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Organization of Drug Research in the Netherlands from the year 2000: FIGON and Dirk K.F. Meijer

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This compilation of articles describes the developments of medicine research in the Netherlands, with special reference to the Federation for Innovative Drug Research in the Netherlands, with Dirk K.F. Meijer as founding chairman.
September 2007 number 50
ConCeptuurno 50september 20072
netherlands federation for innovative drug researChconceptuur - contents
FIGon specIal Issue
Conceptuur 50th edition
Conceptuur is the quarterly periodical of the
Netherlands Federation for Innovative Drug Research
FIGON. The magazine covers all aspects of drug re-
search and the developmental stage: from scientific
concept to medical practice. FIGON is currently the
major integrative platform for innovative drug research
in the Netherlands. The organizational structure com-
prises the FIGON council, with representatives of all
participants, and the FIGON board, which is in charge
of day-to-day management. The FIGON’s general policy
will be determined by the council and will be executed
by the board.
President: Dick de Zeeuw, UMC Groningen
Treasurer: Martin van der Graaff, Nefarma
Secretary: Jacqueline Selhorst, ZonMw
‘All About FIGON’
Special issue Conceptuur in pursuance of 50th issue
Concept and realization
Marian van Opstal, Bèta Communicaties, The Hague
Text writing and editing
Marga van Zundert, Lilian Vermeer, Bastienne Wentzel
and Arthur van Zuylen
Cover, infographics and illustrations
Thijs Unger, Zorilla, Hilversum
Photographs
Henk Veenstra and Arno Massée
Design and desk top publishing
Frans Koeman and Henk van der Hoeff
Stock photos www.istock.com
Printing Bestenzet, Zoetermeer
Circulation 6000
Acknowledgement:
Dick Meijer for his cooperation and for critically
correcting and judging texts and illustrations
Jaap Wilting, for his critical view and valuable con-
tribution in the field of facts and figures.
Linda Hutzezon and Jacqueline Selhorst for their
critical text reading.
Douwe Breimer, Daan Crommelin, Hugo Hurts,
Michel Dutrée and Henk Smid for their inspiring
contributions to the section ‘Vision & opinion’.
FIGON Committees: Henk Timmerman, Koen
Wiedhaup, Dick Meijer, Nico Vermeulen, Paul Smits,
Daan Crommelin, Herman Woerdenbag and Mies
van Steenbergen for their input and cooperation in
telephone interviews.
FIGON participants (UIPS, LACDR, RMI, CARIM,
GUIDE, NVFG, NVFW, NVF, KNCV-FC, NVKF&B,
ACRON, BioFarmind, WINAp, TNO Pharma, Nefarma
and ZonMW) for their cooperation in team inter-
views and answering the questionnaire.
General coordination
Bèta Communicaties
PO Box 84098
2508 AB The Hague
Tel 0031 70 30 60 726
betacom@planet.nl
Info/subscription
Nefarma
PO Box 11633
2502 AP The Hague
ISSN 1381-4613
Preface page 5
Hans Wijers, CEO of Akzo Nobel, was the Minister for Economic
Affairs from 1994-1998. During that period he was co-initiator of
the Technological Top Institutes, an R&D formula based on public-
private partnerships. He still supports such a joint approach by
academia and industry.
Striking dates page 4
From inspiring initiatives … to a professional network
Four presidents’ interview page 6
Dick Meijer Ad IJzerman Frans Nijkamp Dick de Zeeuw
(1998 – 2000) (2001 – 2003) (2004 – 2005) (2006 – present)
FIGON is a knowledge broker and provides a forum to meet with
the research partners you need. The successive presidents repeat
the FIGON mission statement: “Together we can make better medicines”.
Vision and opinion
Five renowned representatives from academia, industry and government
outline their visionary view on FIGON and its role in promoting innovative
drug research and development in the Netherlands and abroad.
Douwe Breimer, Leiden University
The benefits of a good umbrella page 9
Daan Crommelin, TI Pharma
Where only excellence counts page 11
Michel Dutrée, Nefarma
A platform with a helicopter view page 19
ConCeptuurno 50september 2007 3
netherlands federation for innovative drug researCh conceptuur - contents
FIGon specIal Issue
Editorial
On the threshold of a new era
The 50th issue of Conceptuur is a landmark in
FIGON’s history. Knowledge of history contri-
butes to a better understanding of the present.
As a consequence, future developments can be
seen through more easily as well. In Conceptuur
50 we look back over about 20 years of Dutch
medicines research in which FIGON and its pre-
decessors have played a significant role. The
joint FIGON participants have been successful in
promoting innovative drug research and drug de-
velopment in the Netherlands and Europe. Their
efforts have recently led to the establishment of
the national Top Institute Pharma: TI Pharma.
This 50th issue of Conceptuur illustrates that
FIGON originated by combining the inspirational
ideas of enthusiastic researchers and gradually
grew to the current professional network. The
federation has proved to be an umbrella organi-
zation for participants of various ‘blood groups’
and now wants to consolidate this position. At
present, FIGON is on the threshold of a new era.
Currently many new activities are being initiated,
addressing internationalization, stimulation of
entrepreneurship and improvement of teaching
and training among others. However FIGON also
wants to become a facilitating organization for
its participants and members. Future perspecti-
ves as well as selected highlights from the past,
including the people involved, are presented in
this dedicated jubilee issue of Conceptuur.
Conceptuur 50 aims to be the business card for
FIGON for the coming years. All the participants
and committees active in FIGON are introduced.
Some readers will experience this as new infor-
mation, for others it will be a renewed acquain-
tance. We want to make clear in this special is-
sue what FIGON stands for and what it can mean
to you. All those that are involved in medicines
research in the Netherlands must be aware that
they are part of FIGON and that they can benefit
from FIGON’s activities and network.
FIGON is definitely entering a challenging fu-
ture. To underline its ambitions FIGON recently
introduced a new house style. The logo and its
colours have been refreshed, aiming to further
establish the FIGON brand on a both national and
international level, with a strong position in in-
novative drug research and development.
Conceptuur 50 shows: FIGON fits the future and
is ready to go - with you!
On behalf of the Editorial Board of Conceptuur
Herman Woerdenbag, Marian van Opstal
Henk Smid, ZonMw
Bridging the gap between industry and science page 21
Hugo Hurts, Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport
Stimulating innovation is a multi-faceted task page 23
Figon and its participants page 12
From basic concepts to novel medicines
The FIGON network covers the full spectrum
of the drug discovery and development cycle.
From target discovery to drug efficacy in
humans and feed back from clinical experience
to renewed concepts.
Overview of FIGON participants page 14
Current FIGON activities
Each FIGON activity is guided by a dedicated committee.
The respective chairmen explain their aims, missions and plans.
Communication, Dick Meijer page 10
Conceptuur, Herman Woerdenbag
FIGON Medicines Days, Henk Timmerman page 18
Labtechniques in Drug Research, Mies van Steenbergen
Top Institute Pharma, Daan Crommelin page 20
Internationalization, Nico Vermeulen
Education, Paul Smits page 22
Innovation, Koen Wiedhaup
Looking back with Conceptuur pages 17, 24, 25
FIGON activities
Prizes and awards
Scientific research
Interview with three pioneers
The birth of a magazine page 26
FIGON
Drug
discovery
and
development
process
Target
discovery
Drug
effects and
disposition
Drug
efficacy
in
humans
Drug
delivery
Lead
finding/
drug
design
conceptuur
-
lookingbackwards
FIGON activities
FIGON is the national research platform for creating closer
and more structured collaboration between universities and
pharmaceutical companies. Many initiatives have strengthened
the FIGON network in the past years and have improved
the position of innovative drug research as a whole in our
country. In retrospect, Conceptuur provides a nice overview of
established successful activities.
TI Pharma
The first contract concerns
a public-private partner-
ship in which the different
parties will cooperate in the
development of an objec-
tive pain model. TI Pharma,
initiated by FIGON and
founded in July 2006, is a
national research network
consisting of industrial and
academic research teams.
The institute conducts
groundbreaking, cross-disciplinary research
and offers advanced training programs focused
on improving the efficiency of the entire proc-
ess of drug discovery and development. This
will eventually reduce the ‘time- & cost-to-pa-
tient’ of new medicines and contribute to the
well-being of society. TI Pharma devotes special
attention to the Priority Medicines project of the
World Health Organization.
www.tipharma.com
The first TI Pharma contract was signed in
December 2006 by PRA International, Organon
and the University of Groningen.
The annual FIGON Medicines
Days, initiated in 1999, is the
meeting place for medicine
research in the Netherlands. Academic and industrial scientists
engaged in new target finding and drug discovery can closely
interact with colleagues involved in the creation of new concepts
and technologies for
drug development. Such
professional interactions
should lead to a versatile
and flexible infrastructure
for knowledge transfer
between university and
industry.
www.figongmd.nl
Medicines days
FIGON Medicines Days are
growing every year.
The winner received the award in 2003 from Ad IJzerman (FIGON’s
president at that time) for his innovative work in the field of labora-
tory techniques and pharmaceutical analysis. The award ceremony
takes place during the annual FIGON meeting for laboratory workers.
This so-called lab day was initiated in 2001 and has led this year
to the foundation of LIMO (Lab technicians in Innovative Medicine
Research), a new FIGON body for laboratory workers. The former
lab day has been replaced now by an annual satellite symposium
during the FIGON Medicines Days. LIMO is a special organisation for
all lab workers who are engaged on the discovery and development
of new and innovative medicines. It
provides a network to exchange up
to date knowledge and to discuss
advances in the field of laboratory
techniques.
www.labtech.nl
Award for Technical Excellence
for Geert Gooris (r)
The brokerage events, so-called FIGON
colloquia, were initiated in 2001. They are
small scale private meetings aimed at
exchange of knowledge between university
and industry and, of special importance,
to stimulate business activity. The meeting
gives young scientists the opportunity
to show the company participants their
research qualities and ambitious ideas. The
presented projects turn out to be inspiring
for both parties and eventually can even
lead to strategic alliances.
Young academic researchers
show their creative ideas to
the industry
During the final Biopartner FSG/STIGON symposium (2007)
Henk Vietor, initator of Skyline Diagnostics, became the winner
of the BioBusiness Award. FIGON stimulates
researchers to consider a professional future
in entrepreneurship in the field of innovative
research and development. The ZonMW
incentive fund programme for innovative
drug research (STIGON) – later in cooperation
with Biopartner’s First Stage Grant – was
instrumental in supporting promising
business plans for instance. At present such
start-up funds in the field of life science are provided by STW
and TechnoPartner. Furthermore, FIGON is involved in organising
dedicated workshops aimed at PhD students, researchers and
post-docs to explore their interest in a career in business.
Entrepreneurship
BioBusiness
Start-up of
the year
Brokerage events
Association laboratory technicians
In the late nineteen eighties scientists associated in the
Dutch Society of Pharmaceutical Sciences (NVFW),
took the initiative to bring national drug research
activities together and to stimulate multidisciplinary
collaboration in the entire field. About 2000 scientists
joined strengths in the new platform PGON (Platform
voor Geneesmiddel Onderzoek Nederland). Nowadays,
these early inspiring initiatives have grown to a strong
and professional network, covering the complete field
of drug research and including scientists from
academia, industry, professional organisations and
government.
...to
professional network
1990
PASGON Report
An integral action
programme is launched
by PGON and
presented to the
government.
1993
Booz, Allen en Hamilton Report
The report –ordered by the Dutch
government– confirms the strong
Dutch position in the field of drug
research, suggests further
improvements and outlines
the strategic perspectives.
1994
First edition of the
periodical Conceptuur
Quarterly magazine covering
all aspects of drug research
and the developmental stage:
from scientific concept to
medical practice.
1995
NDRF:
New Drug Research Foundation
NDRF represents the research-
based pharmaceutical industry
and aims to accomplish
strategic alliances between
university and industry.
1996
STIGO: Stimulation
programme for Innovative
Drug Research
This NWO-development
programme comprises a budget
of ten million guilders aimed at
stimulating and initiating
innovative drug research.
1997
STIGO grants
Six major research projects
are granted by STIGO funds.
2003
FIGON competes for funding
by the Bsik programme
The proposal entails a
National Technology Platform
for Re-engineering Drug
Discovery which mainly
focuses on how to improve
drug discovery and shorten
the development stage.
2004
No, as to provide a grant
for FIGON’s Bsik proposal
The rejection, however, opened
the way to apply for a technological
top institute in the field of drug
research in the future.
NVFG participates in FIGON
NVFG is the association of
scientists, medical doctors and
pharmacists working in the
pharmaceutical industry.
Priority Medicines for the
citizens of Europe Report
The report, made up by the World
Health Organization, at the request
of the Dutch Ministry of Health,
favours the political climate to
establish a technological top
institute for innovative drug
research.
2005
Blue print for Top Institute
Pharma is launched
A dedicated FIGON task force is
established and negotiates with
academia, industry and govern-
ment for about one year to outline a
technological top institute in the
field of innovative drug research.
WINAp participates in FIGON
WINAp is the scientific institute from
the Royal Dutch Society for the
Advancement of Pharmacy (KNMP).
2006
Top Institute Pharma is established
The institute is based on a public
private partnership, in which the
Dutch government will invest 130
million Euros over a four year period,
while the same amount will be
contributed by participating academic
institutes and the industry.
2007
Conceptuur special
number 50 is launched
The 50th edition presents
‘all about FIGON’ and
illustrates the creation
and state of art of the
current organization.
1988
PGON:
Dutch Platform for Drug Research
Joint organization of scientists, which
includes national associations of
pharmaceutical scientists (NVFW),
pharmacologists (NVF), clinical
pharmacologists (NVKF&B)
and medicinal chemists (KNCV,
medicinal chemistry section). 1999
FIGON merges with NDRF
The merger results in an
even broader multidisciplinary
platform for innovative drug
research and now represents
academic sciences, research-
based pharmaceutical industry
and government.
No, as to becoming a ‘Drug
Research Sciences domain’
within NWO
NWO dismisses FIGON’s
request to found a dedicated
fundamental research
programme in the field of
Drug Innovation Sciences.
First FIGON Medicines Days
The launch of an annual event
for and by all scientists and
companies in the field of
innovative drug research.
A rapidly growing event which
has its ninth edition in 2007.
STIGON: Stimulation
programme for Innovative
Drug Research and
Entrepreneurship
The national research
programme represents a
dedicated NWO programme
–funded with 20 million
guilders– aimed at stimulating
drug development and
entrepreneurship on the basis
of fundamental research
concepts.
From inspiring
initiatives...
1998
FIGON is founded
PGON becomes FIGON
(Netherlands Federation for
Innovative Drug Research)
and it extends rapidly through
the participation of academic
research schools, clinical
research organisations,
pharmaceutical/biotechnology
companies and the
government (NWO).
2000
The FIGON plan of action
launched
• Enhancing interactions
between various actors.
• Establishing FIGON as
a sparring partner
for the government.
• Encouraging entrepre-
neurship and business
development.
2001
First FIGON colloquium
A regularly held private
brokerage event for
pharmaceutical companies
and young top talent
in drug research.
2002
First FIGON Labday
The launch of an annual
event for and by laboratory
workers in the field of
innovative drug research
to exchange personal
experience and technical
know how.
FIGON further strengthens its
organization
FIGON has grown into a multidisci-
plinary collaboration supported by
about 5000 academic and industrial
scientists. The platform aims to extend
its facilitating activities to stimulate
drug innovation and public health.
ConCeptuurno 50september 2007 5
netherlands federation for innovative drug researCh conceptuur - preface
fIGon specIal Issue
Strong fundaments for
groundbreaking research
Innovative drug discovery is a multidisciplinary, science-based activity, which
is very important for today’s society. First of all, recent breakthroughs in the
field of genetics, genomics, miniaturisation and information technologies
are expected to drive the development of new therapies for thusfar incurable
diseases. An ageing population in most of the developed countries will
further increase the demand for novel pharmacotherapeutics and medical
technologies.
Secondly, a top-of-the-bill research infrastructure focused on drug discovery
is crucial to establish high level education and training programmes and is
considered a prerequisite for building a knowledge-intensive economy.
Thirdly, the competitiveness of our economy is dependent on the presence of
industry sectors with a high value-added, such as the pharmaceutical industry.
The fact that the pharma sector is investing up to 20% of its revenues in
R&D and is creating many jobs for high level professionals, makes it almost
imperative for the Netherlands to embed the sector, preferably within its
research society.
FIGON has been very successful in promoting drug discovery and the
establishment of a Top Institute Pharma (TI Pharma) on the basis of the above-
mentioned benefits. This institute has been designed around top quality
research by lining up academic research programmes with the priorities of the
(pharma) industry and its active participation.
For the management of Organon it has been a top priority for many years to
build a top quality research infrastructure in the Netherlands and to embed
Organon’s R&D by active participation. The set-up of TI Pharma, therefore, can
be considered a landmark to improve the research environment in Pharma in
the Netherlands.
Because of this, it is my great pleasure to congratulate FIGON with the role it
has played to successfully launch TI Pharma. This has been a major milestone,
which coincides with the celebration around this 50th volume of FIGON’s
quarterly “Conceptuur”.
Hans Wijers
Hans Wijers,
CEO of Akzo Nobel:
‘A top-of-the-bill
research
infrastructure is
crucial’
ConCeptuurno 50september 20076
interview
FiGOn special issue
“We keep repeating our mission:
together we can make better
medicines”
Most foreigners see a na-
tional umbrella organiza-
tion in drug research as
a mission impossible,” explains Ad
IJzerman, president of FIGON from
2000-2003. “When I’m abroad, I’m
often asked how the Dutch managed
to get academic and industrial scien-
tists from all disciplines under the um-
brella of the Netherlands Federation
for Innovative Drug Research. They
would certainly like to have a similar
organization, but see too many ob-
stacles on the way. Only then do you
realise just how unique FIGON is.”
Umbrella
The Federation was established in
1998 through a merger of several ac-
ademic and industrial scientific socie-
ties. Its mission was and is to be the
contact point for drug research in the
Netherlands and the discussion part-
ner for health authorities and govern-
ment organizations on drug research
related items. FIGON unites scientists
from all disciplines involved in drug
research, from academic chemists,
biologists and pharmacologists to
epidemiologists, clinical trial doctors
and industrial researchers. Thereby
FIGON covers the drug development
process from academic concept to
commercial application. Since 1998
four presidents have reigned over the
umbrella organization, Dick Meijer
(1998-2000), Ad IJzerman (2001-2003),
Frans Nijkamp (2004-2005) and Dick
de Zeeuw (2006-present).
“It took almost ten years of hard
work to get all the scientists aboard
FIGON,” explains co-founder and
first president Dick Meijer, Professor
of Pharmacokinetics at the University
of Groningen. “The Federation finally
obtained the critical mass necessary
“All that FIGON has achieved could be realised because the organization represents all that is
active in innovative drug research,” stresses the first president Dick Meijer. Current president
Dick de Zeeuw agrees: “This unique platform gives the Netherlands a head start in drug
research and makes a leading position in the world possible.”
by Marga van Zundert
to be seen as a mature consultation
partner for government organiza-
tions. Suddenly, we were welcome
at the ministries of education, health
and economics to talk about our
plans and ideas.” Meijer enjoyed
the time in which these doors were
opened. “Many times I was told that
it was impossible to tie the field to-
gether and indeed the tendency of
all groups to build walls around their
discipline was a bottleneck.” How
did Meijer succeed in finally knock-
ing down the walls? “By passionately
and persistently repeating our mis-
sion: the belief that together we could
make better medicines and thereby
a better world. And... I was certainly
not the only man on a mission. Credit
goes to other people such as Henk
Timmerman, Koen Wiedhaup, Jaap
Wilting, Daan Crommelin, Douwe
Breimer, and many, many more.”
Painting
After three years, Dick Meijer –“it
was time to make room for the next
generation”– handed the president’s
hammer to Ad IJzerman, Professor
of Medicinal Chemistry at Leiden
University. IJzerman: “Dick had laid
solid foundations for the FIGON
house and started building it. I added
a few rooms and painted the front
nicely.” The Federation grew further in
this period by attracting new partici-
pant organizations such as ACRON,
the Association of Clinical Research
Organizations in the Netherlands, and
BioFarmind, the Dutch Foundation of
Pharmaceutical Biotechnology. New
activities were started such as the
‘Labday’, a yearly meeting for labo-
ratory technicians involved in drug
research. And FIGON organized two
colloquia in which young talented sci-
entists presented their research and
themselves to the industry, which re-
sulted in many research contracts.
The four presidents’ interview
netherlands federation for innovative drug researCh
Professor Dick Meijer,
cofounder and first
president (1998-2000):
“I enjoyed the time in
which the doors to the
ministries of education,
health and economics
were opened to talk
about our plans and
ideas.”
Foto: Henx Fotografie, Groningen
ConCeptuurno 50september 2007 7
interview
FiGOn special issue
“Being the FIGON president is
certainly worth the effort,” finds
IJzerman. “You represent the field in
an effort to bring it to a higher plan.
You meet many people, and have
many interesting conversations. It
broadens one’s view and gives one a
comprehensive insight into the entire
field of drug research. And because
you represent so many scientists, you
are taken seriously. Moreover, I have
very pleasant memories of the steer-
ing committee meetings.” However,
there were disappointments. “We
were lobbying for a subsidy within the
BSIK programme to set up joint re-
search programs between academia
and industry. One of the govern-
ment authorities we visited was the
CPB (the Netherlands Bureau for
Economic Policy Analysis ed). We
received a very cool reception from
two young public servants. They said
drug development could be done as
well in the USA. ‘Why support the
pharmaceutical industry? We don’t
support the Dutch shipping industry
either’, they told us. They completely
brushed aside the fact that our plans
concerned fundamental, preclinical
research on highly important or ne-
glected diseases. We were seen rath-
er as straw puppets of the pharma-
ceutical industry. Although we were
“We keep repeating our mission:
together we can make better
medicines”
very disappointed at the time, looking
back now, it was just one of the nec-
essary steps in convincing the outside
world of FIGON’s good intentions.”
Crown jewel
In 2004, Frans Nijkamp, Professor of
Pharmacology at Utrecht University,
pocketed the crown jewel of FIGON: a
national research institute in drug re-
search. TI Pharma is the long desired
network organization bringing together
academic and industrial scientists in
pre-competitive research projects for
new medicines. Nijkamp: “Realizing
TI Pharma was the clear and present
goal of my presidency. A tough task,
but we succeeded, which allows me
to look back with great satisfaction.”
Nijkamp travelled all over the country
with Hans van den Berg from the phar-
maceutical company Organon and
Stefan Ellenbroek of ZonMW (Dutch
Organization for Health Research and
Development) at his side. They talked
to universities’ board members, minis-
ters, and CEOs. Nijkamp: “I have met
many, many people and learned that
one can reach a lot with persistence
and strategy: talking to the right peo-
ple at the right moment. But also by
truly taking to heart the criticism you
receive and remaining open to sug-
gestions.”
TI Pharma was officially launched in
July 2006 and will conduct fundamen-
tal, cross-disciplinary research and
offer advanced training programs fo-
cused on improving the efficiency of
netherlands federation for innovative drug researCh
Foto: Arno Massée
Professor Frans
Nijkamp, FIGON’s
president from 2004
to 2005: “Realizing TI
Pharma - the long desired
annexe to the FIGON
house - was the clear
goal of my presidency.
Professor Ad
IJzerman, FIGON’s
president from
2001 to 2003: “The
founders laid a solid
basis for the FIGON
house and then
started building it. I
added a few rooms
and painted the
front nicely.”
Foto: Arno Massée
ConCeptuurno 50september 20078
netherlands federation for innovative drug researChinterview
FiGOn special issue
the entire drug development process.
It is the long desired annexe to the
FIGON house. How did Nijkamp suc-
ceed in catching the crown jewel? “By
hard work and the support of many
people. But you may also say that
people were ripe for it. The Federation
had been sending out its vision of a
national research institute for many
years.”
Back to basics
“The Netherlands now comes fourth
in article citations in drug research.
That’s remarkably high for such a
small country,” points out current
FIGON president Dick de Zeeuw,
Professor of Clinical Pharmacology
at the University Medical Center
Groningen. “I think this top position
is thanks to the Dutch knowledge of
infrastructure. Scientists from all dis-
ciplines are in close contact through
FIGON and other initiatives. This gives
the Netherlands a head start, because
today most new medicines result from
research at the boundaries of disci-
plines. I even think a higher position
is possible. We should go for number
one.”
Reinforcing FIGON’s platform func-
tion is De Zeeuw’s assignment. “In
recent years, the Federation put a lot
of effort into establishing its research
top institute. But FIGON is much more
than the vehicle towards TI Pharma. It
is the advocate of the field, a knowl-
edge broker and the forum to meet
the research partners you need.” De
Zeeuw reorganized the Federation
in order to create a truly ‘bottom-up
organization’. Representatives of all
participant organizations now form
the general board. “FIGON is their
platform. They set out the strategy,
formulate their goals and needs, and
initiate new activities. My job is to
stimulate and activate everyone - to
create the necessary dynamics.”
De Zeeuw enjoys his presidency
foremostly because of working with
so many people from different back-
grounds. “Often I’m on the train at six
in the morning to get to a meeting on
time. It may be with medical directors
from the Dutch pharmaceutical com-
panies, but it could also be a confer-
ence with laboratory technicians or
people at the Ministry of Education.
Recently, I was chairman at the kick-
off meeting of the Dutch Clinical Trial
Foundation at a nice little castle. It’s
hard work, but it is also very instruc-
tive and enjoyable.” It can’t all be fun?
“No, what remains really cumbersome
is finding a permanent financial basis
for our efforts. I almost need to beg
for every penny we spend!”
Golden jubilee
All the presidents read Conceptuur.
How well? “I’m a research freak,” ad-
mits IJzerman. “I read the research
news and, if I have enough time, the
articles on research policy.” Meijer:
“I devour all the articles on modern
techniques: genomics, proteomics
etcetera. Of course I read the articles
on drug targeting, my own research
field and also the basic research news
on very different topics. Conceptuur
shows how broad and interesting drug
research is. Especially for young peo-
ple it is good to realize that. You need
to create an aerial view to stay critical
in one’s own field and make the right
connections between the fields.”
Finally, do the former presidents
have any good advice for the coming
years? Nijkamp: “FIGON may play a
role in establishing a European plat-
form on drug research. Such a net-
work organization can be very func-
tional for large research projects. I
think the Federation can set a prece-
dent in Europe.” Meijer: “An organiza-
tion such as FIGON is never finished.
The current focus on making it a more
facilitating organization is logical.
But at the same time, FIGON needs
to form a global view by focusing on
Priority Medicines – also for the third
world – and keep fundamental and
independent academic research very
high on the list.” IJzerman: “In the
coming years, TI Pharma and FIGON
will need to define their position. The
Federation needs to concentrate on
its contacts with the government and
the integrating activities for its par-
ticipants. I’m convinced that FIGON is
and remains in good hands.”
Professor Dick
de Zeeuw, current
president since 2006:
“Often I’m in the train at
six in the morning to get
to a meeting in time. It
may be to talk with the
medical directors from
Dutch pharmaceutical
companies, but it could
also be a deliberation
with people from
ministries.”
Foto: Henx Fotografie, Groningen
ConCeptuurno 50september 2007 9
netherlands federation for innovative drug researCh vision and opinion
FiGon special issue
to breakthrough tools for developing new treatments is an
essential step in providing patients with more timely, af-
fordable and predictable access to new therapies”.
Unique
Interestingly enough, the FDA-report
called for public private partnerships
to make drug research and develop-
ment more successful. And that is
exactly what has happened in the
Netherlands with the recent estab-
lishment of TI Pharma. The Dutch
National Innovation Platform iden-
tified the life sciences as a major
strength and pointed to the pharma-
ceutical sector as having the most
promising potential for valorisation of research results. The
strong organizational structure in academia, as represented
by FIGON, was considered an asset to build upon. So a very
substantial subsidy by the Dutch government was made
available in 2006 for the generation and development of in-
novative medicines, requiring co-investment by participating
academic groups and the industry.
TI Pharma is a unique initiative which draws world-wide at-
tention and represents a major challenge for the Dutch phar-
maceutical scene to turn it into a success and to become an
example to be followed elsewhere
.
The benefits of a good umbrella
F
IGON, its magazine Conceptuur and the annual
Dutch Medicines Days represent a very important
recent development and success story in drug re-
search in the Netherlands. They are built on strong re-
search disciplines organized in scientific societies and on
university based research schools with a strong drug re-
search component that have developed over the last 15
years. Some 25 years ago drug research and education
were segregated into disciplinary departments of which the
primary mission was to teach the basic principles of each
discipline: e.g. pharmacology to medical and pharmacy
students. During the 1980s pharmaceutical sciences in a
much broader sense came into bloom, as was the realization
of research programmes that comprised the whole drug
development track from discovery to clinical application.
Innovation was no longer associated only with target and
drug discovery, but equally important were new concepts
in pharmacokinetics, in pharmacodynamics, in drug me-
tabolism, in drug delivery and targeting, in (pre)clinically
efficacy and safety assessment, in epidemiology and in
the scientific basis for drug registration. New insights orig-
inating from the life sciences were rapidly adopted and
applied to drug research. It was broadly believed that the
revolution in the life sciences would give rise to a far more
successful drug research and development process and
to numerous innovative medicines.
Multidisciplinary
In this climate FIGON came into exist-
ence to establish a multidisciplinary plat-
form for the dissemination of relevant in-
formation on all aspects of drug research
and development and also to contribute
to the training of a new generation of
scientists. Conceptuur became a widely
appreciated vehicle for the publication of
relevant developments and the Medicines
Days became highly frequented, in par-
ticular by young scientists.
However, the generation of truly innovative medicines
has not yet materialized to the extent predicted. In 2004
the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published
a White Paper on this subject entitled Innovation or
Stagnation. Challenge and Opportunity on the Critical Path
to New Medical Products. This report states that “there is
a serious disconnection between discovery and he prod-
uct development proces, the steps involved in tuning new
laboratory discoveries into treatments that are safe and
effective”. Furthermore, it emphasizes that “directing re-
search not only to new medical breakthroughs, but also
The establishment of FIGON as an umbrella
organization to include all relevant aspects
of drug research, development and use
was a visionary move which brings benefit
to both academia and industry. And – most
importantly – to patients.
Realization of research
programmes that comprise
the whole drug development
track from discovery to
clinical application
Douwe Breimer
Professor of Pharmacology and Therapeutics,
Leiden University
ConCeptuurno 50september 200710 FIGON specIal Issue
“FIGON should be a professional instrument
for its members in daily practise”
FIGON was originally set up as the
umbrella organization for different
research institutes, scientific associa-
tions and industries in the field of drug
research in the Netherlands,” says Dick
Meijer, chairman of the Communication
Committee and former founding presi-
dent of FIGON. “It had to prevent frag-
mentation and overlap of activities in the
field of drug innovation and represent
the entire field to the policy makers.”
Since its foundation, FIGON has
achieved a lot: a dedicated website, the
annual Dutch Medicine Days, the crea-
tion of the national Top Institute Pharma,
and the distribution of a professional
magazine ‘Conceptuur’, that is published
four times a year. However the role of
FIGON is now in a process of change;
it wants to become more a facilitating
organization instead of only being an
umbrella organization. Also there are
still some minuses due to a less optimal
internal communication. Therefore this
committee was set up to improve both
internal and external communication.
“We have noticed that we still do not
reach a lot of our younger research-
ers like PhD-students, post-docs and
technicians,” says Meijer. “A lot of them
hardly seem to know FIGON or do not
recognize its added value.”
One of the actions therefore is to ex-
tend the mailing list of the periodical
Conceptuur considerably, in order to
reach this group and also to organ-
ize more thematic meetings for them.
Furthermore the website should not only
contain general information but also
serve as an inter-
active means of
communication.
Meijer explains:
“In this respect
we want to create a web portal to which
all our participating organizations will be
linked. This way we can offer all kinds of
facilities to our members. People from
the research groups and societies should
be able to exchange information, join
panel discussions, read about ongoing
research projects, subsidies, education
et cetera. Also we recently modified the
FIGON house style, including a con-
temporary logo. This new house style
is important for external communica-
tion and the building of a strong FIGON
brand which is recognized by all our
participants, the government as well as
external parties, also in the European
context.”
Dick Meijer, PhD is emeritus Professor of
Pharmacokinetics, University of Groningen
cOmmuNIcatION
FIGON
“Conceptuur is the means of
communicating the FIGON-feeling”
The first issue of Conceptuur was
already published a good 13 years
ago in 1994, when FIGON did not yet ex-
ist, and the separate associations joined
forces to make a newsletter. It was men-
tioned that Conceptuur is made for and
by scientists involved in drug research
in this first issue. “This is still true,”
says Herman Woerdenbag, the present
chairman of the editorial board which
he joined in 2000. “The primary aim is
to stimulate communication between
all the people working in the different
disciplines of drug re-
search, was stated in
the first Conceptuur.
Back then it was just
about research.
Since then we
have added the
political and
social context
and we try to
include current
affairs.”
Presently, Conceptuur has a circula-
tion of 3000 copies, distributed to all
the members of the FIGON partici-
pants. “The magazine is well-read and
well-received by our readers,” says
Woerdenbag. “We are also content with
the style of the text, very readable and
yet with enough scientific content. The
dedication of the enthusiastic edito-
rial team of participant members is
essential to Conceptuur. However, we
do not reach all of our potential audi-
ence. Researchers who are not mem-
bers of one of the scientific societies
for example, in general do not receive
Conceptuur. We would like to change
that by distributing the magazine via the
associated graduate schools and branch
organisations. Furthermore, we think
many participant members are not fully
aware of what FIGON is. If those people
start to realise that they are a part of it,
they will start to get the ‘FIGON-feeling’.
Conceptuur will hopefully become their
means of communication as a matter of
course.”
Starting with
this issue,
Conceptuur’s lay-
out is changed.
“Some colour
has been added,
which is good,” says Woerdenbag. “But
I feel Conceptuur should not be a glossy
magazine in which the images are more
important than the text.” More changes
are foreseen. “We are discussing a higher
frequency. In addition, a new website in-
cluding daily news updates would be won-
derful. The availability of sufficient financial
means in the future will be crucial to realize
this. Finally, the language is the subject
of some dispute. Should we switch to
English to reach an audience outside the
Netherlands? Or should we publish in
Dutch to make the magazine accessible
to the largest Dutch audience possible?”
Herman Woerdenbag, PhD is Research
Coordinator Pharmaceutical Sciences
and Policy Advisor Pharmacy Education,
University of Groningen
cONceptuur
INTERVIEW
Douwe Breimer
TI Pharma lecture
Plenary lectures
From academic
concept to commercial
application
Parallel meetings
• drug discovery
• bioinformatics
• regulatory affairs
• TI Pharma workshops
Oktober 2007 nummer 52
“We should focus
on unmet medical needs”
FIGON Medicines Days 2007
Dick Meijer,
chairman of the
Communication
Committee
Herman Woerdenbag,
chairman of the
Editorial Board of
Conceptuur
ConCeptuurno 50september 2007 11
netherlands federation for innovative drug researCh vision and opinion
FiGon special issue
Where only excellence counts
TI Pharma is a market place where academic and
industrial scientists meet. A rather unique experi-
ment when you look around the rest of the world;
and a daring experiment as well. When two cultures, the
academic and the industrial, meet usually a clash occurs
with an unpredictable outcome. In this case the expected
clash seems to be limited to engagements at the lawyer
fronts which prolong the start up phase, but do not block
the major drive to work together on new concepts for in-
novative drugs.
Now that TI Pharma has been established and will be
running for the next four to six years, it is time to look
ahead beyond that horizon and to prepare the appropriate
actions for continuing our strive to make the Netherlands
a – or even thecentre of excellence in the pharmaceuti-
cal sciences in Europe. What should be our target within
the profession of pharmaceutical scientists?
Measuring success
First of all, the coming years should prove that it is possi-
ble to ‘tap’ findings and insights from the academic world
to fuel industrial activities. Then, of course, the question
should be raised when can TI Pharma be considered suc-
cessful. What are the parameters to measure success?
Let me give you some critical outcome parameters.
If the group of interested industrial partners in TI Pharma
has grown over the years, if the academic partners have
been able to expand their research activities beyond the
normal level, if a new generation of pharmaceutical sci-
entists who are well aware of the intricacies of the drug
design and development have been trained, if spin outs
are realized, if a strong patent portfolio has been created,
if TI Pharma has been able to raise interest and funds to
tackle neglected diseases and if the institute is running a
successful, internationally acclaimed, education and train-
ing programme, then... TI Pharma can be considered a
success and a further continuation of the funding would
make sense.
Essential drivers
This means that FIGON’s role in organising the pharma-
ceutical sciences arena in our country is not over. Not at
all! FIGON and TI Pharma should pull together to make
all these ‘if’s’ happen. That will be good for our patients,
many of whom are waiting for better treatments. It will al-
so be good for the economy of the Netherlands, a country
expressing the will to run a knowledge-based economy.
And with respect to the latter: take into account that the
pharmaceutical industry is investing more in research and
development than any other industrial branch. Moreover,
one should realize that the pharmaceutical industry deliv-
ers the highest ‘value added per employee’, which indi-
cates the contribution to the economy less the costs of
all input. Thus, the Netherlands should step up its efforts
to bring its pharmaceutical-biomedical academic soci-
ety together with existing and new industrial activities.
Economically speaking that would be a wise decision.
TI Pharma and FIGON are essential drivers to make sure
that the societal and political climate is attractive enough
to make this happen. Let’s strive for excellence and show
that the Dutch pharmaceutical science world is a world
where only excellence counts.
FIGON was a major driver behind
the breakthrough in the funding of
pharmaceutical sciences in the Netherlands
and the founding of the Dutch Top Institute
Pharma, a public private partnership. This
cooperation should lead to new concepts for
effective and safe medicines.
The coming years should prove
that it is possible to ‘tap’ findings
and insights from the academic
world to fuel industrial activities
Daan Crommelin
Scientific Director TI Pharma, Leiden
ConCeptuurno 50september 200712
netherlands federation for innovative drug researChfigon participants
figon special issue
Together the 16 participating or-
ganizations within FIGON cov-
er the full spectrum of the drug
discovery and development cycle:
from academic concept to commercial
application, and feed back from clini-
cal experience to renewed concepts
(see Figure). The research schools
(being university research & educa-
tion institutes – ed) that participate
in FIGON are mostly involved in pre-
competitive, fundamental research
on mechanisms of drug action and
delivery. The five research schools
involved count over 1300 academic
scientists working in the Netherlands,
who try to unravel the molecular and
cellular mechanisms of diseases in or-
der to identify new drug targets: key
proteins or genes that underlie the
disease. By inhibiting, eliminating or –
on the contrary – by stimulating these
target molecules, the disease may be
slowed down or even be cured.
Each of the five research schools
has its own specialism. CARIM, the
Cardiovascular Research Institute
Maastricht, focuses on diseases
of the heart and general circula-
tion. The Rudolf Magnus Institute of
Neurosciences (RMI) in Utrecht con-
centrates on disorders of the nerv-
ous system. Utrecht Institute for
Pharmaceutical Sciences (UIPS) turns
its prime attention to disturbances
of the immune system and brain.
GUIDE, the Graduate School for Drug
Exploration in Groningen, studies a
selection of mainly chronic diseases
in the field of cardiovascular and renal
disease, asthma and COPD, liver and
metabolic diseases, as well as can-
cer. LACDR, the Leiden/Amsterdam
Center for Drug Research, investi-
gates a broad spectrum of disorders
including, for example, those of brain
function coupled to the central nerv-
ous system, drug delivery and ad-
vanced kinetic/dynamic modelling.
Soul
Dr. Jaap Wilting, managing director
of UIPS: “We are concerned with the
soul of medicines – the drug concept.
The product is less our business, we
leave that up to industry and the mar-
ket.” Innovative drug concepts must
imply that the research schools are al-
so multidisciplinary; apart from target
finding they address lead finding as
well as drug delivery and targeting. As
such, the research schools underline
the basic philosophy of FIGON which
is that innovative medicines are most
fruitfully created and explored by in-
tegrating knowledge of the various
disciplines in the drug development
cycle. All of the research schools em-
ploy basic researchers as well as clini-
cal scientists and epidemiologists.
Furthermore, the schools frequently
exchange knowledge, experts and
teaching personal, share facilities and
equipment (that is, if they are not too
heavily in competition) and form stra-
tegic alliances with national and inter-
national pharmaceutical companies.
‘From concept to valorisation’ as
UIPS puts it, ‘from molecule to pa-
tient’ as CARIM states or ‘from bed
to bench to drugs’ as GUIDE propa-
gates: it all reflects this integrative
approach. The latter graduate school
in Groningen has always been an en-
thusiastic advocate and trendsetter in
translational research: the feedback
from patient to concept (‘from bed
to bench’) is crucial here. Apart from
basic pharmaceutical research, pa-
tient-oriented research is a solid part
of GUIDE’s research strategy. New
pathophysiological concepts and ide-
as for drug intervention thus also arise
from systematic observation in the
medical practice.
To the research schools, FIGON is
first of all a platform to meet and ex-
change knowledge, but it is certainly
also a powerful lobby organisation.
They regard the establishment of the
national Top Institute Pharma in 2006
as FIGON’s finest result to date. The
Top Institute, set up by the Dutch in-
dustry and academia, has a budget of
260 million euro for fundamental drug
research in the coming four years.
Professor Han Moshage, director of
GUIDE: “FIGON was the incubator of
TI Pharma. Without FIGON the insti-
tute would not have been realized.”
Meetings
The Dutch are known to ‘polder’. Only
by extensive deliberation and con-
tinuously pursuing consensus could
the people join forces to create their
polders: the large parts of the coun-
try below the sea level surrounded
by dikes. Indeed, the Netherlands is
probably the country with the high-
est number of associations, debating
clubs, action groups and committees
per inhabitant.
Also the scientific community has its
From basic concepts
The Netherlands Federation for Innovative Drug Research brings 16 participants together.
These include research schools and institutes, scientific associations and professions,
government authorities and various industrial branch organizations in the field. Who are
they? And how do they contribute to innovative drug research?
FIGON and its participants
Knowledge exchange - A modern drug
scientist looks further than the borders of his
or her own discipline. Cross-fertilization and
interplay are vital in innovative drug research.
Political lobby - Together the Dutch drug
researchers form a strong lobby, as they
demonstrated by realising the Top Institute
Pharma.
Network - FIGON is the platform for making
contacts, for example during the FIGON
Medicines Days, the Labday or one of the
other special meetings.
Other reasons - Avoiding duplicate work,
exchanging professional lecturers, finding
potential research partners, identifying job
candidates, exchanging crucial research
materials or relevant literature, finding
educational training courses in the field, etc.
Why participate in FIGON?
by Marga van Zundert and Marian van Opstal
Valorise knowledge
to a maximum
ConCeptuurno 50september 2007 13
netherlands federation for innovative drug researCh figon participants
figon special issue
web of societies. Five of those partici-
pate in FIGON, where their members
meet and exchange knowledge and
expertise. Three of the societies are
associated with a particular scientific
discipline: the Dutch Pharmacological
Society (NVF) with its mission to pro-
mote and stimulate basic pharma-
cology in all its aspects, the Dutch
Society for Clinical Pharmacology &
Biopharmacy (NVKFB) with emphasis
on the fundamentals of drug applica-
tion in the clinical and biopharmaceu-
tical setting, as well as the Division
of Medicinal Chemistry of the Royal
Netherlands Chemical Society (KNCV)
that is engaged in modern drug de-
sign and synthesis.
The Dutch Society for Pharmaceutical
Sciences (NVFW) promotes the phar-
maceutical research, including drug
analysis, proteomics, pharmacology
and toxicology, drug and gene de-
livery as well as pharmaceutical (bio)
technology and epidemiology. The in-
tent of NVFW-activities is to optimise
the interplay between these different
research technologies and make them
available for advanced drug develop-
ment. The NVFW was also the prime
initiator of FIGON and a major co-
founder.
While the focus of the above men-
tioned four scientific societies is on
the scientific discipline, the fifth par-
ticipating society, the Netherlands
Association of Pharmaceutical
Physicians (NVFG), is a professional
association. It deals foremost with the
interests of the physicians in the phar-
maceutical industry who are engaged
in studies on the performance of new
drugs in the medical practice.
Together the five societies represent
about 1500 drug researchers (at uni-
versities, medical centres and indus-
try) and covers the entire spectrum
of drug development. The societies
advance drug research by organising
their own scientific meetings, lectures
and workshops, and provide research
grants and awards. Other activities
are aimed at strengthening the profes-
sional positions of drug researchers in
particular disciplines, for example by
certification and/or registration of the
profession and by (continuing) educa-
tion. Interestingly, the societies also
form an important platform for making
contact with colleagues abroad; many
are part of a European network or so-
ciety.
During the yearly FIGON Dutch
Medicines Days, the major three-day
FIGON-meeting, the scientific socie-
ties organize a number of parallel sym-
posia. Traditionally, the programmes
are set up by two or more societies
together or by a society in coopera-
tion with one of the other FIGON par-
ticipants. This is one of the ways in
which FIGON tries to reach its central
goal: creating the required synergy in
innovative drug research.
Industry, organisations and
institutes
While mechanistic and fundamental
drug research is the field dominated
by academic scientists, the other
stages of the drug development cycle
are traditionally the domain of indus-
trial scientists. This includes for ex-
ample the (large scale) high through-
Drug discovery and drug deve-
lopment is a matter of multidis-
ciplinary cooperation. Scientists
of all necessary disciplines
are represented in FIGON. The
platform is home to, in fact, all
organizations involved in in-
novative drug research. Among
them are university research
schools (CARIM, LACDR, UIPS,
GUIDE, RMI), scientific societies
(NVFW, NVF, KNCV, NVKF&B
and NVFG), scientific institutes
(TNO Pharma,WINAp), clinical
research organizations (ACRON),
industry (Nefarma, BioFarmind)
and government (ZonMw, Dutch
Organisation for Health Research
and Development).
>> Continued on page 16
to novel medicines
FIGON participants
join their strengths
Institutes, government
and branch organizations
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Academic
research schools
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NVF: Dutch Pharmacological
Society
1978
scientific society
250 pharmacologists
the fact that all FIGON-presidents thus far were
NVF-members
meetings, travel grants, awards, party for staff
and students
www.nvfarmaco.nl
“FIGON reduces the distances between
disciplines. The NVF, for example, organizes
activities together with the NVKFB at the
FIGON Medicines Days.
NVFG: Dutch Association of
Pharmaceutical Physicians
1962
professional association
500 professionals in pharmaceutical medicine
(about half of them physicians)
our register of pharmaceutical physicians,
a first step towards official registration
of the profession
continuing education, certification,
conferences
www.nvfg.nl
“The NVFG provides a continuing education
program for pharmaceutical physicians.”
NVFW: Dutch Society for
Pharmaceutical Sciences
1987
scientific society
250 professionals in pharmaceutical science
bringing disciplines together
meetings, workshops, FIGON PhD-student
contest
www.nvfw.nl
“NVFW organizes a vivid PhD-student contest,
in which the best students in pharmaceutical
sciences can present themselves.”
NVKFB: Dutch Society for Clinical
Pharmacology & Biopharmacy
1979
scientific society
300 physicians and pharmacists
the professional organization
meetings, education, award, certification,
ethics
www.nvkfb.nl
“The NVKFB is an active, growing society with
many young members, who see the society as
a perfect means to meet fellow scientists."
Devision of Medicinal Chemistry of the
Royal Netherlands Chemical Society
(KNCV)
1970
scientific society
375 medicinal chemists
the good reputation of the Dutch medicinal
chemistry
meetings, research award
www.kncv.nl/farmacochemie
“Our members are non-conformists, we tend to
seek out also the grey areas in drug research.”
Scientific societies
CARIM: Cardiovascular Research
Institute Maastricht
1988
research institute/graduate school
250 PhD-students, post-docs, lecturers and
professors
the quality of the people trained in Carim
research, education
www.carim.unimaas.nl
"The importance of our discipline for public
health is obvious. Cardiovascular disorders
cause about half of all mortalities."
GUIDE: Graduate School for Drug Exploration
1993
research institute/graduate school
450 PhD-students, post-docs, lecturers and
professors
our truly multi-disciplinary approach in Groningen:
pharmacologists, pharmaceutical scientists and
clinical researchers working under one roof
basic and clinical research, education
www.rug.nl/guide
"Our top master students are ambitious,
collaborative but independent, critical, open
and well-prepared.
LACDR: Leiden/Amsterdam
Center for Drug Research
1991
research institute/graduate school
250 PhD-students, post-docs, lecturers and
professors
the long lasting success of the joint venture
between Leiden and Amsterdam
research, education
www.lacdr.nl
“We cover the total drug discovery and development
field from target finding until proof of concept.”
UIPS: Utrecht Institute for
Pharmaceutical Sciences
1992
research school/graduate school
220 PhD-students, post-docs, lecturers and
professors
Our top publications in pharmaceutical and
biomedical science
academic research, education
www.pharm.uu.nl/uips
“When courses and research programs of the
Dutch research schools are geared to each
other, we may prevent double work.”
RMI: Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neurosciences
1998
Research institute/graduate school
320 PhD-students, post-docs, lecturers and
professors
our top neuroimaging and neurogenetics
facilities that connect fundamental and clinical
research
academic research, education
www.rudolfmagnus.nl
“FIGON makes contact with any kind of
specialist in the field of drug research easy.
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ACRON: Association of Clinical
Research Organizations in the Netherlands
1995
branch organisation
33 clinical research organisations
being seen as a discussion partner
by the authorities
meetings, advice, communication
with authorities, codes of conduct
www.acron.nl
“A good climate in innovative drug
research in the Netherlands is also
in our interest.”
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ZonMw: Dutch Organization for
Health Research and Development
2001
funding of research
the Dutch government in FIGON
the results of our programs
grants, research program
coordination, workshops
www.zonmw.nl
“Using knowledge to the max
- valorisation - is our device in order
to keep people as healthy as
possible for as long as possible.”
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TNO Pharma
1990
contract research
drug scientists
our models for translational
research in vascular diseases
contract research
www.tno.nl/pharma
“By organizing the drug
research field, FIGON largely
facilitates finding the right
knowledge and partners.”
Established:
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Representing:
Proud of:
Activities:
More information:
Quote:
BioFarmind: Dutch Foundation
of Pharmaceutical Biotechnology
1998
branch organisation
110 companies and organisations in
pharmaceutical biotechnology
being invited by the minister of public health to
discuss the developments in the branch
political lobby, research programs, seminars
www.biofarmind.nl
“Our members vary from small start-up
companies to multinationals. The variety turns out
to stimulate cooperation.”
Established:
Organization type:
Representing:
Proud of:
Activities:
More information:
Quote:
Nefarma: Netherlands
Pharmaceutical Industry Association
1976
branch organisation
40 pharmaceutical companies
our contributions to create a more
factual picture of the pharmaceutical industry
political lobby, communication, meetings,
newsletter
www.nefarma.nl
“The enthusiasm of innovative scientists is
contagious. It leads to enthusiastic clinical
researchers, doctors and patients.”
WINAp: Scientific Institute of Dutch
Pharmacists
1996
branch organization
4500 pharmacists
the Laboratory of Dutch Pharmacists (LNA)
that formulates essential medicines not
available on the market
registration, education, network, communication
www.winap.nl
“Pharmacists are close to the patient. To gain a
maximum efficiency from innovative and often
individualized medicines, we need to be involved.”
Established:
Organization type:
Representing:
Proud of:
Activities:
More information:
Quote:
?
Key question in this phase is: do we understand the
molecular mechanisms underlying the disease? Since
multi-target drug approaches will gain significance, it is
necessary to elucidate genomic correlations, to identify
the related proteins and their interactive cellular
networks.
Based on crucial target information,
new drug entities (lead molecules)
have to be designed and prepared,
using computational methods,
library approaches and/or individual
synthesis. It is essential to obtain
both small and large lead
molecules, novel synthetic building
blocks along with new (pro-)drug
modalities.
In this phase, the focus is on the
cellular and molecular charac-
terisation of both intended as
well as unintended drug effects
and metabolism. Advanced in
vivo and in vitro technologies are
needed to unravel the interac-
tions of the drug with bio-
systems, and to relate this to the
pharmaco-dynamic, kinetic and
toxicological properties of
candidate drugs.
The ambition of the joint FIGON participants
is to carry out high quality fundamental and
translational research in drug innovation.
This is done by stretching and synergizing
the pictured five key activities in the
dynamic continuum of drug discovery and
development.
In this crucial stage, potential drugs are
tested first on healthy individuals and
finally, on patient populations to study
their therapeutic value and safety
(clinical trials). Pharmaco-genetics,
Clinical Pharmacology, Pharmaco-
epidemiology and Pharmaco-economics
are key disciplines to establish the
cost/benefit relation of the drug
candidate in health care.
Drug
discovery
and
development
process
In this development phase,
investigation is done into how
the bioactive molecules can be
optimally delivered to their
target sites in the body, using
various administration routes
and dosage formulations.
Advanced drug delivery and
targeting systems are crucial
here to exploit the full therapeu-
tic potential of biopharmaceuti-
cals like proteins, antibodies,
antigens, genes and siRNA.
1. Target discovery
3. Drug effects
and disposition
5. Drug efficacy
in humans
4. Drug
delivery
2. Lead finding/
drug design
Institutes, government
and branch organizations
Established:
Organization type:
Representing:
Proud of:
Activities:
More information:
Quote:
Established:
Organization type:
Representing:
Proud of:
Activities:
More information:
Quote:
Established:
Organization type:
Representing:
Proud of:
Activities:
More information:
Quote:
Established:
Organization type:
Representing:
Proud of:
Activities:
More information:
Quote:
Established:
Organization type:
Representing:
Proud of:
Activities:
More information:
Quote:
Academic
research schools
Established:
Organization type:
Representing:
Proud of:
Activities:
More information:
Quote:
Established:
Organization type:
Representing:
Proud of:
Activities:
More information:
Quote:
Established:
Organization type:
Representing:
Proud of:
Activities:
More information:
Quote:
Established:
Organization type:
Representing:
Proud of:
Activities:
More information:
Quote:
Established:
Organization type:
Representing:
Proud of:
Activities:
More information:
Quote:
NVF: Dutch Pharmacological
Society
1978
scientific society
250 pharmacologists
the fact that all FIGON-presidents thus far were
NVF-members
meetings, travel grants, awards, party for staff
and students
www.nvfarmaco.nl
“FIGON reduces the distances between
disciplines. The NVF, for example, organizes
activities together with the NVKFB at the
FIGON Medicines Days.
NVFG: Dutch Association of
Pharmaceutical Physicians
1962
professional association
500 professionals in pharmaceutical medicine
(about half of them physicians)
our register of pharmaceutical physicians,
a first step towards official registration
of the profession
continuing education, certification,
conferences
www.nvfg.nl
“The NVFG provides a continuing education
program for pharmaceutical physicians.”
NVFW: Dutch Society for
Pharmaceutical Sciences
1987
scientific society
250 professionals in pharmaceutical science
bringing disciplines together
meetings, workshops, FIGON PhD-student
contest
www.nvfw.nl
“NVFW organizes a vivid PhD-student contest,
in which the best students in pharmaceutical
sciences can present themselves.”
NVKFB: Dutch Society for Clinical
Pharmacology & Biopharmacy
1979
scientific society
300 physicians and pharmacists
the professional organization
meetings, education, award, certification,
ethics
www.nvkfb.nl
“The NVKFB is an active, growing society with
many young members, who see the society as
a perfect means to meet fellow scientists."
Devision of Medicinal Chemistry of the
Royal Netherlands Chemical Society
(KNCV)
1970
scientific society
375 medicinal chemists
the good reputation of the Dutch medicinal
chemistry
meetings, research award
www.kncv.nl/farmacochemie
“Our members are non-conformists, we tend to
seek out also the grey areas in drug research.”
Scientific societies
CARIM: Cardiovascular Research
Institute Maastricht
1988
research institute/graduate school
250 PhD-students, post-docs, lecturers and
professors
the quality of the people trained in Carim
research, education
www.carim.unimaas.nl
"The importance of our discipline for public
health is obvious. Cardiovascular disorders
cause about half of all mortalities."
GUIDE: Graduate School for Drug Exploration
1993
research institute/graduate school
450 PhD-students, post-docs, lecturers and
professors
our truly multi-disciplinary approach in Groningen:
pharmacologists, pharmaceutical scientists and
clinical researchers working under one roof
basic and clinical research, education
www.rug.nl/guide
"Our top master students are ambitious,
collaborative but independent, critical, open
and well-prepared.
LACDR: Leiden/Amsterdam
Center for Drug Research
1991
research institute/graduate school
250 PhD-students, post-docs, lecturers and
professors
the long lasting success of the joint venture
between Leiden and Amsterdam
research, education
www.lacdr.nl
“We cover the total drug discovery and development
field from target finding until proof of concept.”
UIPS: Utrecht Institute for
Pharmaceutical Sciences
1992
research school/graduate school
220 PhD-students, post-docs, lecturers and
professors
Our top publications in pharmaceutical and
biomedical science
academic research, education
www.pharm.uu.nl/uips
“When courses and research programs of the
Dutch research schools are geared to each
other, we may prevent double work.”
RMI: Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neurosciences
1998
Research institute/graduate school
320 PhD-students, post-docs, lecturers and
professors
our top neuroimaging and neurogenetics
facilities that connect fundamental and clinical
research
academic research, education
www.rudolfmagnus.nl
“FIGON makes contact with any kind of
specialist in the field of drug research easy.
Established:
Organization type:
Representing:
Proud of:
Activities:
More information:
Quote:
ACRON: Association of Clinical
Research Organizations in the Netherlands
1995
branch organisation
33 clinical research organisations
being seen as a discussion partner
by the authorities
meetings, advice, communication
with authorities, codes of conduct
www.acron.nl
“A good climate in innovative drug
research in the Netherlands is also
in our interest.”
Established:
Organization type:
Representing:
Proud of:
Activities:
More information:
Quote:
ZonMw: Dutch Organization for
Health Research and Development
2001
funding of research
the Dutch government in FIGON
the results of our programs
grants, research program
coordination, workshops
www.zonmw.nl
“Using knowledge to the max
- valorisation - is our device in order
to keep people as healthy as
possible for as long as possible.”
Established:
Organization type:
Representing:
Proud of:
Activities:
More information:
Quote:
TNO Pharma
1990
contract research
drug scientists
our models for translational
research in vascular diseases
contract research
www.tno.nl/pharma
“By organizing the drug
research field, FIGON largely
facilitates finding the right
knowledge and partners.”
Established:
Organization type:
Representing:
Proud of:
Activities:
More information:
Quote:
BioFarmind: Dutch Foundation
of Pharmaceutical Biotechnology
1998
branch organisation
110 companies and organisations in
pharmaceutical biotechnology
being invited by the minister of public health to
discuss the developments in the branch
political lobby, research programs, seminars
www.biofarmind.nl
“Our members vary from small start-up
companies to multinationals. The variety turns out
to stimulate cooperation.”
Established:
Organization type:
Representing:
Proud of:
Activities:
More information:
Quote:
Nefarma: Netherlands
Pharmaceutical Industry Association
1976
branch organisation
40 pharmaceutical companies
our contributions to create a more
factual picture of the pharmaceutical industry
political lobby, communication, meetings,
newsletter
www.nefarma.nl
“The enthusiasm of innovative scientists is
contagious. It leads to enthusiastic clinical
researchers, doctors and patients.”
WINAp: Scientific Institute of Dutch
Pharmacists
1996
branch organization
4500 pharmacists
the Laboratory of Dutch Pharmacists (LNA)
that formulates essential medicines not
available on the market
registration, education, network, communication
www.winap.nl
“Pharmacists are close to the patient. To gain a
maximum efficiency from innovative and often
individualized medicines, we need to be involved.”
Established:
Organization type:
Representing:
Proud of:
Activities:
More information:
Quote:
?
Key question in this phase is: do we understand the
molecular mechanisms underlying the disease? Since
multi-target drug approaches will gain significance, it is
necessary to elucidate genomic correlations, to identify
the related proteins and their interactive cellular
networks.
Based on crucial target information,
new drug entities (lead molecules)
have to be designed and prepared,
using computational methods,
library approaches and/or individual
synthesis. It is essential to obtain
both small and large lead
molecules, novel synthetic building
blocks along with new (pro-)drug
modalities.
In this phase, the focus is on the
cellular and molecular charac-
terisation of both intended as
well as unintended drug effects
and metabolism. Advanced in
vivo and in vitro technologies are
needed to unravel the interac-
tions of the drug with bio-
systems, and to relate this to the
pharmaco-dynamic, kinetic and
toxicological properties of
candidate drugs.
The ambition of the joint FIGON participants
is to carry out high quality fundamental and
translational research in drug innovation.
This is done by stretching and synergizing
the pictured five key activities in the
dynamic continuum of drug discovery and
development.
In this crucial stage, potential drugs are
tested first on healthy individuals and
finally, on patient populations to study
their therapeutic value and safety
(clinical trials). Pharmaco-genetics,
Clinical Pharmacology, Pharmaco-
epidemiology and Pharmaco-economics
are key disciplines to establish the
cost/benefit relation of the drug
candidate in health care.
Drug
discovery
and
development
process
In this development phase,
investigation is done into how
the bioactive molecules can be
optimally delivered to their
target sites in the body, using
various administration routes
and dosage formulations.
Advanced drug delivery and
targeting systems are crucial
here to exploit the full therapeu-
tic potential of biopharmaceuti-
cals like proteins, antibodies,
antigens, genes and siRNA.
1. Target discovery
3. Drug effects
and disposition
5. Drug efficacy
in humans
4. Drug
delivery
2. Lead finding/
drug design
ConCeptuurno 50september 200716
netherlands federation for innovative drug researChfigon participants
figon special issue
put screening for pharmacologically
active molecules, lead optimisation,
final drug formulation and (pre)clinical
trials. New methods and techniques
used in these research disciplines are
often developed by academia, but it
is the industrial scientist who creates
the new medicines to be introduced
on the market.
These industrial drug scientists are
re
presented in FIGON by several spe-
cialized branch organizations. FIGON-
participant BioFarmind is an umbrella
organization for industrial pharmaceuti-
cal biotechnology. As many new drugs
are now produced in a biotechnology
setting, the emerging role of this fast-
growing discipline in drug research is
self-evident. The organisation repre-
sents over 110 biotechnological com-
panies and organizations in the coun-
try, covering a vast range of techniques
and facilities to study and produce the
so called biologics. Apart from pro-
moting this industrial activity, another
goal of BioFarmind is informing policy-
makers and the general public about
the benefits of modern biotechnology.
In 1998, they joined FIGON. The di-
rect reason was evident: all of its daily
partners in science were FIGON-par-
ticipants. By joining the platform they
intensified and strengthened their pro-
fessional network.
The phase one and two drug re-
searchers are organized in ACRON,
the Association of Clinical Research
Organizations in the Netherlands.
Their task in the drug development
cycle is that of testing promising drug
candidates for safety and efficacy.
ACRON represents 33 independent
clinical research organisations in the
Netherlands. The branch organization
communicates with the authorities,
provides information and advice to its
members, formulates codes of con-
duct and organises meetings and con-
ferences.
Pharmacy practitioners are indis-
pensable at the final steps of the drug
development process: post marketing
surveillance and pharmacoeconom-
ics. Apart from their classical tasks in
drug distribution and therapeutic ad-
vice, pharmacy practitioners collect
information on drug performance and
side effects, which provides essential
feed back on drug efficacy and safety
into the cycle. Dutch pharmacists are
organized in the branch organization
KNMP (Royal Dutch Society for the
Advancement of Pharmacy); more
than ninety percent is a member.
KNMP’s scientific institute WINAp
provides up to date scientific infor-
mation to their members and is a
FIGON-participant. Managing direc-
tor Frans van der Vaart: “Pharmacy
practitioners may not be directly in-
volved in the development of inno-
vative drugs, but our work has much
ground in common with that of the
other participants. So joining FIGON
was a logical step. To the modern
pharmacist a medicine is no longer a
black box. He or she understands its
working mechanism at the molecular
level.”
The last organization in this series is
TNO Pharma, a virtual network organi-
zation within the large Dutch contract
research business TNO. TNO Pharma’s
showpiece is a mouse model in arte-
riosclerosis, predicting the effect of
new drugs in humans. The model is
the result of decennia of translational
research. Besides human modelling,
the organization is active in toxicology,
pharmacology, drug delivery and bio-
medical nanomaterials. Within FIGON,
TNO Pharma finds front knowledge
and meets potential customers.
Funds
FIGON is funded through contri-
butions from all of its 16 partici-
pants. Two participants, however,
are the main sponsors: Nefarma,
the Netherlands Pharmaceutical
Industry Association, and ZonMw,
the Netherlands organization for
health research and healthcare de-
velopment. Nefarma is the central
branch association of the Dutch re-
search-based pharmaceutical indus-
try and advocates a proper entrepre-
neur climate in the Netherlands. The
association counts around 40 phar-
maceutical companies, partly with
research facilities and/or with a sales
department or production facility in
the Netherlands. The association has
supported FIGON from the very be-
ginning, enabling it to organise the
FIGON’s Medicine Days and publish
its magazine Conceptuur. Martin van
der Graaff, Nefarma’s manager inno-
vation: “Medicines are end products
of a complex chain of processes. We
realise that the first link is at least as
important as the last.”
The other main sponsor of FIGON,
ZonMw, develops and coordinates
health care research programs un-
der the authority of the Dutch gov-
ernment. In the late nineties, NWO
launched research a programme
aimed at stimulating the creation
of spin-off companies in innovative
drug research and offering strategic
cooperation between academic and
industrial drug scientists. Within this
framework, of course, the founding
of FIGON was heartily supported.
Since then ZonMw launched several
other initiatives that very well match
FIGON’s goals: e.g. programmes in
Priority Medicines. ZonMw also sup-
ports FIGON by providing secretarial
help.
Join in!
The majority of Dutch innovative
drug researchers take part in FIGON
through one of the above mentioned
organizations. But FIGON is not com-
plete, says FIGON president Dick de
Zeeuw. “In fact, FIGON will never be
complete. In drug development new
disciplines and technologies arise
continuously. We like to include all
the research groups, companies or
organizations in question as quickly
as possible in order to valorise the
knowledge to the maximum.” De
Zeeuw actively approaches new play-
ers in the field to become a participant
by explaining the mutual benefits and
everyone is more than welcome to
ask for membership. “FIGON needs
to be as dynamic as the discipline it
covers.” n
As a drug scientist in the Netherlands it is al-
most impossible to be unrepresented by FIGON,
the Netherlands Federation for Innovative Drug
Research. Academic scientists are largely re-
presented by their academic research schools.
Drug scientists from industry, companies and
research institutes are, for a large part, repre-
sented through one of the umbrella associations
within FIGON such as ACRON, BioFarmind,
WINAp or Nefarma. Recently a new organisation
of drug research technicians (LIMO) was intro-
duced in FIGON. Besides, a drug researcher
may be represented through his or her member-
ship of one of the scientific societies that partici-
pate in FIGON.
FIGON represents almost
all drug scientists
New disciplines and
technologies arise
continuously
>> Continued from page 13
conceptuur - looking back
FIGON activities
FIGON is the national research platform for creating closer
and more structured collaboration between universities and
pharmaceutical companies. Many initiatives have strengthened
the FIGON network in the past years and have improved
the position of innovative drug research as a whole in our
country. In retrospect, Conceptuur provides a nice overview of
established successful activities.
TI Pharma
The first contract concerns
a public-private partner-
ship in which the different
parties will cooperate in the
development of an objec-
tive pain model. TI Pharma,
initiated by FIGON and
founded in July 2006, is a
national research network
consisting of industrial and
academic research teams.
The institute conducts
groundbreaking, cross-disciplinary research
and offers advanced training programs focused
on improving the efficiency of the entire proc-
ess of drug discovery and development. This
will eventually reduce the ‘time- & cost-to-pa-
tient’ of new medicines and contribute to the
well-being of society. TI Pharma devotes special
attention to the Priority Medicines project of the
World Health Organization.
www.tipharma.com
The first TI Pharma contract was signed in
December 2006 by PRA International, Organon
and the University of Groningen.
The annual FIGON Medicines
Days, initiated in 1999, is the
meeting place for medicine
research in the Netherlands. Academic and industrial scientists
engaged in new target finding and drug discovery can closely
interact with colleagues involved in the creation of new concepts
and technologies for
drug development. Such
professional interactions
should lead to a versatile
and flexible infrastructure
for knowledge transfer
between university and
industry.
www.figongmd.nl
Medicines days
FIGON Medicines Days are
growing every year.
The winner received the award in 2003 from Ad IJzerman (FIGON’s
president at that time) for his innovative work in the field of labora-
tory techniques and pharmaceutical analysis. The award ceremony
takes place during the annual FIGON meeting for laboratory workers.
This so-called Labday was initiated in 2001 and has led this year
to the foundation of LIMO (Lab technicians in Innovative Medicine
Research), a new FIGON body for laboratory workers. The former
lab day has been replaced now by an annual satellite symposium
during the FIGON Medicines Days. LIMO is a special organisation for
all lab workers who are engaged on the discovery and development
of new and innovative medicines. It
provides a network to exchange up
to date knowledge and to discuss
advances in the field of laboratory
techniques.
www.labtech.nl
Award for Technical Excellence
for Geert Gooris (r).
The brokerage events, so-called FIGON
colloquia, were initiated in 2001. They are
small scale private meetings aimed at
exchange of knowledge between university
and industry and, of special importance,
to stimulate business activity. The meeting
gives young scientists the opportunity
to show the company participants their
research qualities and ambitious ideas. The
presented projects turn out to be inspiring
for both parties and eventually can even
lead to strategic alliances.
Young academic researchers
show their creative ideas to
the industry.
During the final Biopartner FSG/STIGON symposium (2007)
Henk Vietor, initator of Skyline Diagnostics, became the winner
of the BioBusiness Award. FIGON stimulates
researchers to consider a professional future
in entrepreneurship in the field of innovative
research and development. The ZonMW
incentive fund programme for innovative
drug research (STIGON) – later in cooperation
with Biopartner’s First Stage Grant – was
instrumental in supporting promising
business plans for instance. At present such
start-up funds in the field of life science are provided by STW
and TechnoPartner. Furthermore, FIGON is involved in organising
dedicated workshops aimed at PhD students, researchers and
post-docs to explore their interest in a career in business.
Entrepreneurship
BioBusiness
Start-up of
the year
Brokerage events
Association laboratory technicians
ConCeptuurno 50september 200718 FIGON specIal Issue
“Without lab work
no new medicines!”
“We aim to improve knowledge
exchange and to create a
networking environment for people
working in the labs,” explains Mies van
Steenbergen, chairman of LIMO, the
brand-new FIGON organization for labo-
ratory workers in the field of innovative
medicines. LIMO is a continuation of
the former Lab Symposium committee
which was started about six years ago
when FIGON decided it was time to
show more appreciation for lab techni-
cians. The current members are beside
Van Steenbergen, Bas van de Kar, Elina
Hessels and Gert Gooris. Since then,
an enthusiastic group of lab techni-
cians has been organizing the yearly
Lab Symposium for pharmaceutical
laboratory technicians. “This symposium
draws a substantial crowd every year,”
says Van Steenbergen. “The scientific
programme is of a high level and the ac-
cessory poster prizes and the Technical
Excellence Award are well-known and
appreciated as well.”
“However, we signalled a clear need for
lab technicians to have more network-
ing opportunities. Academic scientists
attend meetings, publish, present lec-
tures and meet colleagues regularly.
Technicians and pharmaceutical analysts
are not usually involved in these activi-
ties,” Van Steenbergen explains. “This
group of people should be given the op-
portunity and the contacts to be involved
if they wish.” Therefore, it was recently
decided to found LIMO (Labtechnici in
het Innovatief Medicijn Onderzoek) as an
independent association and which will
become a regular FIGON member within
two to three years.
One of the results
of this decision
is that this years’
Lab Symposium
will coincide for
the first time with the Medicines Days.
“Our symposium fits seamlessly within
this conference which is the place to be
for everyone involved in drug research,”
says Van Steenbergen. The theme of
our satellite meeting is ‘Back to basics’
where new and advanced lab techniques
will be in the spotlights. “We go back to
what lab work is all about: the things that
happen in the lab.” Van Steenbergen ex-
plains. “With the workshops, which are
new this year, we want to create a practi-
cal meeting. We offer a meeting among
the likeminded which means recognition
for lab technicians. Without lab work no
new medicines!”
Mies van Steenbergen is Senior Laboratory
Technician, Utrecht University
Info: www.labtech.nl
LabtechNIcI IN N O v a t I e F MedIcIjN ONderzOek
LABTECHNICI IN INNOVATIEF MEDICIJN ONDERZOEK
“Bringing all disciplines together
in a common symposium”
“The Medicines Days are older
than FIGON itself,” says Henk
Timmerman, chairman of the congress
committee. “In the nineties we realized
that pharmaceutical research is particu-
larly multidisciplinary. Synchronizing the
scientific meetings between the separate
research areas would create a synergy
for scientists. The Medicines Days were
the central activity in the early days of
FIGON.”
Nowadays, the Medicines Days are
partly devoted to parallel sessions of the
several partner societies of FIGON. The
third and last day is a plenary sympo-
sium with a selected theme. This year’s
theme is ‘From academic concept to
commercial application’. The sympo-
sium is well attended and welcomes a
growing number of participants each
year. This year a tent will be erected
for extra space during the poster ses-
sions. Financially, FIGON supports the
Medicines Days in addition to sponsor-
ing from industry and revenues from the
exhibition. “We are not breaking even
yet, but this seems to be within reach,”
says Timmerman. “I am very happy that
our industrial partners are continuing
their sponsoring.”
Timmerman wishes for increased
involvement from the younger genera-
tion. “Poster sessions are important,
for example,” he explains. “There is not
enough time for every PhD student to
present a lecture. Preferably all students
should have the opportunity to be in-
volved in the Medicines Days actively,
to show their work and discuss it with
senior researchers.” A special event is a
competition between PhD students, one
from each Dutch
University, who
present their work
in fifteen minute
lectures. Other
features are the
annual Ariens lecture and the prominent
participation of the TI Pharma.
“As a chairman I am promoting the ide-
al of FIGON,” says Timmerman. “That is,
bringing different disciplines together by
means of a common symposium, where
the separate associations with their own
identity manifest themselves as hav-
ing a common goal. I feel that this ideal
needs ongoing encouragement. Ideally,
there should be meetings with subjects
chosen in such a way that all disciplines
automatically attend. I wish that parallel
sessions exist no longer in the future, but
only transdisciplinary symposia.”
Henk Timmerman, PhD is emeritus Professor
Medicinal Chemistry, VU Amsterdam
MedIcINes da y s
From academic concept to
commercial application
Mies van
Steenbergen,
chairman of LIMO
Henk Timmerman,
chairman of the
Congress Committee
ConCeptuurno 50september 2007 19
netherlands federation for innovative drug researCh vision and opinion
FiGon special issue
The worlds of the pharmaceutical companies and
the health sector are sometimes less unique than
people in them actually think. Pharmaceutical com-
panies are the same kind of commercial institutions that
we encounter in many other sectors, and the health sec-
tor is a collection of service providers that must cooper-
ate with each other in an efficient and effective way in the
interests of the ‘customer’ – i.e. the patient. Of course
they have their own specific characteristics, special target
groups and objectives. But good concepts in other parts
of society can be of immense service to our sector.
FIGON is an excellent example of this. It is looking for
types of closer cooperation in a lot of different sectors as
a way of combining forces and strengthening the posi-
tion of all parties involved. Combining forces in this way
is good for the whole as well as for the individual parts. In
this context working together is certainly not synonymous
with joining together.
The value of a platform like FIGON is that it brings to-
gether parties in the difficult area of pharmaceutical re-
search, where the natural tendency to cordon off one’s
own area can often stand in the way of the success of the
whole. That’s why the organisation has been an important
catalyst in realising TI Pharma and in this way has helped
put innovation very much on the public agenda.
Open innovation
Nowadays, cooperation is characterised more and more
by the creation of relevant networks without the need for
structural or even formalised links. In the past few years,
the open innovation model has become increasingly more
important and FIGON is rightly advocating its broad ac-
ceptance. The Medicine Days (Geneesmiddeldagen) are
bringing people and parties together to share their find-
ings with each other.
The great thing about this is that FIGON is hovering like
a helicopter above the industrial and the academic world
and it can form a total picture thanks to its insights into
these two different worlds. Because of this, the platform
can help to ensure that studies harmonise with each other,
that no unnecessary duplicate research is conducted
and that the results of research are translated in the right
places to the rest of the world.
Core value
Nefarma attaches great importance to FIGON as a plat-
form for stimulating innovation. Innovation is a core value
for the companies affiliated to the platform. The health
sector can benefit greatly from continuous modernisa-
tion and improvement. Sometimes that involves break-
throughs, but it involves small steps in the right direction
much more often. These small steps are sometimes of
great significance for patients as far as their daily lives and
feeling of well-being are concerned.
Innovation is a must. A sector that is happy with the sta-
tus quo cannot play a leading role in modelling the future.
As part of the great challenge for that future, the research
world will start to focus more on forms of research that use
model simulations to make predictions. Here, too, FIGON
can play an important role on the research stage.
To emphasize the importance of FIGON,
Nefarma has been playing an active role in
the platform for many years. In the future we
hope to strengthen innovative drug research
in the Netherlands even further. After all, the
results are vitally important for everyone.
A platform with a helicopter view
FIGON is hovering like a helicopter
above the industrial and the
academic world and it can form a
total picture thanks to its insights
into these two different worlds
Michel Dutrée
General Manager Nefarma, The Hague
ConCeptuurno 50september 200720 FIGON specIal Issue
“The Netherlands as the centre of
excellence in pharmaceutical sciences”
“The Top Institute Pharma is in-
volved in pharmaceutical research
in the broadest sense,” says Daan
Crommelin, scientific director of the
Institute. “We emphasize and stimulate
cooperation, not only between industry
and the scientific community but also
with the regulatory authorities. Moreover,
translational research is very important.
This means that the chemist is not doing
chemistry in splendid isolation and the
drug delivery specialist is not only doing
drug delivery, but both try to merge their
fields of expertise to
reach a well defined
milestone. This is
our mission.”
The TI Pharma
was founded in
July 2006 after
many years
of prepara-
tion, says
Crommelin. “It
took time for
the tide to turn. The classical disciplines
were very much compartmentalized and
the idea of translational research needed
to take root. The institute owes a lot to
FIGON. This excellent organisation of
Dutch pharmaceutical and biomedical re-
search had been indispensable for the es-
tablishment of the institute,” emphasizes
Crommelin. All granted research projects
are public-privately financed. The institute
is receiving 130 million Euros from the
Dutch government over a four-year peri-
od, and the same amount from academic
institutions and industry together. The
research focuses mainly on priorities set
in the Priority Medicines Report from the
World Health Organisation, explains the
director. “The institute should be involved
with the diseases which torment man-
kind, such as COPD, diabetes, infectious
diseases and obesity.”
Crommelin wants to strive to make the
Netherlands the centre of excellence in
the pharmaceutical sciences in Europe.
“The first step
towards this am-
bitious goal is to
make TI Pharma a
success,” he says.
Furthermore, FIGON might consider
enhancing the visibility of Dutch phar-
maceutical research in Europe. “It would
be a good idea for FIGON to become
a member of EUFEPS, the European
Federation of Pharmaceutical Sciences,”
says Crommelin. “Dutch pharmaceutical
research occupies a top quality position
among other EU member states, but
there is always a ‘best practice’ that you
can pick up. And there is synergy in such
a move: it is not only beneficial for our
country to show what we can do, but it
is important for the EU that a member
state performing high quality research is
visible to the world.”
Daan Crommelin, PhD is Scientific Director
TI Pharma and Professor of Biopharmaceutics
Sciences, Utrecht University
TO p INsTITuTe p harma
As an active member and later as
elected president of the International
Society for the Study of Xenobiotics
(ISSX), Nico Vermeulen experienced
the advantages of a truly international
organization. His experience made him
take the initiative to set up the Committee
Internationalization and International
Relations (CIIR) as part of the new struc-
ture of the board of FIGON. “Many re-
searchers in pharmaceutical sciences
already have intensive international con-
tacts,” says Vermeulen. “However, these
contacts are usually on an individual basis.
When structured under the FIGON-flag we
will be able to strengthen our international
network”.
Vermeulen
explains: “For
example, I am
currently in the
organizing com-
mittee of the
Pharmaceutical
Sciences Fair
2009 in Nice.
I also represent the interests of the FIGON
partners in this committee. In this way we
can give input to the program and stimu-
late that Dutch scientists are also invited
as speakers. If you clearly add value
to such an organization, backed up by
FIGON, an established federation of multi-
ple disciplinary societies and institutes, the
organizers are more inclined to get Dutch
scientists involved again.
Another goal of the committee is to
strengthen and formalize liaisons between
FIGON and international pharmaceutical
societies and organizations like EUFEPS1,
EFPIA2 and ULLA3. EFPIA, for example,
plays an important role constituting the
Seventh Framework Programme of the
EU, e.g. with IMI, the Innovative Medicines
Initiative. Vermeulen: “Under this
Framework Programme individual scien-
tists and institutes can apply for European
grants by submitting proposals. However,
the proposal must fit within certain sub-
jects, which are partly determined by the
EFPIA, and be coordinated internationally.
A good relationship
with such organiza-
tions and/or hav-
ing a Dutch board
member increases
the earning ability
of Dutch scientists.”
Furthermore, the CIIR committee wants
to stimulate and facilitate research pos-
sibilities abroad for young talented FIGON-
researchers by creating a FIGON-grant.
“To prevent duplication of work we first
need to gather a good overview of the
present international activities of the vari-
ous FIGON-partners. Once our committee
is complete, we will start working on our
goals which is, in our view, a real challenge
with great opportunities.
Nico Vermeulen, PhD is Professor of
Medicinal Chemistry, VU Amsterdam
1 European Federation for Pharmaceutical Sciences
2 European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries
Associations
3 Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Uppsala; the School of
Pharmacy, University of Londen; Leiden/Amsterdam Centre
for Drug Research
INTerNaTIONalIzaTION
Daan Crommelin,
Scientific Director of
TI Pharma
Nico Vermeulen,
chairman of the
Internationalization
Committee
“Structuring international contacts under the
FIGON-flag will increase international influence”
ConCeptuurno 50september 2007 21
netherlands federation for innovative drug researCh vision and opinion
FiGon special issue
In the early days of FIGON, the Netherlands already
had a strong international position in public pharma-
ceutical research, despite the fact that there was lit-
tle industry-based pharmaceutical research and develop-
ment. FIGON played an important role in bridging the gap
between industry and science. The platform has contrib-
uted to the conception and successful execution of two
ZonMw programmes for innovative medicines research:
STIGO has created a bridge between public and private
R&D infrastructure, while STIGON resulted in 13 spin-off
companies. And above all, FIGON contributed to the es-
tablishment of TI Pharma, in which universities and com-
panies work together on the R&D of medicines.
FIGON creates coherence in pharmaceutical R&D by bring-
ing together all the disciplines involved in the development
of medicines. All the part-
ners are working towards
the same goal: the crea-
tion of innovative medi-
cines and hence stimulat-
ing health. This infrastruc-
ture becomes evident
in the yearly Medicines
Days, where all the Dutch
pharmaceutical research-
ers meet. The Medicines
Days create an ideal plat-
form for young research-
ers to present themselves,
their investigations, re-
sults and ideas about fu-
ture directions in R&D to
an expert public. Bringing
young researchers together at an early stage in their career
thereby strengthens the R&D community in this field. This
important function of FIGON should be expanded.
Crucial fields
In the future, FIGON may pay more attention to fields
like biotechnology, bioinformatics and biophysics. These
fields are of crucial importance to the further development
of the pharmaceutical sciences that are traditionally based
on chemistry. Pharmaceutical sciences will entwine with
these fields. In recent years, biotechnology has produced
effective and profitable medicines. Bioinformatics contrib-
utes to high throughput screening of leads and to new ge-
nomics-driven opportunities for medicine development.
Another important field in pharmaceutical R&D is drug
targeting. This subfield might profit from new methods in
physics including laser, ultrasound and photo-acoustics
FIGON has played a successful role in
stimulating pharmaceutical R&D in the
Netherlands. As a platform for both
academic and industrial researchers it will
remain very important in the years to come.
for drug release at a specific body spot making specific af-
finity of the candidate drug for that spot unnecessary.
Special attention
FIGON should plead for public research independent from
industry. In the report Priority Medicines for Europe and
the World by the World Health Organization, a number of
important fields are described in which new or better med-
icines are needed, e.g. drugs especially aimed for children
or elderly, and more attention should be paid to rare and
neglected diseases and to antibiotic resistance. Only pub-
lic private cooperation will eventually lead to these new
medicines. Also the prescription and use of medicines
should be addressed. In literature compliance, prescription
safety and polypharmacy are described to have an enor-
mous impact on the effectiveness and adverse events of
treatments. Therefore not only new, but also existing medi-
cines should be areas of interest for R&D.
Industry, universities and governments should work to-
gether in areas of pharmaceutical research which are im-
portant to public health. However, the relation between
these three partners has always been delicate. ZonMw
has proved to be a trusted partner in this cooperation.
Pharmaceutical research independent of commercial in-
terests remains crucial – especially in this specific ‘valori-
sation area’. Academic pharmaceutical research groups
need public funds to create a critical mass to stay coop-
erative as well as be critical towards commercial interests.
Public funding should therefore be awarded to academic
R&D groups for their attraction of private funding, and not
be retracted from them for this very same reason.
Industry, universities
and governments should
work together in areas of
pharmaceutical research which
are important to public health
especially in drug discovery
for diseases that need new or
better medicines
Bridging the gap between
industry and science
Henk Smid
Director ZonMw, The Hague
ConCeptuurno 50september 200722 FIGON specIal Issue
“Education is the base of good science”
“FIGON stands for innovative
medicines research. Innovation
requires creativity but above all knowl-
edge of the most recent scientific
developments. If innovation is highly
valued within FIGON, the continuity of
scientific knowledge must be guaran-
teed and stimulated. There is no better
way to do this than by education,” says
Paul Smits, chairman of the Education
Committee and representing FIGON at
the Education and Training committee
of TI Pharma. “By education we mean
in this context the specialized courses
for PhD students and post-docs. FIGON
and TI Pharma have a similar goal, which
is to classify education in the area of
drug development in the broadest sense.
To avoid reinventing the wheel, the two
committees joined forces.
Smits explains the need for this task-
force: “TI Pharma’s philosophy is that
education is the base of good science.
Personally I notice that PhD students
sometimes have a lack of knowledge
of pharmaceutical or pharmacological
techniques. Furthermore, all members of
the committee noticed that colleagues
had courses available that we had never
heard of. These were all reasons to cre-
ate a platform where everybody working
in drug research could find specialized
education.”
The first activity was recently complet-
ed. A full list of modules that are instruc-
tive and accessible for particularly PhD
students is pub-
lished on the TI
Pharma website. It
will also be acces-
sible shortly via
the FIGON website. “It is not a complete
list yet, but it gives a fair summary of the
post-academic education of several fac-
ulties and universities,” says Smits. “We
intend to continually expand this list.
Next, we will compile lists of education
available for other target groups. These
include high-school students, biomedical
students, pharmacy and medical stu-
dents and college students in the HBO
(Hoger Beroeps Onderwijs). In future, the
committee may be expanded with ex-
perts in the fields of (clinical) pharmacol-
ogy and pharmacy. Eventually we may
think of including education outside the
Netherlands as well.”
Paul Smits, PhD is an internist and Professor
of Pharmacology at the Radboud University
Nijmegen Medical Centre
educatION
In the last few years universities and
UMCs clearly have become more ac-
tive in the field of knowledge transfer.
Funding programmes like Biopartner
and presently the SKE Technopartner
have helped in these activities. “However
there are still important hurdles to be
jumped,” says Koen Wiedhaup, chair-
man of the Innovation Committee. “Our
committee focuses on the bottlenecks
in medicine development at university
start-ups.”
One of these hurdles is the fact that re-
searchers usually know very little about
the complicated process
of medicine development.
Therefore they should
be able to follow spe-
cialised courses.
The TI Pharma has
already developed
courses like ‘Drug
Development’ and
‘Drug Hunting’ to
which starters will also
be admitted. Wiedhaup: “In consultation
with the FIGON Education Committee
we will also investigate the possibility of
incorporating these kind of courses in
the curricula of undergraduates and PhD
students to make them aware of the op-
portunities and pitfalls of drug research
and innovation on time. Concurrently,
lectures and courses focussing on the
business aspects of setting up bio-
pharma companies should be made
available, preferably given by experi-
enced entrepreneurs.”
To coach and support researchers in
setting up a business, many universities
have created Technology Transfer Offices
(TTO) in recent years. Wiedhaup says:
“However, our committee believes that
more structural funding as well as rein-
forcing their infrastructure, namely with
respect to the business aspects of drug
innovation, are an absolute necessity.” In
this respect he mentions the ‘Knowledge
Transfer Grant’, a recently established
initiative of the Scottish Government
whereby universi-
ties receive ‘new
money’ (up to 3%
of their research
funding) to imple-
ment valorisa-
tion and commercialization through
well funded and managed TTOs. “We
should seriously consider whether such
a scheme could also be developed
in our country. And to bridge the gap
between university grants and public
money (e.g. from venture capital groups),
starters in the life sciences should also
have access to (pre-)seed financing on a
competitive basis. The Scottish system
of ‘Proof of Concept Awards’ and also
the former Dutch Biopartner First Stage
Grant system may be inspiring examples
in this respect.”
Koen Wiedhaup, PhD, former Managing
Director Global R&D Organon, is Board
Member or Consultant of startup companies
in the field of innovative drug research and
development in the USA and Europe
IN N O v a t I O N Koen Wiedhaup,
chairman of
the Innovation
Committee
Paul Smits,
chairman of
the Education
Committee
“Make students aware of the opportunities and
pitfalls of drug research and innovation on time”
ConCeptuurno 50september 2007 23
netherlands federation for innovative drug researCh vision and opinion
FiGon special issue
As director of the department of Pharmaceutical
Affairs and Medical Technology at the Ministry of
Health, Welfare and Sport I got to know FIGON dur-
ing the past years as an important interface between the
pharmaceutical sciences and pharmaceutical industry. The
platform has shown to provide a starting point for further
developments regarding cooperation between public and
private partners. Before elaborating further on this, let me
first go back a number of years. Traditionally, the Ministry
deemed – with regard to medicinal products – quality and
cost-containment as its most important focus points.
The development of medicines was left to experts in the
field, i.e. the scientific community and pharmaceutical in-
dustry. Although quality and cost-containment remain of
paramount importance, the Ministry has added innovation
– among other items – as yet another focus point in recent
years. Why? One reason is that stimulating innovation has
become an integral part of the societal challenges that
face the Ministry and the government in general.
Priority medicines
Stimulating innovation is a multi-faceted task. The
Ministry, however, can address only some of these and
must make choices. One traditional way to stimulate inno-
vation is to address it on a European level. The Ministry is
an active partner in discussions about
the general contents of scientific pro-
grams and about new legislation that
facilitate research and development.
However, on a national level choices
must also be made. For example,
if there are no efficacious and safe
medicinal products for certain dis-
eases in sight, then the Ministry may
stimulate the development of these
by subsidising translational medicinal
research.
A somewhat different example is
the – by now well known Priority
Medicines Report for Europe and the
World, commissioned by the Netherlands government to
the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2004. This report
addresses, from a public health perspective, areas with a
high burden of disease. The report makes recommenda-
tions with regard to preventive measures and to the devel-
opment of new medicines for these diseases.
Important answer
Fortunately, recent national and international develop-
ments have been favourable to innovation – including
innovation in the field of medicinal products. Many see in-
novation as an important answer to European economic
and health care problems. The proposal to establish a Joint
Technology Initiative (JTI) in the EU for
the development of medicines may serve
as an example. European Institutions are
expected to take a decision soon about
funding this particular JTI.
In the Netherlands the already men-
tioned Priority Medicines report has so
far had a meaningful influence on in-
novation, as will become clear from the
following. In 2005 the Dutch government
was able to allocate extra funding to
new and innovative public private part-
nerships (PPPs). A PPP for the develop-
ment of medicines seemed at the time a
serious candidate for such funding. So,
there was an important report available and there was extra
funding. At the same time innovation was – and still is – high
on the government’s agenda.
I need not go into further details, but FIGON was just there
to act as the most important interface for bringing these
various developments together. Ultimately, this led to the es-
tablishment of the current TI Pharma. It may, moreover, not
come as a surprise that the Priority Medicines Report has
been an important influence on the research agenda of this
top institute.
FIGON has played a vital role in the
development of public private partnerships in
the field of medicinal products and in particular
in the creation of TI Pharma. An example has
been set for stimulating cooperation between
public and private partners.
If there are no efficacious and
safe medicinal products for
certain diseases in sight, then
the Ministry may stimulate
the development of these
by subsidising translational
medicinal research
Stimulating innovation is a
multi-faceted task
Hugo Hurts
Director department of Pharmaceutical Affairs and Medical
Technology, Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, The Hague
conceptuur - looking back
Prizes and awards
In the past fifty editions, Conceptuur has consistently paid attention
to scientists who were honoured with scientific prizes, awards and/or
honorary degrees. The list of all of these laureates is too long to fit on
a single page. Therefore we cannot give an exhaustive enumeration
and are just highlighting some special winners. Together with the other
laureates, they reflect the state of art of innovative drug research in the
Netherlands as a whole.
In 1996 the Flemish researcher Dr. Paul Janssen
received a honorary PhD from Maastricht University for
his groundbreaking work in the development of new
medicines. His company, Janssen Pharmaceutica, under
his leadership discovered and marketed more than 80
new medicines. But apart from his business career, Paul
Janssen also flourished as an eminent scientist, both in
fundamental and clinical research. In 2005 he ended up
as a prominent runner-up in the election of “The greatest
Belgium citizen”.
Since 1993 the Galenus
prizes – originally a French
initiative – have also been awarded in the Netherlands. In 2003
at the tenth prize ceremony a very special guest was present:
the Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende. He handed
over the Galenus Medicine Prize for pharmaceutical compa-
nies to Dr. Rudolf van Olden (medical
director of Eli Lilly) and the Galenus
Reseach Prize for young talented phar-
macological investigators, this time
to Klaas Poelstra. On that occasion,
Balkenende predicted many new op-
portunities for innovative pharmaceu-
tical research, for instance in the field
of rapid legislation, and in design and
development of
orphan drugs.
Every second year, the Dr. Saal van Zwanenberg
Award – named after the founder of Organon – is
presented during the FIGON Dutch Medicines
Days. This award is intended for researchers who
have done outstanding work in the development
of new medicines. In 2004 this Award was won
by Professor Ab Osterhaus, one of the most influential specialists in
the field of viral research – both in humans and animals. Influenza
and Bird Flu are among the crucial research topics in Rotterdam.
At his farewell symposium at the University in 2004,
Professor Dick Meijer – one of the major driving
forces behind FIGON and Conceptuur – was promoted
to ‘Knight in the Order of the Dutch Lion’. He received
this prestigious Royal
Award for his scientific
work at Groningen
University and all the
various activities for
the Dutch scientific
community.
Paul Janssen (1926-2003),
businessman as well as
researcher.
Honorary doctorate
Galenus Awards
Klaas Poelstra (now professor in Drug
Targeting at Groningen of University)
receives his award from Prime Minister
Jan Peter Balkenende.
FIGON Poster Prize
Frederique van Acker with a
cheque that no one can miss.
During the FIGON Dutch Medicines Days, the
FIGON Poster Prize is awarded to a scientist
who promotes most optimally the collaboration
between different disciplines in innovative
drug research. In 2000 the prize was won
by PhD-student Frederique van Acker of
Maastricht University. In collaboration with
the Free University in Amsterdam she studied
Frederine, a synthetic flavanoid compound
which can protect patients against some
adverse effects of the well known cytostatic
drug doxorubicine.
Royal Award
Dick Meijer receives his
“lintje” from the mayor of
Groningen Jack Wallage.
Dr. Saal van Zwanenberg Award
Ab Osterhaus, Head of
the department of Virology
at the Erasmus Medical
Center in Rotterdam.
Spinoza prize Dirkje Postma, head of the
Groningen Research Institute for
Asthma and COPD (GRIAC) at
Groningen University.
In 2000 Professor Dirkje
Postma won the Spinoza
prize: the most prestig-
ious scientific award in the
country. During most of her
career as a physician and
researcher, she attempted
to solve the complex puz-
zle of pulmonary diseases.
In the University Medical
Center she leads a team
of almost 100 researchers.
Postma strongly believes
in multidisciplinary re-
search, she told Conceptuur: “Everyone has his own
personal input but as a real team we succeed from
time to time in getting some parts of the puzzle to
fit”. She used her Spinoza prize for several projects,
e.g. genetic research in an advanced animal model
for COPD.
conceptuur - looking back
Scientific research
Probably the most crucial aspect of FIGON – and thus of Conceptuur –
is the state of art of current drug research. More specifically: the entire
drug design and development cycle that creates more effective and safer
medicines for our society. Conceptuur focused over the past years on a
spectrum of research topics, both in the Netherlands and abroad. Some
highlights are presented here.
One of the first issues of Conceptuur shed light on the development
of new vaccines against influenza viruses. Nowadays virologists are
warning of a potential pandemic caused by the virus H5N1, which
could kill millions of people. Unfortunately a ‘pandemic vaccine’
would be available only six months after a worldwide outbreak of
the disease. For this reason researchers are looking for so-called
prepandemic vaccines, based upon the existing H5N1-stem. Important
in this respect is the development of adjuvants which reinforce
the immune-response after vaccination. “I would not stockpile a
prepandemic vaccine, but a
good adjuvant and several
variants of hemagglutinin (one
of the protein building blocks
of the virus, ed.). Because for
the same money there will be
a pandemic of H7N1 instead
of H5N1”, warned Professor
Ab Osterhaus of the Erasmus
Medical Center in Rotterdam.
Glivec is one of the success stories of modern
pharmaceutical research. It is a medicine
for chronic myeloid leukaemia, an uncontrolled proliferation
of blood cells due to a translocation of DNA between
chromosome 9 and 22. Glivec acts as a signal transduction
inhibitor that interrupts cell growth signals selectively.
According to Dr. Jürg Zimmerman (now at Novartis Pharma,
Basel) who discovered the new pharmaceutical back in 1990,
it is the first example of a highly specific, efficient and non-
toxic anti-cancer drug. Zimmerman is optimistic about the
future of this line of research: “I sincerely believe that it is
only a matter of time before more ‘Glivecs’ will reach the
market. I would quit my job immediately if it doesn’t.”
N
N
H
N
H
N
O
N
N
N
While unravelling the biology of bowel
cancer, immunologist Professor Hans
Clevers (Hubrecht Laboratory, Utrecht) has discovered the protein
TCF (T-cell factor). If TCF is coupled to another protein, bèta-
catenine, specific genes are triggered and normal cells go off the
rails: they start to proliferate uncontrollably. In healthy people this
process is prevented by the so-called APC protein complex, but in
most patients with bowel cancer the gene for this protein has been
mutated. According to Clevers, this mechanism is also responsible
for other types of cancer: for instance
melanoma, liver tumours and possibly
both prostate and breast cancer. “A
medicine for bowel cancer? We really
hope to find it, but it is still too early to
jump with joy”, he told Conceptuur.
‘One-size-fits-all’, used
to be the mantra in
pharmaceutical research
for new medicines. But not any more, according to
Professor René Bernards (Netherlands Cancer Institute,
Amsterdam). He strongly believes in individualized
therapy for patients with cancer.
Bernards foresees an integration
of diagnostics tests and tailor-
made drug development and
pharmacotherapy. “On the basis
of the pattern of gene activity we
should be able to predict more
accurately how a patient will react
to a given drug. The treatment can
therefore be more effective and
at the same time cost effective”,
he told Conceptuur. One of the
indispensable tools is micro-array
analysis which, in one single run,
can determine the activity of
several thousands of genes.
Influenza
Artist impression of
the influzenza virus
Chemical structure of Glivec (imatinib)
Bowel cancer
Part of the molecular mechanism which
is responsible for bowel cancer.
Tailor-made drugs
DNA-chips and micro-arrays can
screen huge amounts of genes.
‘Nederwiet’ aka cannabis is not
only popular in Dutch coffee shops,
but also in some pharmacological
laboratories. While the therapeutic use remains
controversial, ongoing studies into its components and
their endogenous counterparts (endocannabinoids) still
point to promising pharmaceutical applications. One of
the leading scientists in this field is Professor Raphael
Mechoulam (Hebrew University, Jerusalem), who in 1964
was the first to identify the main psychoactive compound
of cannabis. This started a flood of research into natural
and synthetic cannabinoids and their receptors.
Mechoulam: “We keep on searching for
new endocannabinoids as well as synthetic
derivates, because they may provide potential
medicines for the treatment of nervous and
immune disorders, cardiovascular diseases,
pain, inflammation and cancer.”
Cannabis
The infamous ‘Dutch drug’ cannabis, with the active
compound THC or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol.
Glivec
ConCeptuurno 50september 200726 FIGON specIal Issue
cONceptuur - lOOkING back
The birth
of a magazine
Lidia van den Eijnde dug up
Conceptuur’s ‘birth certificate’
from the attic of her house:
an invitation to join the first editorial
meeting of a new information bulletin
on 12 October 1994.
Van den Eijnde, “During that meet-
ing the name Conceptuur was cho-
sen, a combination of the Dutch
words concept and receptuur (pre-
scription – ed)”. “Chosen?” answered
Harmen Jousma pretending to be
still up in arms. “You mean Guido
Drijkoningen ([former head of the
Medical Pharmaceutical Research
Foundation (MFR) – ed) cleverly ma-
noeuvred his favourite name through.”
Van den Eijnde, “No! There was a
vote between the names Conceptuur
or Panta Rei, everything flows.”
Jousma, “That’s what I mean.
Guido cunningly swept the alterna-
tive proposed by Henk Timmerman
– Agonist – under the carpet in his
voting rounds.”
Lidia, “Nevertheless, I still find the
name Conceptuur well chosen; it in-
dicates that the magazine covers all
aspects of drug research, from con-
cept to prescription.”
The small reunion of the three pio-
neers of Conceptuur in a pub in the
centre of Leiden is a joyful one. The
former editors haven’t met for al-
most ten years, although Ewoud van
Hoogdalem and Harmen Jousma
kept in contact – they are old univer-
sity friends. The three want to know
the ins and outs of each other’s lives:
When did you join Octoplus? How old
is your son? Where do you live? And
they like to tease each other: Can’t
you keep a job?
Jousma also dug into his archives.
He recovered Conceptuur 6 from
November 1995 and the last issue of
Conceptuur’s predecessor: the news-
letter of the Netherlands Society for
Pharmaceutical Sciences (NVFW).
Jousma and Van Hoogdalem were the
editors of that newsletter. The last issue
announces its merger into an informa-
tion bulletin with three other scientific
societies and the Dutch Foundation
Thirteen years and fifty issues ago, the magazine Conceptuur set off.
Meet the three pioneers: Lidia van den Eijnde, Harmen Jousma and
Ewoud van Hoogdalem. “Did we have an editorial board?”
by Marga van Zundert
for the Advancement of Medical-
Pharmaceutical Research (MFR).
Van den Eijnde, “I was the secre-
tary of MFR and joined Ewoud and
Harmen as editor of the new maga-
zine.”
l What was the goal of the new
magazine?
Jousma, “I always had the feeling that
the Netherlands would benefit from
having one professional magazine for
all the scientists in drug research.”
Van den Eijnde, “MFR wanted to
knock down all the ‘walls’ in phar-
maceutical research. And I believe
Conceptuur worked in that sense.
At conferences you saw new people,
people from different disciplines com-
ing more into contact.”
l Who set the course for
Conceptuur, the editorial board?
“Did we have an editorial board?” asks
Van Hoogdalem. “They haven’t made
an indelible impression, I’m afraid”.
Van den Eijnde, “I would say that
50 issues ago
From left: Lidia van
den Eijnde, Ewoud van
Hoogdalem, Harmen Jousma.
Thanks to much effort and
the great enthusiasm of these
pioneers, Conceptuur can
present its 50th issue today
which is a special jubilee
issue dedicated to FIGON, its
present publisher.
ConCeptuurno 50september 2007 27
cONceptuur - lOOkING back
FIGON specIal Issue
Ewoud was in charge of the contents.”
Jousma, “After each issue we had a
meeting with all the correspondents,
the representatives of the participat-
ing societies. In these meetings we
analysed the latest issue and spoke
about the contents of the next. But
indeed, Ewoud was the one who
came up with the most topics, asked
people to write stories and chased
them up the copy.”
Van Hoogdalem, “Harmen managed
the contacts and sponsors, I was
dealing with the contents and Lidia or-
ganized the lay-out and printing, and
not in the least place: she arranged
the budget to cover our deficit.”
l How did Conceptuur became
the organ of FIGON?
Jousma, “Once the academic re-
search institutes such as UIPS and
LACDR had joined Conceptuur, it
was a very logical step. But I cannot
remember when and how exactly that
decision was made.”
l Who was the mysterious Dr.
Stork who wrote short stories on
the daily life and problems of drug
scientists?
Van Hoogdalem, “We have never
made and will never make any state-
ments about the identity of the con-
troversial Dr. Stork. He or she wrote
pure fiction, people seemed to recog-
nize themselves in his or her stories,
we received many heated letters from
readers about Dr. Stork.”
Van den Eijnde, “But when Dr. Stork
stopped we also received many com-
ments from readers who much re-
gretted his leaving. I also thought the
stories were very humorous.”
l Do you still read Conceptuur?
Van den Eijnde, “Yes, it’s very good
to see that the magazine still exists.
I had never thought that I would sit
around this table on the occasion of
the 50th issue!”
Jousma, “I always glance through, it
looks good. I still think it was a good
initiative.”
l But has it become the magazine
you had in mind?
“More than that,” finds Van den Eijnde.
Van Hoogdalem, “It has become a
respectable magazine, but it misses
tickle of naughtiness.”
Jousma, “It is very professional
and everyone has joined in: a typi-
cal Dutch ‘polderjournal’. But I miss
the feeling that it is widely supported
by the drug scientist’s community. It
could be more provoking and dynamic
– more human interest stories and
discussions on controversial topics
for instance.”
Van den Eijnde, “But a magazine such
as Conceptuur can’t be too controver-
sial. Its function is to connect people,
to create synergy at the borders of the
various disciplines. You need to keep
all the parties on board.”
l Do you still recognize your
contributions to the magazine?
Jousma, “The ordering and the names
of the sections seem to be the same:
‘reageerbuis’ and ‘onderzoeksper-
spectief’ for instance [test tube and
research perspective ed]. That’s
kind of funny because we did have a
lot of discussion about it. I remember
that we weren’t very satisfied with
onderzoeksperspectief. "Can nobody
come up with something better, I
asked in a meeting.”
Van den Eijnde, “The magazine is
also still blue, although it used to be a
more greenish blue. It’s a pity though
that the map of the Netherlands has
disappeared from the cover.”
l Has there been a particular
article in Conceptuur which you
remember vividly?
Jousma, “I once wrote an article ti-
tled: Don’t care about the costs, care
about the patients (Conceptuur 19,
April 1999 – ed). It frustrated me that
in meetings people from the Ministry
of Health tended to focus on the costs
of new medicines. What the new
drugs might mean for people’s lives
was pushed to the background.”
Van Hoogdalem, “I cannot recall a
particular article at the moment, but I
do remember a particular correspond-
ent: Peter Reijnders. While it was al-
ways hard work to get the promised
articles from everyone, Peter man-
aged to send in much more than he
promised! I see he is still involved.”
Van den Eijnde, “It’s just a detail, but
when I think back to the early days of
Conceptuur, I vividly remember the
fuss with floppy disks. Today, you
send in everything by email in Word,
but in the early nineties articles were
sent in on disk by post and some-
times in word processing programmes
my computer couldn’t read. Linda
Hutzezon, our support at the Faculty
of Pharmacy in Utrecht, ordered all
the disks, searched for missing flop-
py’s and managed to read them all,
she was a great support.”
Conceptuur changed
its look by the years.
A written cover was replaced by a
visualised cover little by little; the colour
passed from electric blue through sea
green into wine red.
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