the budget going up from EUR 60 million to 74 million and an important focus on the themes of data science and personalized healthcare.

Driving forces in Flanders' ecosystem

VIB, UGent and Tech Lane Ghent Science Park are just some of the driving forces behind Flanders’ successful ecosystem for life sciences & health. Want to unravel this ecosystem in a virtual yet interactive way? Head to the Flanders360 platform and discover 300+ successful companies, universities, R&D centers, incubators and other players active in Flanders’ life sciences & health industry.

Alternatively, check out our industry overview to learn more about the available tax, legal and other incentives for establishing your life sciences & health hub in Flanders.

Reported by
newspaper De Tijd

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