Health Destination

Amsterdam: A Global MedTech Hub

The Amsterdam healthcare industry stands out from other industries in many ways. The potential value of data-driven applications is by far more evident than in any other industry, and the amounts and diversity of medical data is abundant

Derived from the name Amstelredamme, Amsterdam is the capital and most populous city of the Netherlands, with a population of 866,737 within the city proper, 1,380,872 in the urban area, and 2,410,960 in the metropolitan area. Amsterdam is in the province of North Holland. Amsterdam is colloquially referred to as the ‘Venice of the North’ due to its large number of canals which are a UNESCO World

Heritage Site.

Originating as a small fishing village in the late 12th century, Amsterdam became one of the most important ports in the world in the Dutch Golden Age of the 17th century and became the leading center for finance and trade. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the city expanded, and many new neighborhoods and suburbs were planned and built. The 17th-century canals of Amsterdam and the 19–20th century Defense Line of Amsterdam are on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Sloten, annexed in 1921 by the municipality of Amsterdam, is the oldest part of the city, dating to the 9th century.

As the commercial capital and one of the top financial centers in Europe, Amsterdam is considered an alpha-world city by the Globalization and World Cities (GaWC) study group. Many large Dutch institutions have their headquarters there, including Philips, AkzoNobel, TomTom and ING.

Health insurance

Everyone who lives or works in the Netherlands is legally obliged to take out standard health insurance to cover the cost of, for example, consulting a general practitioner, hospital treatment and prescription medication. The government decides on the coverage provided by the standard package. All insurers offer the same standard package. Healthcare insurers are obliged to accept anyone who applies for the standard insurance package and must charge all policyholders the same premium, regardless of their age or state of health. This ensures that every person is protected against the financial risks of illness and hospital admission. You are free to choose from any health insurer offering the basic package.

The standard insurance package includes visits to GPs, some medications, dental care until the age of 18, nutritional/dietary care, medical aids, mental health services and more. The package does not cover things like aspirin purchased over the counter, certain cosmetic surgery procedures and things for which no supplemental insurance has been chosen (e.g. a root canal treatment at the dentist).

The Dutch capital is widely viewed as the globe’s MedTech hub, with some of the industry’s biggest innovations happening in the city. After all, there’s a reason that every year Global MedTech Compliance Conference and MedTech Summit takes place in Amsterdam.

Medical technology sector

The Netherlands’ streamlined healthcare system – coupled with the population’s remarkably early adoption of technology – makes the region the perfect testbed for MedTech, and that’s why so many international companies in the field have made the move into the Dutch capital.

One such company is Turkey-based Alvimedica Medical Technologies, a producer of high-end heart surgery equipment. There’s also Wright Medical Technologies, a US company that designs and manufactures innovative orthopaedic aids for worn and otherwise damaged joints. Another American MedTech company with an Amsterdam office is NuVasive, an innovator in spine-surgery technology that is improving the lives of patients across the world.

However, there are plenty of other MedTech innovators, too. For example, Bram Schermers – a clinical research scientist at the Netherlands Cancer Institute – won the Amsterdam Science & Innovation Award last summer for his cutting-edge tech for breast cancer detection. And there are always new developments happening in the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, the University of Amsterdam and VUmc Cancer Center.

Amsterdam Science Park is also making great progress in the field – particularly with the next generation of nanomaterials. “These have the potential to enormously increase the efficiency of solar cells, boosting sustainable energy methods and will have a huge impact on medical technologies and treatments,” says Leo le Duc, the park’s director.

Amsterdam’s acumen for medical research and its strong tech talent pool make its business ecosystem the perfect springboard for any MedTech startup.

Among the most impressive Amsterdam-based MedTech startups is Mint Solutions – the developer of MedEye, an app for doctors, patients and nurses that increases the safety and transparency of medication administration in hospitals. The company received a whopping €5m in funding last year and are now hard at work on perfecting their innovative app.

There’s also Earlydoc, who develop a web-based program that gives users a personalised, jargon-free description of medical conditions. The startup’s algorithm – based on data from official medical guidelines for illness symptoms – gives users an early prognosis of their ailment. Their ultimate goal is to decrease unnecessary doctor visits.

The future is looking very bright for new MedTech startups in Amsterdam, too. The city has its own dedicated MedTech startup incubator: NLC. The initiative helps young businesses in medical and health technology find their feet in the industry, helping them transform their prototypes or ideas into viable, sustainable products.

A forefront of medical imaging

The Dutch spirit of innovation and collaboration extends to all industries in the Netherlands and is particularly evident in the life sciences sector. More than 2,500 life sciences, medical technology and research organizations call the Netherlands home, in addition to 12 research universities and 82 hospitals. Thanks to public-private partnerships, more than $2 billion is invested in R&D annually in Holland, and the country ranks No. 4 in the world for medical technology patent applications.

Dutch collaboration is at the forefront of medical imaging, with some of the most exciting advancements coming from the Netherlands in the field of radiology.

As one of the leading hospitals in Europe, University Medical Centre Utrecht (UMC Utrecht) is at the center of collaboration between researchers and private companies in the Netherlands. At UMC Utrecht physicists, chemists, computer scientists and clinicians work together to develop commercial devices that meet important medical needs.

UMC Utrecht recently developed the world’s first MRI Linac, a first-of-its-kind imaging system that allows doctors to visualize vascular abnormality during radiotherapy. The MRI Linac integrates MRI with a linear accelerator in a machine that was previously thought to be impossible to build. As a global leader in healthcare technology, Dutch multinational Philips was also instrumental in the development of the MRI Linac.

Also, as of this year, Amsterdam is the proud home of the European Medicines Agency (EMA). It’s been confirmed that the EMA relocated its headquarters from London to Amsterdam due to Brexit. With a large number of pharma, medical technology companies, research institutions and more, the greater Amsterdam area has become one of the most attractive and fastest growing pharma and life science centers in the world.

“We see a large number of pharmaceuticals and Clinical Research Organizations preparing for the regulatory changes they’ll have to deal with in the short term” – says Jan Willem van Drimmelen, Head of Corporate Client Services at Intertrust. “Over the past months we’ve seen a significant increase in new clients, getting in contact with our experts in the Netherlands”.

The EMA is expected to provide job opportunities for 1,500 people, including lawyers, patent specialists and consultants who are expected to move to Amsterdam to be close to the organization. In addition, pharmaceutical companies are likely to set up a subsidiary in the Netherlands. For the Dutch pharmaceutical industry, the arrival of the EMA will be a big boost noted by companies and investors worldwide.

Accelerating AI technologies

In other parts of Holland, innovation in medical imaging is just as strong. The healthcare industry stands out from other industries in many ways. The potential value of data-driven applications is by far more evident than in any other industry,and the amounts and diversity of medical data is abundant.

Rotterdam-based Quantib and Amsterdam UMC announce their partnership to develop and validate AI software in a joint venture with University Medical Center Utrecht, named Quantib-U. As part of the deal, Amsterdam UMC will provide access to data and allocate one of its top AI Medical Imaging scientists to projects within Quantib-U on a part-time basis.

Quantib is now backed by the three largest radiology practices* of The Netherlands together providing unique insights into new use cases, broad data access and user feedback in a multi-center setting.

Moreover, Swiss Medical Network advances the implementation of their artificial intelligence strategy by installing Quantib™ ND. Quantib’s state-of-the-art machine learning radiology software provides neurology tools for quantification and tracking of changes in the brain related to multiple sclerosis and different types of dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease.

“We embraced the usage of Quantib™ ND because it offers the combination of quantified information for our dementia patients, as well as objective measurements of disease progression for our multiple sclerosis patients,” said Dr méd. Anne – Sophie Knoepfli – Wilson, neuroradiologist at Swiss Medical Network. “The software enables Swiss Medical Network to further improve the quality of care delivered to these specific patient groups.”

Furthermore, Emicenter Naples, a multi-specialized healthcare facility in Naples, successfully applies AI software Quantib™ ND in their clinical routine. Quantib’s state-of-the-art neurology software includes a wide range of functionalities for quantification and tracking of brain atrophy and white matter hyperintensities (WMHs). Quantib™ ND provides objective information on changes in the brain related to e.g. dementia and multiple sclerosis (MS).

Rossana Senese, MD, states, “By leveraging the quantitative information and the opportunity to compare patient results to the average of a cross section of the population the software enables our radiologists to deliver clear, detailed and structured information on the brain condition of the patient.”

“With our new software release in July 2018 the possibilities of Quantib™ ND have extended considerably,” says Arthur Post Uiterweer, CEO of Quantib. “We are very proud that a leading institute such as Emicenter puts their faith in our software to provide quantitative information physicians can leverage during diagnoses processes.”

In July of 2018 Quantib released a major upgrade of their brain atrophy and WMH tracking software Quantib™ ND. A substantial list of new tools was added to previous software functionalities resulting in a unique radiology software product.