Life Sciences

The triple helix in Dutch Life Sciences Health


The Dutch made impressive contributions to the world’s medical science: Hans and Zacharias Jansen invented the microscope around 1590, Dutchman Antoni van Leeuwenhoek (1632 – 1723) is known as ‘the Father of Microbiology’, biologist Jan Swammerdam was the first, in 1658, to observe and describe red blood cells, Willem Einthoven won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1924 for his invention of the electrocardiogram and Willem Kolff, who is regarded as one of the most important physicians of the twentieth century, developed and applied the first functioning artificial kidney in 1943, and was involved in many breakthrough developments, such as the first heart-lung machine and an artificial heart.

Today, the Netherlands remains a major player in the global Life Sciences Health industries, with a strong technological position in molecular imaging, medical informatics, biopharmaceuticals, human and veterinary vaccines, regenerative medicine and biomaterials (biomaterial coatings in medical devices), medical technology and health infrastructure. The Dutch sector owes this position to collaboration, cooperation and coalition building between businesses, research institutes and universities, supported by government, linking research to product and business creation.

Life Sciences Health belongs to the nine priority sectors identified by the Dutch Government. The country also boasts a national genomics programme and three large public-private programs on Pharmacotherapy, Translational Molecular Medicine and Regenerative Medicine. In these programs (worth over € 1 billion), large industries and SMEs collaborate with all the eight medical faculties – including the academic hospitals and the medical technology faculties of the three Technical Universities – on R&D projects close to the clinical practice. These programs will end in the years 2012 and 2013, but new initiatives have already been started up.

Key aspects and strengths

  • With approximately 400 innovative life sciences companies within a 120 mile radius, the Netherlands is the most concentrated region in the world when it comes to creating economic and social value in Life Sciences and Health.
  • The Netherlands has strong primary and out-patient care, this is why the number of avoidable hospitalizations is low compared to other countries. In addition, availability and popularity of preventive screenings are high in the Netherlands.
  • Dutch medical practitioners gather information about their residents under strict privacy conditions. As a result, the Netherlands has one of the best documented (patient) populations. Newborns are subjected to a screening program that diagnoses serious diseases, preventing or confining health damage. Throughout the country, large cohort studies collect clinical and lifestyle information as well as biomaterials in accessible and well-structured bio banks.
  • Expertise in health care infrastructure is characterised by a turn-key plus approach: Dutch companies are able to cover all aspects from hospital design & engineering, financing, waste management, medical equipment etc. while paying special attention paid to energy-efficiency and ‘healing environments’.
  • The strong medical research infrastructure has a strong focus on translational research in the different medical areas like, for example, oncology, cardiovascular, immunology and neuroscience.
  • The Netherlands is a global market leader in mobile health care, which enables the Dutch to contribute to rural health care in developing countries around the globe.

From: NL EVD International information