“50 years of pharma.be”: the Belgian pharmaceutical industry is an undeniable success story for our country



On Monday November 21st, over 650 key stakeholders in healthcare and pharma employees gathered in Brussels for a Symposium on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of pharma.be. They celebrated 50 years of innovation for patients in Belgium and our country being at the forefront of pharmaceutical innovation.

The Symposium offered a platform for pharmaceutical companies, academics, patients, government representatives, authorities, hospitals, mutualities, patients associations and doctors associations to look back at the remarkable therapeutic accomplishments originating in our country over the past half century. On top of that, the Symposium was an opportunity to look forward on the ways in which all stakeholders should collaborate to preserve this success story for our country.

 Catherine Rutten, pharma.be

Catherine Rutten, CEO of pharma.be, underlined in her address the assets and diversity of the Belgian pharmaceutical industry. Through the years it evolved into an important laboratory of hope for patients worldwide. “Innovation is in our DNA”, she stated. “Each year, Belgium is investing more and more in R&D of new medicines, to the benefit of patients worldwide”.


 Prime Minister Charles Michel

Prime Minister Charles Michel confirmed Belgium’s leadership in pharmaceutical innovation: “Belgians are often modest in their achievements, but pharma in Belgium is a true success story”. He also referred to the pharmaceutical industry being an important pillar for the Belgian economy. The recently published Pharma figures 2015 confirm the leading position of Belgium in the EU.


Throughout the Symposium, several patient testimonials showed the impact of 50 years of innovation:

  • Patrick Reyntiens, on how HIV evolved from a death sentence to a treatable chronic disease

  • Véronique Scaillon, on the new perspectives in Hepatitis C treatment

  • Leo Coene, on the renewed hope for pancreatic cancer patients thanks to innovation

  • Paul De Corte, on the improved quality of life for Psoriasis patients


 Jo De Cock, NIHDI

Building on this, Jo De Cock, CEO of the NIHDI, put emphasize on the many new opportunities as a result of the dynamics of innovation and new technologies in healthcare. Finding a balance between innovation and solidarity, integrating innovation in healthcare and organizing the healthcare industry will be some of the main challenges.


Dr. Bettina Ryll, MPNE

Putting patients at the center of innovation was the key message of Dr. Bettina Ryll, Founder of the Melanoma Patient Network Europe (MPNE). “It is important to capture what really matters to patients individually”, she stated in her intervention.


 Prof. Dr. Michel Goldman, I3H

Prof. Dr. Michel Goldman, Founder of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Innovation in healthcare at ULB, explained the unique position of Belgium in Europe. From his experience being the Former Executive Director of the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), he put high value on a multi-stakeholder approach to speed up the development of new and innovative medicines.


 Prof. Dr. Eric Van Cutsem, KULeuven, & Dr. Greet Musch, famhp

The importance of a strong collaboration between industry and academia in clinical trials was confirmed by Prof. Dr. Eric Van Cutsem, Head of Digestive Oncology at KULeuven and Secretary of Leuven Cancer Institute (LKI). This was also echoed by Dr. Greet Musch, Director General at the Federal Agency famhp: “We are 2nd in number of clinical trials in the EU (per capita), with over 1,500 clinical trials running in our country last year”. She also announced the launch of a “National Innovation Office” in 2017, to stimulate R&D of new medicines.

In a video, Xavier De Cuyper, CEO of famhp, pointed at the impact of the European harmonisation of clinical trials evaluations on our country. “We need to maintain and improve Belgium’s leading position, to be able to offer to patients an even faster access to innovation."

Jan Denys, Randstad Belgium

The Symposium also focused on the 35,000 pharma employees in Belgium, which are the driving force behind the Belgian pharma valley. Researchers in labs, but also employees involved in clinical trials, regulatory affairs, market access, production, logistics, distribution, medical affairs … contribute every day to create “little miracles for patients”. Click here to see the interviews with the #pharmafaces

Jan Denys, Director Corporate Communication and Public Affairs at Randstad Belgium, emphasized the outstanding position of the pharmaceutical industry in terms of employer attractiveness. While the pharma industry is worldwide the 3rd most attractive employer, in Belgium it is ranked number 1 for several years in a row now.


 Vincent Kamer, Dechra Veterinary Products

Vincent Kamer, Country Manager Belgium at Dechra Veterinary Products and Chair of the Animal Health group of pharma.be, stressed the importance of the “One Health” principle: healthy animals are important for the safety of our food, but also for human wellbeing since they often offer company or assistance to people. The animal Health group represents 17 companies within pharma.be.


 Dr. Bertalan Meskó, “the Medical Futurist”

Strongly inspired by science fiction, Dr. Bertalan Meskó gave a flavor of the sheer endless possibilities in the future of health, with many new technologies popping up. Better known as “The Medical Futurist”, he showed optimism towards the future: more technologies mean more time and attention to patients.


Sonja Willems, Janssen Benelux

Sonja Willems, Managing Director of Janssen Benelux and Chairwoman of pharma.be, concluded the Symposium on a positive note: “The Pact of the Future, concluded between the federal government and the pharmaceutical industry in July 2015, was a very important milestone in history. It encourages the research and development of new medicines in our country, benefiting patients worldwide.”


 Dr. Maggie De Block, Minister of Public Health and Social Affairs

 Dr. Maggie De Block, Minister of Public Health and Social Affairs confirmed that the Pact of the Future was praised internationally as a best practice and unique way to collaborate to the benefit of patients. Even though a large share of the recent budget cuts fell on the shoulders of the pharmaceutical industry, the Pact creates financial headroom to invest in innovation.



On Tuesday November 22nd, a delegation of pharma.be, pharmaceutical companies and academics was welcomed by Majesty King Philippe of Belgium for a Round Table at the Royal Palace. They discussed the strengths of Belgium in the field of pharmaceutical research, development and production, as well as some of the future therapeutic developments.

To relive the events on our website:

- Pictures and videos

- Twitter overview (Storify)

- Press release on the Pharma figures 2015 (Dutch / French)