A long and proud
As a home to great scientists, innovative entrepreneurs, and many of the world’s biopharma and biotech leaders, Belgium has been one step ahead in healthcare for over a century.
The journey to leadership
Belgium has played a leading role in world science since 1911 and the launch of the legendary Solvay conferences on physics and chemistry.
In the 1920s, Corneel Heymans and Jules Bordet both received Nobel Prizes for Physiology and Medicine.
R&D activities accelerated in the 1950s, resulting in GSK producing the world’s first polio vaccine and the creation of Janssen Pharmaceutica. Today, the world’s ten largest biopharmaceutical companies all have sites here.
During the pandemic, the country manufactured one billion doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA covid vaccines, while UCB announced an invest in a bioproduction plant in Belgium.
A strong R&D base, the expansion of biomanufacturing activities, a growing community of ambitious entrepreneurs and investors, and supportive governments all work together to ensure the Belgian biotech sector continues to shape tomorrow.
Meet the scientists and leaders who made history
Launched his global chemical empire in 1863. Organised the first Solvay Conference in 1911, which perpetuates his lifelong passion for scientific research.
Dr. Paul Janssen
Founder of Janssen Pharmaceutica in 1953, a world-leading pharmaceutical company now a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson. Invented numerous new molecules that are still available today.
Christian de Duve
Received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1974. Founded the International Institute of Cellular and Molecular Pathology (ICP), later renamed the de Duve Institute in the same year.
One of just three female students who studied medicine at the University of Liège in 1940. Went on to research at the Pasteur Institute in Brussels. Created a virology department and later developed a method of screening the AIDS virus.
Joined the Biological Division of GSK in 1974, becoming CEO and then Chairman of GSK Vaccines in 2012. Appointed a Baron by King Albert II of Belgium and received a Knighthood of the British Empire in recognition of his contribution to R&D and Industry.
Dr. Marianne De Backer
Strategic advisor, scientist, business leader, deal maker, and corporate investor in the healthcare industry for over two decades. Responsible for more than 200 strategic alliances in healthcare.
Founded in 1928 by the entrepreneur, Emmanuel Janssen, as a company with new innovative chemicals and pharmaceuticals, the history of UCB is strongly intertwined with that of the Janssen family.
Institute of Tropical Medicine established in Antwerp, one of the world's leading institutes in the field.
Janssen Pharmaceutica is created by Dr. Paul Janssen.
RIT (now GSK) produces the world’s first polio vaccine. Today, GSK Belgium is the world’s largest producer of vaccines.
Upjohn (now Pfizer) builds a facility in Puurs, now one of Belgium's most advanced production plants for aseptic drugs.
The de Duve Institute, a multidisciplinary biomedical research institute, is founded by Christian de Duve, Nobel Prize Winner in Physiology or Medicine.
Belgian physician, microbiologist, and scientist Peter Piot discovers the Ebola virus.
imec is founded, now a leader in nano- and digital technology innovation employing more than 5,500 expert scientists from over 96 countries.
Joseph Martial founds one of the first spin-offs based on the American model in Belgium. Today Eurogentec is a trusted CDMO for DNA Plasmid for DNA vaccines and starting materials for vector-based gene medicines.
Discovery of a special kind of antibody in llamas and other camelid species, known as nanobodies, leads to numerous medical breakthroughs.
Innogenetics becomes one of the first biotech companies to be listed on the European stock exchange.
World renowned Research Institute for Biotechnology, VIB, is founded by the Flemish government to drive excellence in life sciences research and accelerate economic growth.
Brussels South Charleroi BioPark opens, a fast-growing biotech ecosystem with today about 85 biotech players and a particular focus on cell & gene therapies, and future home of the EU Biotech Campus.
Mithra Pharmaceuticals SA, a spin-off of the University of Liège, is founded to redefine women’s health through innovation in contraception and menopause products.
Galapagos is founded as a joint venture between Crucell and Tibotec, active in the fields of rheumatoid arthritis and next-generation cell therapy.
Ablynx is established as a spin-off of the Flemish Institute for Biotechnology (VIB) and the Free University of Brussels (VUB). Now a subsidiary of Sanofi, engaged in the discovery and development of nanobodies.
CEFOCHIM (now aptaskil) is founded, the Walloon training centre dedicated to chemical, biopharmaceutical and biotechnological production.
Former Ablynx employees establish argenx, a clinical stage biotechnology company developing antibody-based therapies for severe autoimmune diseases and cancer.
Univercells is created to develop breakthrough technologies and services that democratise the production of biologics.
The Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Pharmaceutical Engineering & Manufacturing (CESPE) is launched, focused on the sustainable development, design and optimisation of drug substance and drug product production platforms.
In partnership with Janssen, US company Legend Biotech announces a brand-new CAR-T cell therapy production facility in Ghent - its first European facility.
GSK announces a €330 million investment in Wavre, the world's largest vaccine production centre.
GSK and imec announce a partnership focused on the use of nanotechnology to accelerate the development and production of new vaccines.
EU Biotech Campus, a new flagship training centre in Gosselies has been approved by the European Commission and expected to be operational in 2025.
UCB expands its innovation footprint with a new state-of-the-art gene therapy facility in Braine L’Alleud.
Pfizer plans to invest over €1.2 billion in its production facility located in Puurs, an important ‘launch site’ for innovative medicines.
French pharmaceutical company Sanofi announces a €120 million investment in a high-tech haemophilia therapeutic protein production line in Geel.
Japanese pharma giant Takeda announces a new €300 million production facility and warehouse in Lessines – its largest ever investment in Belgium.
Catalent opens one of the world’s largest commercial-scale cell therapy manufacturing facilities at its European Centre of Excellence for Cell Therapies in Gosselies.
ViTalent, the first specialised training centre for pharma and biotech, opens in Flanders.
Opening of LégiaPark, a Liège business centre dedicated to hosting businesses that operate in life sciences.
PDC*Line Pharma, a clinical stage biotech company, announces the development of its own GMP manufacturing facility in Liège.
Kaneka invests €14 million euros in Belgian subsidiary Eurogentec in Liège, increasing mRNA production 5-fold to meet the needs of gene therapy companies.
Quantum Biospace announced a new business park for the entire biotech and health technology value chain in Wavre. The first fully equipped premises will open Q3 2025.
If Belgium is such a biopharma power house it is to a large extent thanks to a dynamic ecosystem, of which academic research and innovation is a vital actor.
Special Advisor to the President on European and global health security