Vaccinopolis will enormously boost Antwerp's health industry ecosystem

Unique in mainland Europe, Vaccinopolis is a brand-new testing facility in Antwerp where vaccine trials can be performed. According to driving forces Pierre Van Damme and Silvia Lenaerts, this state-of-the-art infrastructure will attract many international businesses to Antwerp and boost the city’s innovative health industry ecosystem.

When dreams become reality

Leading scientist and vaccinologist Pierre Van Damme is one of the main inspirers of Vaccinopolis. “After the success of the temporary Poliopolis in 2017, I started dreaming. How wonderful would it be if we had a permanent human challenge testing facility in Antwerp? The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the plan, and today I’m very proud that Vaccinopolis is ready. It took us only 14 months to construct this building. Thanks to all project partners who have pulled together.”

Unique in Europe

Vaccinopolis is a testing facility with 30 beds. It will carry out Controlled Human Infections Models (CHIM) studies. Thanks to these studies, vaccines can be developed and tested more quickly. “There are many facilities for medical teams and researchers. Everyone can act quickly, and collaboration is stimulated. With such capacity and biosafety level, this innovative vaccine centre is one of a kind in mainland Europe, some say even in the world”, says Pierre Van Damme.

Vaccinopolis is one of a kind in mainland Europe, some say even in the world.


The focal point of a broad ecosystem

Silvia Lenaerts is professor and vice-rector of valorization & development at the University of Antwerp. She emphasizes that Vaccinopolis is more than just a facility. “Vaccinopolis must become the focal point of Antwerp’s health industry ecosystem. We already have a vast and experienced network in the health sector, with the hospitals UZA, ZNA/GZA, the renowned Institute for Tropical Medicine, and various close-by vaccine manufacturers, but we need more business innovation. We also want to attract diagnostic companies and businesses dealing with data and AI. The unique concept of Vaccinopolis and its proximity to many partners in the health innovation ecosystem offers great value for so many, which entails many opportunities.”

We already have a vast and experienced health ecosystem, but we need more business innovation.

Shift to social impact

Even before the official opening, Vaccinopolis has been contacted by a wide range of companies, from Belgium and Europe and the States and Canada. “We make reservations as we speak, and many negotiations are ongoing,” says Pierre Van Damme. “You can imagine that we are dealing with major contracts.” Silvia adds: “Big pharmaceutical companies are more and more focused on global public health. Whereas vaccines were associated with low profitability in the past, today we notice a significant shift towards social impact.”

Antwerp is open for innovation

Silvia concludes: “Our dream in the long run? A vibrant innovation ecosystem in Antwerp, clustered around Vaccinopolis, where many talented people, international students, start-ups, scale-ups, large international businesses meet and work together. Cooperation and co-innovation are the key terms. It’s time for everybody to know: we are open for innovation!”

It’s time for everybody to know: we are open for innovation!