Belgium’s life science and pharmaceutical industry is a rich ecosystem of technical expertise and a diverse and multilingual workforce, so it is no surprise that it is emerging as a European biocluster of health innovation. This, coupled with its central location in Europe, means that Belgium is a perfect partner for Catalent to pursue its patient-first mission.
For decades, the city of Brussels has been home to Catalent Biologics’ flagship European syringe filling facility and has had a strong impact on the community through its fundraising initiatives and environmental sustainability measures. The 24,000 m2 facility employs more than 470 people and has over 70 years of drug product manufacturing experience, including technology transfer, scale-up and life-cycle management.
Each year, the facility delivers up to 175 million units of therapeutic medicines throughout Europe and the world. The Brussels site works as part of a larger network of state-of-the-art facilities across Europe, including in France and Italy, to provide an integrated solution through the drug development lifecycle.
With such a strong life science foundation, and the recent hypergrowth in the field of advanced therapeutic medicinal products (ATMPs), Belgium has given rise to a diverse set of companies on the forefront of innovation. The Gosselies district, in the town of Charleroi in the booming southern region of Wallonia, has become a significant hub for cell and gene therapy development and manufacturing.
Over the last 18 months, through acquisition, Catalent has created a Center of European Excellence in Gosselies, with five facilities totaling over 12,000 m2, and technologies and services that range from plasmid DNA production to custom development and cell therapy manufacturing.
Catalent initially invested in Gosselies with its February 2020 acquisition of MaSTherCell Therapeutics, a growing cell therapy company focused on the development of cellular medicines for revolutionary treatments for cancers and rare diseases.
Following this initial European expansion in cell and gene therapy, Catalent quickly secured two additional facilities and a second company, Delphi Genetics, specializing in plasmid DNA production, a critical biological raw material needed to make these unique medicines.
The available production capacity, equipment and trained personnel already in place at Gosselies made the decision an easy one for Catalent. These factors, combined with the anticipated double-digit market growth in the field of advanced therapeutics, is creating a wonderful success story for Catalent’s European cell and gene therapy business.
Manja Boerman, Ph.D., President of the Cell and Gene Therapy business in Catalent Biologics, said: “It is our goal to continue to invest in the expansion and optimization of the Gosselies campus in order to create a leading center for cell and gene therapy. Cellular and genetic medicines are revolutionary treatments that require a spirit of innovation and fresh thinking. Our local Belgian teams are highly trained with years of experience in the field and have many partnerships with leading therapeutic innovators that are already in place, and growing. It is this entrepreneurial spirit that these companies were born from, that is now a part of our business. We anticipate our Gosselies location will be the premier European Cell and Gene Therapy Center of Excellence for clinical through to commercial production.”
Catalent has invested in Belgium over many years to answer changing market needs, as small molecules drugs and diluents gave way to biologics and vaccines, and will continue to do so as the market continues to evolve. The new Gosselies campus plans to hire over 250 new employees over the next five years and will create strong partnerships and synergies with leading pharmaceutical and biotech companies worldwide.
The Brussels site will benefit from new state-of-the-art technologies to provide faster and better manufacturing capabilities to its European customers. The growth opportunities for the local talent will be numerous as Catalent continues to tap into Belgium’s biotechnology expertise and proximity to academic and clinical centers.
As the field of biologics and ATMPs continues to evolve, many of these novel life-saving treatments will enter the clinic and, as they are proven to be safe and effective, will ultimately launch commercially. Catalent and its partners are dedicated to manufacturing medicines for patients with unmet medical needs, providing a chance for an extended lifespan or even a cure.
Mathilde Berfelde, a Belgium-based recruiter for Catalent said, “Within the European Union, Belgium holds a leading role in the pharmaceutical industry, and to hire the best talent, Catalent has been able to take advantage of the region’s unique combination of access to world-leading research and knowledge centers, and its excellent academic network in life sciences”.
She added, “Belgium’s continuous investments in biopharmaceutical research and development has helped consistently attract highly skilled workers from all over Europe. These people appreciate Catalent’s fast-paced and rewarding work environment.”
Catalent, like Belgium, shares a track record of successfully attracting and retaining talent, maintaining quality of life and a great work environment. Francoise Rodriguez, Catalent’s Commercial Operations Manager in Brussels, shared the view that Catalent offers a great working environment and a good quality of life in Belgium: “The idea was to stay one year and then go back home to Peru, but, eleven years later, we are a family of expats still enjoying this lovely country!”
Catalent benefits from strong partnerships with European bioclusters for the development of collaborative research and innovation projects and anchor skills. Together with Belgium-based or Belgium-focused bioclusters, such as EuropaBio and BioWin, Catalent has created an integrated footprint in Belgium.
With a long history as a provider of integrated services from early drug development, including proprietary drug delivery technologies and manufacturing solutions, Catalent helps life science innovators develop and successfully launch more than 150 new products every year. Its recent expansion into the innovative field of biologics, has helped make Catalent a metaphor for biotechnology innovation in Belgium: rooted in history, invested in the future.