Intro: Innovation is the word that best describes the Dutch Pivot Park Community. Pivot Park is a young and energetic research centre in the field of Life Sciences, with a focus on new drug development. In an interview with Mirjam Mol, director of Pivot Park Oss, we discuss the trends and developments in the life sciences.

Mirjam Mol: “The Pivot Park Community is the result of two major reorganisations within the pharmaceutical company MSD. In 2012, the research department in Oss was shut down, followed by the closure of the development department, two years later. The idea of setting up a Park was formed during the process of MSD’s first reorganisation. MSD, in close collaboration with local public stakeholders, set up the necessary funding and infrastructure for the park, including the buildings and facilities.”

Four years later, Pivot Park locates 35 companies. It is a blueprint for the most important developments in the pharmaceutical sector, notes Mirjam Mol. “The pharmaceutical business model has been undergoing major changes for many years. The large pharmaceuticals used to work primarily in the earliest phases of medical research, together with scientists and university research centres. After the early phase, they used to take developments further, in-house, all the way through to marketing the final products. However, in recent years, it was noted that this process was no longer innovative: a large ‘research-factory’ simply is not suitable for this process. So, we have seen the pharmaceutical business model slowly change from research and development to search & development.”

Small research companies

By divesting their research activities, the major pharmaceuticals creates opportunities for researchers to continue their research, however as part of their own companies. This is the second most important development: small, flexible organisations are often innovative. As soon as they have conceived a promising opportunity, the major pharmaceuticals are ready and waiting to continue the development further. A recent example from Pivot Park; at the end of December, the Anglo-Swedish AstraZeneca announced that they purchased, for the astronomical sum of 7 billion USD, a 55% share in Acerta Pharma. This company, founded in 2013 by two former MSD employees, is developing a cure for leukaemia. “This development was mainly research based, rather than on development. The development phase, for example the large-scale human clinical trials to test the effect of a new medicine, is an area where the pharmaceutical industry does not want to take any risks and want to control this process themselves. Small companies often cannot fund these major studies,” notes Mirjam Mol. She sees the point at which major companies take over smaller companies now coming at an earlier phase in their development. “Years ago, they only became interested if the medicine had shown promising effects in phase II trials. Now, a company can also be in the spotlight with a concept, even before it has been tested on humans. This very much depends on the field of research, for example if you have a breakthrough development in the field of oncology, the large companies are more interested at a much earlier stage.

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