In this section, we give a stage to start-ups and scale-ups that develop groundbreaking products or services. This time:

SeraNovo from Leiden.

What technology is SeraNovo developing?

Niall Hodgins, CEO and co-founder of SeraNovo : "SeraNovo improves the absorption of oral medication. These are medications that need to be swallowed, such as tablets and capsules. The effectiveness of these medications depends on how well the body can absorb them. This is called bioavailability.

SeraNovo works on the chemical composition of oral drugs to improve bioavailability. We do this primarily for promising drugs that are still in the development stage. One drug already in clinical use is Atazanavir, an HIV inhibitor that was notoriously insoluble. For this, we have developed a formulation that significantly improves bioavailability."

What makes your technology unique?

"SeraNovo has invented a new type of liquid that can significantly improve drug absorption. This invention allows patients to better use life-saving drugs. In fact, many drugs are being developed that in principle can work well against cancer or neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease, for example, but the active substances must first be absorbed by the body. This happens, for example, because they dissolve in stomach acid or in the fluids in your intestines. If that doesn't happen, they simply leave the body without having had any effect."

One example of a group of drugs with promising therapeutic activity is peptides. Peptides are molecules that can be used against cancer. They can activate the immune system and cause the immune system to recognize and fight cancer cells.

Hodgins: "At SeraNovo, we enable the oral administration of peptides. There are two factors that now hinder absorption into the body: peptides are susceptible to breakdown by enzymes in the gastrointestinal tract and they penetrate the intestinal epithelium with difficulty. We have developed a formulation platform that protects against enzymes and allows more efficient passage through the intestinal barrier. And that, of course, with safe and approved excipients."

About 45 percent of SeraNovo's work is currently focused on cancer drugs, about 45 percent on neurological disease drugs and about 10 percent on all other diseases, including infectious diseases, diabetes and obesity.

What are your plans for the future?

"Our mission is to develop technologies that enable patients to use drugs more effectively. Our customers are now mainly in the United States, Europe, Korea and Japan. We want to enlarge our customer base worldwide. In addition, we want to increase the number of drugs for which our technology can be used. To achieve this, we need to increase SeraNovo's capacity, for example, by making greater use of automation and computing power."