By Mart Duitemeijer
Netherlands Innovation Network

Key stakeholders who work in the field of life sciences and health in Massachusetts and the Netherlands came together in a virtual session June 8 to discuss how their ecosystems are responding to COVID-19, which lessons could be learned from the reaction to the pandemic, and how to stimulate closer international collaboration.

On both sides of the Atlantic, governments and other organizations such as Mass Life Sciences Center, Health~Holland, MassBIO, and HollandBIO have taken measures to support companies in the life sciences and health sector that are developing vaccines, working on a vaccine, or manufacturing personal protective equipment (PPE). Measures range from funding for research and development to helping companies bring back their scientists to the lab.

Biotech companies have proven to be dynamic and are pivoting to focus their work on therapies and vaccines. Around 80 biotech companies in Massachusetts are working COVID-19 related research. Even more so, participants observe an increased amount of cooperation between companies, researchers, and governments to find solutions.

For instance, the extent with which data has been shared across the sector has largely increased. This doesn’t stop at the private sector, as public and semi-public organizations have informed each other across borders to support each other in handling the situation. Also when looking at formal procedures, agencies have shown great efficiency in shortening approval procedures to speed up the development of vaccines and therapies

A paradox can be observed regarding the supply of PPE and other vital medical equipment that companies have sourced internationally. The pandemic has shown the limits of international supply chains, therefore, will governments require that vital manufacturing be maintained within their geographical reach?

On the other hand, participants of the conversations agree that there will always be a need to collaborate internationally and make use of each other’s strengths. If all strengths from different countries or ecosystems could be brought together, this will create a stronger value chain where collaboration between partners is needed and truly adds value.

When looking ahead, participants recognize that in a post-COVID world, we should be better prepared for a possible outbreak of a pandemic. That we need to be ready to think and act together, internationally, so we can organize the supply chain and share data and expertise when needed.