Cristal Therapeutics has been located at the Brightlands Maastricht Health Campus since 2014, where a staff of 15 people work on the development of nanomedicines based on the company’s own CriPec® platform. A short and simple description of nanoparticles is that they are a means of transport. They deliver medication via the bloodstream primarily to the places where they should do their work such as a tumour tissue or chronic inflammation site. The advantages are obvious: a medication that is more effective and has fewer side effects.
Things have really been going uphill for the company that was founded in Utrecht in 2011 by Cristianne Rijcken and Joost Holthuis, currently Chief Scientific Officer and Chief Executive Office, respectively. Not only is the staff growing steadily (they are still looking for good analytical employees!), but the number of patents continues to rise as well. There are currently six patent families registered, with even more in the pipeline.
In line with expectations, the phase I study for the main product was recently successfully completed and a clinical phase II study in a larger patient population are currently being prepared. These are tense times for the company. Many good ideas tend to run aground during the transition phase from laboratory to clinic, including those originating from the company’s two major American competitors last year. This new method for administering medicine could very well mean a revolution in the world of medicine. There is, after all, a good reason that Cristal Therapeutics currently works closely with other pharmaceutical companies from all over the world.
Combining science and business
“Working on science in a business setting.” This is something anyone who has talked to Cristianne or Joost will hear more often. The winner of the 2017 Limburg Businesswoman of the Year award, Cristianne enjoys the challenges that come with entrepreneurship. “Scientist or entrepreneur? I am both of course, but I am actually more of an entrepreneur than a scientist. I much appreciate that research can lead to writing a dissertation or publishing an article in a journal, but developing a product that will ultimately reach the market is what I love. At Cristal Therapeutics, innovative and creative scientific research go hand-in-hand with smart and bold entrepreneurship. Our focus is clear: the goal is to develop commercial products that can truly improve patients’ health.”
The move to Maastricht
The company got its start through Cristianne’s doctoral research. Funded at the time through a government grant, she started out in 2008, working at a rented lab table at Utrecht University. The BV (private limited liability company) was set up in Utrecht in 2011. The company moved to Maastricht in 2014 primarily for practical reasons. It had grown fast, needed its own facilities, which were hard to find in Utrecht and the surrounding areas but more readily available in Limburg, plus an attractive financial infrastructure. Although the development of medicine is something that happens on a worldwide level, they are firmly embedded in the network at and around the campus.
Anyone hoping to launch a new medication on the market needs to do more than just develop a good and safe product; they also need a lot of patience and perseverance. Ten years after it began, Cristal Therapeutics appears to be heading for the major breakthrough that the initiators have had in mind since the beginning. All of the signs are good, including a very successful recent round of funding. Not only the scientific world, but also the international pharmaceutical business community and financiers are following the developments closely. This could be huge. We will keep you updated.