Silvie Meeuwissen (1985) has been working as a Principal Scientist at ChemConnection B.V. since 2014. The company that was founded in 2012 by two former Organon employees is one of the few companies in Europe that focuses on commercialization of medical applications for nanotechnology. With around seventy employees, ChemConnection is now the largest employer at Pivot Park. Meeuwissen was one of the first without an Organon background to join this fast-growing company. “I believe I was number seventeen to be taken on,” says Meeuwissen. “Until then, I had been working at the university. I found the transition to business quite exciting, all the more so because I was the youngest member of the team right from the start. But it worked out very well.”
Meeuwissen studied chemistry at Radboud University in Nijmegen, where she specialised in nanotechnology. “At high school I always had a strong affinity with science subjects. Chemistry was the most practical of these so that appealed to me. I like pure chemistry the most: the idea that you can conduct molecules on such a small scale. My interest has always been in practical applications, as in medication. In my PhD I switched to even smaller particles, doing fundamental research into how nanotechnology can be used to deliver drugs with a high degree of precision. For example, with ‘nano-vesicles’, a kind of tiny package that you can fill, it is possible to deliver medicines very precisely to the right place in the body.” After her PhD, Meeuwissen stayed at university for another year, but she wanted to investigate the applicability of nanotechnology. “In the business world, it’s all about practical applications, which I find very interesting. That’s why I made the switch to business and joined ChemConnection in 2014. The nanotechnology I am currently working on is of great interest to the medical world.”
ChemConnection was founded in 2012 by Gerjan Kemperman and Ferry Brands, who had made a career within Organon Oss. The company is active in two branches of the pharmaceutical industry: it develops and produces Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API’s) and nanomedicines. Meeuwissen: “ChemConnection is a young company that is growing fast. We are focusing mainly on development of production processes. If a medicine is developed in a laboratory, there is usually only a very small amount of it available. ChemConnection explores how larger quantities can be made and then produces them in-house. Making a very small amount of a medicine is one thing, but scaling up production takes a lot of time. In large quantities, substances can react very differently and you may need very different techniques. We are committed to finding that route to upscaling so that new medicines can be safely produced and tested, first on animals and then on humans. We supply the building blocks for the production of medicines, we make the raw material.”
Meeuwissen leads a team of researchers. “I am supervisor of some six to eight projects for different clients. My input tends to have a strong intrinsic character. We do not develop any medication ourselves. Our research and production are demand-driven: the concept is delivered by the customer, after which we start working on it. This does mean, however, that we are sometimes asked by our clients to develop new generations of their existing medicines. Their intellectual property is well protected with us. We bring our knowledge and experience to bear, but we will never use research results from one client for another. Our main areas of activity are cancer, autoimmune diseases and neurological diseases.
ChemConnection now has a five-member executive board: R&D and Production, Analytics, Quality, Facility Management and a site director. It reflects the rapid growth the company has experienced in recent years, which has made it an interesting partner for acquisition in the pharmaceutical industry. ChemConnection recently became part of Ardena. “Due to the acquisition by Ardena, we now have even more expertise in-house,” says Meeuwissen. “Ardena follows a buy-and-build strategy. It now consists of five companies and has a total of around 200 employees. The companies within Ardena have a great deal of freedom to determine their own course, but of course there is a great deal of cooperation and exchange.”
In addition to the collaborations within Ardena, Meeuwissen is also full of praise for the collaborations at Pivot Park. “It is a wide-ranging campus with many facilities that all companies can use when they do not have them in house. And, even though we are the largest company at Pivot Park, we make a lot of use of it, for example using laboratory equipment and specialised dishwashers. Meeuwissen sees Pivot Park as a breeding ground for new developments, also due to the growth of new companies. “There are very different companies here, which offers a lot of opportunities for cooperation. We regularly receive orders from companies on the campus, but we also often outsource work here. Despite the rapid growth of the company and the recent acquisition, Meeuwissen does not see ChemConnection leaving Pivot Park any time soon. ” It is our ambition to grow by about ten to fifteen percent a year, and there is room for this within Pivot Park. Plenty of room here to develop.”