15-years LS@W by Chrétien Herben and Math Kohnen

LifeSciences@Work (LS@W) started in 2008, and now in 2023, it proudly celebrates its 15th anniversary. To mark this festive occasion, this special edition of the Health~Holland Update is devoted to the successes of LS@W throughout the years. You will find interviews with entrepreneurs and investors, facts & figures about the business accelerator support programme that LS@W offers and lots of experiences of LS@W participants. Get inspired and discover where many Dutch Life Sciences companies have their roots.

Meet Chrétien Herben and Math Kohnen

Chrétien Herben set-up LS@W and has been its Programme Director since 2008. He knows all the ins and outs of LS@W, is hands-on involved in the Venture Challenge and has a large network of Venture Challenge and LS@W alumni.

Math Kohnen is the founding father of the Venture Challenge. During the Venture Challenge, he provides the lectures and offers coaching to the participating startups. Together with Chrétien he built the Venture Challenge into the successful startup programme it is today.

Having an idea is the easy bit. Making it happen is the challenge.

- Chrétien Herben, Programme Director LifeSciences@Work

Idea to innovation

So many great life sciences ideas stay great ideas, whether we are talking about pharmaceutical products, medical devices, diagnostics or enabling technologies. And that’s most unfortunate, especially if ideas are promising. However, as a researcher, turning an idea into a business is challenging. You need to combine two completely different worlds in such a way that they amplify each other.

Expert by experience

15 years ago, the idea of combining both worlds in a programme to support life sciences researchers with business aspirations became a reality with the start of LifeSciences@Work. The idea did not come out of the blue: ‘I knew from experience what it was like to take a research result out of my own PhD work and translate it into a commercially viable product’, says Chrétien. ‘It involved more than just translating the research to the market. It was about building a team, a company and raising venture capital to pay for it all. I gained so many lessons from this experience. I used those to bring together the right support programmes to do something for people who were about to jump on the same train as me.’

Math and Chrétien joining forces

Math had worked for many years as a management consultant for corporates. He helps them to identify new business opportunities and make those happen through corporate venturing. In 2007, the Netherlands Bioinformatic Consortium (NBIC) asked him to help their researchers translate their bioinformatics tools into new business. Chrétien, who was working as Valorisation Manager for the Netherlands Genomics Initiative that funded NBIC, learned about this Venture Challenge workshop, and its value was immediately clear to him. He decided that the Venture Challenge had to become a crucial part of the LS@W programme. Math and Chrétien joined forces, and together, they built the Venture Challenge into the most successful startup support programme in the life sciences.

 ‘The Venture Challenge is a numbers game. You need to crush a lot of rock to find the next diamond.’

- Math Kohnen, founding father Venture Challenge

Setting up the programme

The unique position and funding of the Netherlands Genomics Initiative made it possible to shape a national support programme for life sciences researchers who aspired to start a company based on their research results. And now, fifteen years later, LS@W has supported more than 200 Biotech and MedTech startups. Together, these startups have attracted more than 850 million euros and generated over 1250 direct jobs, a multiple of those in indirect jobs.

Enjoy reading!

In this special magazine of the Health~Holland Update, we would like to share some of the success stories through interviews with LS@W alumni, an overview of the results, and some quotes from the participants. 

We’re inspired to see the growth of the companies concerned. They show that starting a business in the life sciences is a long but worthwhile process. We look forward to the next anniversary!

Read the magazine here!

- Chrétien Herben and Math Kohnen


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