For David Gering, communication director at sector federation pharma.be, the answer to that question is clear:
You are here
Why pharma firms produce their vaccines in Flanders
We have a ‘pharma valley’, a cluster of reputable pharmaceutical companies within a compact and easily accessible area. What’s more, we are one of the absolute top players when it comes to pharmaceutical R&D.
The reason why is threefold. David Gering: “Firstly, Belgium employs highly educated scientists at our universities, companies and hospitals. Secondly, the government has decided to encourage pharmaceutical research by granting R&D tax breaks and other incentives that are very attractive for top researchers. Thirdly, there’s our central location and top-notch infrastructure, including the fact that Belgium has two airports – in Zaventem (Brussels Airport) and in Liège – that are certified to transport medicines.”
Another important contributing factor is tradition, with numerous pharmaceutical success stories rooted in Belgium and Flanders:
Pharmaceutical firms like Johnson & Johnson and GSK are leading players globally, but they both have backgrounds here.
“Located in Beerse, Janssen Pharmaceutica was founded by Paul Janssen in the 1950s and is now the main research wing of US pharma giant Johnson & Johnson,” Corinne Vandermeulen adds. “Meanwhile, British group GSK also has its vaccine HQ in Rixensart, in Belgium’s Walloon region.” The company’s roots can be traced back to Leuven professor Pieter De Somer, who produced one of the world’s very first polio vaccines in Belgium.
Moreover, with the launch of Europe’s first vaccinopolis in Antwerp (Flanders), this tradition of pharma excellence and vaccination development shows no signs of slowing down. This rings especially true in the fight against COVID-19. “Worldwide, there are 236 vaccines in various stages of development, and a large proportion of these are linked to Belgium,” David Gering concludes.