Four times more funds for VIB

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The Flemish Government will increase the annual support for the VIB from 15 million to 59 million per year. “The VIB is the catalyst of the Flemish biotechnology sector. It’s an excellent reference for Flanders as a knowledge region,” says Flemish Minister for Economy and Innovation Philippe Muyters (N-VA), who signed the new agreement yesterday.

“We’re in the Champions League of the sector. We are on the same level as MIT, Stanford and Oxford,” says Jo Bury, business director of VIB. “To stay at the top, we need to invest. The greater our image, the easier it will be to attract top talent from around the world,” he adds.

“The support of Flanders is important and significant. But Flanders gets much in return,” continues Bury. VIB plays an important role in attracting foreign companies. For example, Yakult (probiotics) and Regenesys (stem cell medicine) developed activities in Flanders, as well as Argen-X (originally Dutch) and Biocartis (founded by Rudi Pauwels in Switzerland).

Currently, VIB is at the basis of 18 spin-offs. Ablynx is the most visible, with a market value of 750 million euros on the Brussels stock exchange. But there is also the diagnostics company Multiplicom, for which the US-based Agilent paid 68 million euros last year, a deal that provided the VIB, as one of the major shareholders, with a substantial capital injection of more than 10 million.

In addition, the VIB attracts national and international research fellowships and funds, as for example the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, sponsor of a malaria research. Also collaborations with many companies generate more budget. For example, the Leuven research group of Kevin Verstrepen works with AB InBev for the development of new beer yeasts. Also, Pfizer, Roche and Bayer works with the VIB.