• Delphi Genetics a récemment quadruplé ses capacités de production suite à une forte augmentation de la demande.

The BioPark in Charleroi has the wind in its sails03/07/2020

The biotech cluster is preparing for a massive recruitment drive in the coming months. Three hundred jobs have been announced for the four main players specialising in bioproduction alone: MaSTherCell, Delphi Genetics, Univercells and Novasep.  This news comes one week after the announcement of the entry into the American Nasdaq of another Walloon gem from the Charleroi BioPark, iTeos, which specialises in immunotherapy treatments against cancer.

Three months after completing a new record $125 million financing round, iTeos Therapeutics is about to make its debut on Wall Street.  The IPO is expected to raise up to an additional $100 million. A spin-off of UCLouvain and the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, iTeos is an expert in immuno-oncology, a new therapeutic approach aimed at restoring immunity against cancer. It thus joins the two other Walloon biotechs, Celyad (formerly Cardio3 BioSciences) and MDxHealth, which works in the diagnosis of prostate cancer, on the American Nasdaq.

Another rapidly developing life sciences sector is bio-production, i.e. the manufacture of biological substances that form the basis of new and innovative therapies capable of curing hitherto incurable diseases. Along with academic research and the development of new molecules, this is one of the BioPark's two centres of expertise. And it would be no exaggeration to say that it is booming at the moment, since several hundred jobs will be created in the next 12 months. Two of the four biotechs involved, Univercells and Novasep, are taking part in development projects for vaccines against COVID-19.

Novasep has signed an agreement with the pharmaceutical group AstraZeneca for the European manufacture (in Seneffe) of most of the active ingredient of the COVID-19 vaccine currently being developed by AstraZeneca in collaboration with the University of Oxford. "Business conditions are good for Novasep's historical activities. We plan to hire 50 employees. On top of that, there is the partnership with AstraZeneca, which requires us to recruit around one hundred additional employees for this specific project," stated Cédric Volanti, President Biopharma Solutions at Novasep Belgium.

Univercells has signed a strategic collaboration with German company Leukocare and Italian company ReiThera for the manufacture of a vaccine against COVID-19, using adenovirus-based technology. The large-scale production of this vaccine by Univercells and its subsidiary Exothera will create several dozen jobs in the BioPark.

Delphi Genetics has recently quadrupled its production capacity in response to a sharp increase in demand. This former ULB spin-off specialises in the production of DNA for gene therapy. "Last year, we hired an average of one person every two weeks," said Cédric Szpirer, the company's founder and scientific director. "There are 35 of us and we still plan to recruit another ten employees. This does not include a project to develop a treatment against COVID-19" which he predicts will probably lead to "other new jobs".

Lastly, the company that seems to offer the most jobs is MaSTherCell. Recently acquired by the American company Catalent, it works in the industrialisation and production of cellular therapies. It is in the process of increasing the size of its existing facilities with a 5,700 m² extension in Gosselies. Some 300 jobs will be filled within the next three years.

It is stressed that bio-production activities are aimed at people with prior experience in the field or in related fields, such as agri-food, but also at young graduates and people prepared to start vocational retraining. Workers, technicians and production managers are just some of the different profiles sought. According to Florence Bosco, CEO of BioPark Development, "The biotechnology sector is a very important economic sector for the Charleroi region and for Belgium in general. It is expanding rapidly and thus creating quality, long-term jobs. In the current post-Corona context, which is difficult for many, we are pleased to be able to offer many recruitment and retraining opportunities for different profiles."
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Source : L’Echo et Belga

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