Neuroplast and CiMaas: stronger togetheraugust 25, 2019
Most of the rooms in the 680-square-meter space rented on the third floor of “building 6” where DSM used to have its labs are still empty and in a pristine state. The coffee machine hasn’t been set up yet, and workers are busy with drills and screwdrivers. Officially, Neuroplast and CiMaas have been based here since July 22, but in a physical sense, there is still some work to be done.
An understatement, acknowledges Johannes de Munter, CEO of Neuroplast. This doesn’t stand in his way or that of CiMaas co-founder, Wilfred Germeraad. They give us an enthusiastic tour and are looking ahead to October, when the laboratories and cleanrooms will be set up and the workstations will be ready for the staff," Johannes de Munter says confidently. "Optimistic? Perhaps, but you should have seen this space in April. It was like a condemned building; nothing left but the walls. Bert Kip, CEO of Brightlands Chemelot Campus, promised us that the premises would be ready for moving in on July 22. And he kept his word. The Brightlands team and the contractor did a fantastic job of course, and that’s why I’m so positive about the further progress.”
Both CiMaas and Neuroplast are Maastricht University spin-offs and are ready for the next step. In the end, they opted for a partnership. Wilfred Germeraad (picture left): "We're both active in regenerative medicine, but we don't compete on any level.
Neuroplast develops products that inhibit the immune system, while CiMaas focuses on destroying cancer cells via an active immune system. These are the opposite ends of the same system, but the conversions are similar. This applies to raw materials, procedures, storage and, of course, the market: hospitals that heal people. When this building came onto the market in the spring, we took the leap and decided to work together on an intensive level but as two separate companies. The products are kept strictly separate and we also remain independent commercially. We share as many services and equipment as possible; this will save us a lot of money. Examples include the cleanrooms, the freezers that go to minus 80 degrees, the logistics system, conference room and pantry.”
Both companies are entering the clinical phase with their therapies. CiMaas is doing this with a treatment for lung cancer, and Neuroplast with a therapy for spinal cord injuries and the muscular disease ALS. They need larger labs and cleanrooms with GMP qualifications for this. “We rented facilities at InScite in Geleen, which were fine, but the contracts expired," Johannes de Munter explains. “Besides, we wanted our own equipment. We are taking the step to ensure the continued growth and maturity of our products.”
This is the first time that two companies at the Brightlands Campus in Geleen will be working so closely together, and they happen to be two companies in the medical sector. Wouldn't Brightlands Maastricht Health Campus have been a more suitable location? “Of course it would have meant being closer to the patients and the doctors,” Johannes de Munter says. “On the other hand, I see Brightlands as a single organization. It doesn't really matter where we're located. In the somewhat distant future, I expect that regenerative medicines will be produced in the hospitals themselves. We would monitor the processes and the quality via a platform, so we might as well do this from Geleen. I am convinced this form of medicine will really take off. Great results are already being achieved, and there’s a lot of interest from pharmacists and investors. We have also spoken to large Chinese companies interested in purchasing licenses.”
Neuroplast is all ears when it comes to these opportunities. "Scaling up costs a lot of money. This move alone, including the purchase of everything we need, will easily cost a few million. We take opportunities seriously but prefer to remain independent. We now have 18 employees and a few positions that are still unfilled. I don't know how fast things will move, but we have already taken an option on another floor in this building.”
Wilfred Germeraad nods. “I definitely foresee growth in the coming years. Geleen is an excellent base for this. There's ten of us now, and more will be joining us soon.
I expect other similar companies to move here because of all of the facilities, but also because of the many opportunities to network. Every now and then we joke about Brightlands becoming Regenerative Valley. Working with others on a campus like this is essential in this respect.”