This is the second of three articles looking at growing connections between Taiwan and the Netherlands in the life sciences. Today we examine the reasons why two companies from Taiwan have chosen the Leiden Bio Science Park in the Netherlands as the site for their European operations.
The first is Taiwan Liposome Company (TLC), a drug formulation development company. The other is Body Organ Biomedical, with its subsidiary in Holland, Aeon Astron Europe B.V., a medical devices company specializing in collagen scaffolds technology for tissue regeneration and surgical purposes.
George Yeh, president of Taiwan Liposome Company (TLC).
Taiwan Liposome Company (TLC)
Mr. George Yeh, president of TLC, started by talking about his company and its liposome drug delivery technology.
“We are a lipid-based formulation delivery company. We’ve developed a slow-release system for injectable drugs, with the purpose either to reduce the toxicity, reduce the dosage frequency, or expand the indication of the existing drug. Currently we have two products on the market and several others that are in clinical development. Recently we partnered with Teva [world’s biggest generic drug maker] to market our product in the US. And we are under discussion with other partners for expanding to a global market.”
“In Taiwan we sometimes refer to ourselves as a ‘bio-design house’. We don’t do manufacturing, but what we do is turnkey solutions for manufacturing. Which means that we will build the scale-up machine, and then transfer the technology out to the contract manufacturing plant, and have that firm do the production for us.”
Getting such drugs approved for market by regulatory authorities is a constant challenge and the guidelines differ country to country. TLC has a strategy for this, Yeh explained, adding that this was the reason why the company needed to look for a location for a European presence. It goes like this: Some of the diseases prevalent in Asia are considered rare enough to be ‘orphan diseases’ in Europe. So for some drugs, TLC’s drug for liver cancer for example, the company can get ‘orphan drug’ designation from EMA (the European Medicines Agency). And then the US FDA can rely on EMA’s decision and also class it as an orphan drug.
And in this way, the drug can get approved more quickly in Taiwan too. Yeh explained. “With an orphan drug you only need a limited amount of clinical data to get approval. But for liver cancer, most of the patients are in Asia. So you can leverage the orphan drug status of EMA and then build up your clinical drug data in Asia and get the drug approved here. That’s taking advantage of both systems. And if you play it right, you can get the product much faster to the market. That’s why we set it up like that.”
Yeh explained how the company decided on the Netherlands for their office.
“We were looking around; Germany, France, Netherlands, also Belgium and the UK. And we nailed it down to a choice between the UK and Netherlands, for the reason that these two are the most English-friendly. And for the long term if we wanted to set up production, we wanted to be on the Europe mainland. So that’s one reason we decided on the Netherlands.”
“Secondly, the business style of the Dutch is very similar to the Taiwanese. If you think about it, the Netherlands is surrounded by all the ‘big guys’, France, Germany, etc. It’s a little bit like Taiwan; China, Japan, and so on. So we all need to find a way to survive. And this has built up a similar character and style. Every time I talk to my advisor in Holland I feel like he really knows what I’m talking about!
“And the third thing is the way laws are set up to manage intellectual property (IP). They call it the ‘knowledge box.’ Basically if you park your IP over there it’s tax free for the royalty. If you look at some of the world’s biggest music companies, they’ve set up their head offices in the Netherlands. It’s because of this issue. Music is all about collecting royalties. So whoever designed this, what it’s done has attracted lots of creative industries to the Netherlands. And the biotech business also is all about IP and royalties. ”
“And the fourth reason is how proactive the Dutch government and the local business development agencies are in attracting small to mid-sized companies. At the Leiden park in particular, they really helped us a lot setting up the office. They literally rented a van and took us through and got all the paper work done at different places, all for free. It was very efficient. You don’t see that as much with other agencies in other countries.”
And the fifth thing is what Leiden has set up in their life sciences park. It’s all there. We were looking for somewhere where we could source potential new technology. Leiden University [located inside Leiden Bio Science Park] worked out well for us.”