Wallonia/Belgium: Leading the Charge in Life Sciences Innovation

May 22, 2024

Posted by Wallonia Trade and Investment

In 2024, Belgium’s landscape in life sciences and biotechnology stands out as a dynamic and thriving hub, asserting itself as one of the global centers of excellence and equivalent to a Boston/Cambridge hub of Europe. Pharmaceutical exports account for 14.8 % of all Belgian exports and the United Sates is by far the most important trading partner, accounting for almost 20 % of the country’s biopharmaceutical exports. The country also ranks fourth globally in pharmaceutical exports and it holds a second place leading position in Europe for clinical trials.  With well-developed research and manufacturing infrastructure, robust regulations, highly skilled workforce, and close collaboration between the public and private sectors, Belgium provides a conducive ecosystem for innovation and growth. 


The Walloon region in Belgium, also known as the biotech valley of Europe, is home to a vibrant and innovative life sciences ecosystem of more than 350 life science companies and is well known for its production of life saving vaccines, regenerative medicine, cell & gene and immunotherapies, and radiopharmaceuticals.  The region also holds a prominent position in biologistics thanks to its optimal location between Amsterdam, Paris and Frankfurt, and close proximity to 8 of the 10 top cargo airports with direct connections to the main seaports of Antwerp and Rotterdam. This ecosystem is located in a small, interconnected area representing a higher density compared to Germany and France.  Furthermore, the contribution of pharma to Wallonia’s economy is 10x higher than its closest neighbors. Biomanufacturing (https://www.kickstartbiomanufacturing.be/success-factors/skilled-talent) has become the most prevalent activity in the region with over 50,000 direct and indirect jobs.  This remarkable growth has flourished thanks to the dense network of university research institutions and hospitals, thereby providing ample opportunity for research partnerships and recruitment.  Please find more information on the Walloon biotech ecosystem in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o1eM0jmjVt4


Wallonia finds itself once again on the world’s center stage when it comes to notable advancements in cancer immunotherapy. PDC Line Pharma, a biotech company in Liège, has recently announced at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting 2024 promising interim clinical results for the last cohort of phase I/II clinical trial of its lung cancer vaccine (PDC-LUNG-101, NCT03970746). This data revealed that the high dose PDC*lung01 combined with pembrolizumab shows an immunological activity in a majority of patients and a promising antitumor response in stage IV NSCLC with a mild safety profile.  For more information, please visit the company’s press release at https://www.pdc-line-pharma.com/news/aacr-2024-pdcline-pharma-presents-interim-clinical-results-last-cohort-patients-phase-iii).


Wallonia continues to actively attract foreign direct investment (FDI) through innovation clusters, top-notch infrastructure, favorable policies, and a comprehensive interconnected value chain. Over the years, major US companies have heavily invested in the region like Thermo Fisher Scientific, UCB, GSK, Johnson & Johnson, Baxter, Abbvie, Takeda and many more, acting as a driving force for SMEs and start-ups, in addition to creating sustained relationships with clusters and other international partners.  The region offers numerous financial advantages such as patent income deductions, tax advantages in innovation (e.g. exemption of 85% of innovation-related net income and an effective tax rate below 10% related to intangible assets for which an R&D declaration has been obtained), numerous grants and subsidies that can cover up to 70% of your R&D costs, access to non-dilutive money and public investment funds that can intervene up to 50% of your financial needs.   


Would you like to learn more about how Wallonia, the biotech valley of Europe, can help your biotech company expand in Europe? Let’s meet at biopartnering BIO San Diego or virtually by sending us a meeting request at newyork@awex-wallonia.com.

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