Dutch TV news show “Eén Vandaag” viewed by around 1 million people today highlighted the financial challenges of Dutch start-ups during corona times. Remko van Leeuwen is one the CEOs that was interviewed for the program.
During the interview (in Dutch, no subtitles), Remko van Leeuwen talks about the predictability of the next public health crisis: antibiotic resistance. He explained that he and his colleagues have spent the past 9 years developing a new antibiotic. “Hundreds of thousands of people die every year from antibiotic resistance worldwide. If the corona crisis has shown anything, it is that we have been too late to intervene. That is why it is so important to look ahead and start developing new antibiotics now” he explains in the interview. “New investments in the company are needed but that because of the corona outbreak, no one dared to invest”.
Because start-ups often cannot use regular government support to deal with the crisis, the Corona Bridging Loan (COL) from the Dutch government has been set up specifically for this sector. It is a pot of 300 million euros. Entrepreneurs can submit an application to Regional Development Companies (ROMs), which implement this scheme at the request of the cabinet. Our application was rejected. And we are not the only one who got a rejection, Remko explains during the interview.
“It has always been difficult to find investors for the development of new antibiotics”, says Remko van Leeuwen during the interview. “That was also the case for corona. New drugs often remain on the shelf for a long time because doctors want to avoid frequent use and the possible resistance.
But during the corona outbreak, antibiotics are widely used to fight secondary infections. This has increased concerns about resistance, says Van Leeuwen. He thinks that it was not the right choice from the Dutch government not to strengthen our company with an emergency loan. “Yes, maybe I will only make a profit in 5 or 6 years. But that’s how it works, especially in bioscience.”
Along with the other people that are interviewed, Remko therefore makes a plea for more government support to guide start-ups like Madam Therapeutics through the corona crisis.