From Valneva to the CEO position at NorthX – “I saw it as a great opportunity”

A new cell therapy for leukaemia, a vaccine in tablet form against cholera, and a proprietary mRNA line with the potential capacity to supply the entire Nordic region with vaccines during a future pandemic. These are some of the projects underway at NorthX Biologics – under the direction of new CEO Janet Hoogstraate.

In early July 2023, biologics manufacturer NorthX announced the takeover of Valneva’s clinical trial material production facility in Solna, Sweden, including its staff. Janet Hoogstraate, then head of Sweden for Valneva, was invited to join, and a month later, she was appointed CEO of the entire NorthX organisation.

“I saw it as a great opportunity. I had been at Valneva for 7.5 years, and I loved it and learnt a lot. However, the chance of getting aboard a Swedish company working with exciting biotech and being able to help bring their ideas all the way to patient testing was an appealing proposition. Therefore, I accepted Thomas Eldered’s (NorthX’s chairman and main owner) offer to join,” she says.

NorthX is headquartered and has a large manufacturing facility in Matfors, outside Sundsvall. The company has long worked here on cultivating bacteria and expressing proteins, and more recently on gene and cell therapies. In September, a brand-new innovation hub for biological drugs was inaugurated here, created with the help of funds from the Swedish government agency Vinnova and Thomas Eldered’s venture capital company Flerie Invest.

The division of activities entails a lot of travelling for Janet Hoogstraate.

“I try to split my working hours into 1/3 in Matfors, 1/3 in Solna and 1/3 going out to meet contacts, potential customers and other interactions to promote NorthX and learn more about the ecosystem,” she says.

There is much going on at Northx right now. Some of the projects can be disclosed, while others the company’s customers are not yet willing to reveal.

One of the projects that has been announced is an assignment from Mendus, a Swedish cell therapy company with a Dutch research background. It concerns a treatment for an acute and difficult-to-treat form of leukaemia.

“Their clinical results are fantastic. Now they want to scale up, and that’s what we will take care of for them in Matfors.”

At the Solna facility, a project has been underway since Valneva’s time together with IVI, the International Vaccine Institute, to develop a new cholera vaccine that is cheaper than the current one.

“Ultimately, it will end up as a capsule or tablet, ready to be swallowed. Above all, it will be much cheaper than the current vaccine so that it will be affordable for people in all countries, which is not the case today”.

A new project in Matfors is particularly promising.

“We’ve set up an mRNA line, which I find very exciting. It’s not just for COVID vaccines but also for new projects in a number of applications. We are definitely at the forefront in this field, and now we can manufacture for a biotech company or an academic group that has developed a product based on mRNA.”

We’ve set up an mRNA line, which I find very exciting

“In case of a new pandemic, we can also produce vaccines there. As soon as there is a process available, we can implement it, and our line could supply the whole of Sweden and the whole of the Nordic region. Pandemic preparedness, you might say.”

Janet Hoogstraate

Age: 56.

Lives: Huddinge, Sweden.

Family: Married with two children.

Current: New CEO of NorthX Biologics.

Last book read: Fresh Water for Flowers by Valérie Perrin.

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