The consortium can realize ambitions for talent development in life sciences with PharmaNL subsidy

News March 25, 2024

The first subsidies in the program line Human Capital Growth of PharmaNL were awarded in February 2024. The consortium of the HAN University of Applied Sciences (HAN), Radboud University (RU), and Elevate is one of the first two successful applicants. For their project ‘Early Drug Discovery Education Track’, they received a subsidy of €250,000 from PharmaNL. The objective of this project is the development of a set of eight courses, four post-HBO, four post-WO courses specifically in Early Drug Discovery (EDD). This goal aligns perfectly with this program line, which focuses on stimulating an increase in the number of people pursuing education or training in life sciences to strengthen the pharmaceutical value chain in the Netherlands.

‘The training offer in this area is currently lacking. We are in close discussions with pharmaceutical companies in the region, and this is something we hear everywhere, that there is a great demand for it. The trainings and courses we are going to set up can be used for both continuing education and career change,’ says Carlien Verberne, program manager Centre of Expertise at BioCentre of HAN.

The project, with a duration of three and a half years, officially starts on April 1, 2024. Currently, Pivot Park, subcontractor of the consortium, is conducting a GAP analysis, which includes investigating the current lack of training offerings in the Arnhem-Nijmegen-Oss region of the consortium and identifying the demand in this area.

Adinda Diekstra, program manager Post-HBO Courses & Trainings at the Academy of Applied Biosciences and Chemistry (ATBC) of HAN: ‘Based on that analysis, we will first determine the precise themes and subjects of the trainings and courses in this project. But we will also explore in what format we can best offer them, what works best for the market? Are these evening courses, per half-day, partially online?’

Offer and locations
Consortium partner Elevate will play a significant role in this by leveraging their expertise in setting up courses, curricula, and especially online training. Sjors Gerritsen, Business Development manager at Elevate: ‘An important part of this package will be the online offering. This is useful for all busy professionals, but it is also driven by the ambition to be attractive not only regionally but also nationally and possibly internationally for those interested in the field.’

As training locations, Pivot Park, HAN, and RU are currently being considered. Diekstra: ‘These are the most obvious locations. Especially Pivot Park offers not only a beautiful, inspiring environment. An additional advantage is that it is located in the midst of many relevant pharmaceutical companies. We are explicitly seeking to align with the needs and shortages of this industry.’ The close collaboration with the industry is also evident from the intended instructors. They will be provided by the knowledge partners HAN and RU, which have extensive expertise in EDD, but will also partly come from the industry itself.

Aligned with the field
The initial plans that led to this successful subsidy application were already developed in 2021 under the leadership of Pedro Hermkens, former academy director of ATBC and former lecturer in Drug Discovery. In 2023, these ideas were finally incorporated into an application to PharmaNL. ‘This subsidy helps us realize our ambitions for a solid course portfolio for life science professionals tailored to the demand from the field. It is a great start to offer tailor-made courses within EDD based on the expertise present within Radboud University and Radboudumc,’ says Floris Rutjes, professor of Organic Chemistry and director of the Institute for Molecules and Materials at Radboud University.

Successful journey
Now that the application has been approved, the consortium looks back on a successful journey with PharmaNL. The opportunities that this subsidy offers are evident to Diekstra: ‘The solid establishment of our offerings is a significant advantage of this journey. But also the connection with other applicants, such as Groningen, the application of LIFE Cooperative. You learn from each other and you can ensure that you do not set up the same trainings.’

The interaction with PharmaNL itself is also perceived positively. The clear frameworks and good communication stood out. ‘We have been very well assisted by PharmaNL in the application process. It was the first round, so there were learning moments on both sides. What we experienced as very positive was the smooth communication with PharmaNL: the phone is always answered,’ says Verberne. Are there any tips to share with future applicants? ‘Certainly. Make sure you substantiate all aspects well, including co-financing. Start early. And reach out to other applicants. The latter has really broadened our horizon: in knowledge but also in useful contacts with other institutions.’