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Health in the Leuven Innovation Region

The Leuven Innovation Region plays a leading role in the European knowledge economy and has a solid track record in health and life sciences. Leuven’s healthcare and health science are some of the best in the world.

© UZ Leuven

Leuven, where health and tech meet

One of the main focuses of the Leuven Innovation Region is the development and use of health tech.

Leuven has a rich history in medical and health science. From Andreas Vesalius, one of the most important founders of modern anatomy in the 16th century, up to developments of first HIV curing treatments and the first cochlear hearing aids, to name a few.

KU Leuven, which continually draws talent and resources to Leuven, is one of the motors behind this focus. The university is joined in Leuven by other major knowledge institutions, including imec (Europe’s largest independent nanoelectronics research center) and UZ Leuven (Europe’s second-largest academic hospital)

Together, these institutions employ roughly 22.000 people and have an annual R&D budget of €1 billion. A striking example of KU Leuven’s capacity to attract resources is its Gemma Frisius Fund, a seed fund that, for every euro invested by the university, gains €80 in funding from industry.

Leuven - and Belgium as a whole - is also held in high regard when it comes to biomedical R&D, partly because of the highest number of clinical tests per capita worldwide. Researchers followed excellent education, equipment is state of the art and the procedure to start Phase 1 studies is one of Europe's fastest. Knowledge institutions KU Leuven, imec and VIB all have a strong focus on biomedical R&D. They collaborate with global players in the pharmaceutical and health care industries, and have set up numerous spin-off companies with global appeal.

UZ Leuven, one of Europe's best hospitals

The University Hospital (UZ Leuven) is one of Europe's most modern and well-equipped hospitals where education, advanced research and medical care come together.

For a university hospital, innovation is indispensable. By continuously investing in research, new treatments and state-of-the-art technology, UZ Leuven has secured a top position in a lot of disciplines either in Belgium or internationally. It is also a top-ranked clinical trial center, with the fastest approval rate for clinical trials in Europe.

Recently, the American magazine Newsweek has chosen UZ Leuven campus Gasthuisberg as one of the best hospitals in the world. In its annual ranking of the world's 200 best hospitals, UZ Leuven is ranked 31.

© Rob Stevens

The Rega Institute, a pioneer in the combat against viruses

The Rega Institute for Medical Research is a biomedical research center founded in 1954 in Leuven, and is one of the few facilities in the world capable of testing thousands of molecules at high speed. The institute is specialized in research on drugs against bacterial and viral infections.

The center pioneered a polio vaccine in the 1950s and achieved world fame with its HIV inhibitor tenofovir: today, 20 of the total of 35 million AIDS patients are treated with the drug. The Rega Institute is is conducting research into antiviral drugs against the coronavirus.

A cleanroom in the imec premises at the Leuven headquarters
© imec - A cleanroom in the imec premises at the Leuven headquarters

imec brings the power of chip technology to the world of healthcare

As a pioneer and world leader in nanoelectronics, imec brings the power of chip technology to the world of healthcare.

Imec leverages its expertise in chip design and technology to develop innovative tools for life sciences, pharma R&D, clinical diagnostics, therapeutics and surgery, biopharma production and analytical biochemistry industries. Its headquarters are based in Leuven.

VIB, on the origin of impact

The VIB (Flemish Institute for Biotechnology) is a globally leading research institute. It is a European Centre of Excellence in life sciences where some 1,500 top international scientists conduct pioneering basic research. The main activity is basic research in life sciences to find practical applications for patients and society in general.

As such, VIB researchers in Leuven are pushing the boundaries about what we know about molecular mechanisms and how they rule living organisms such as human beings, animals, plants and micro-organisms. KU Leuven hosts three VIB research centers dispersed over various locations.

Health House discovers the future of health and care

Health House is a unique platform that informs, connects and stimulates innovation in healthcare, all in an inspiring setting. In its Leuven premises, Health House showcases the future of health and care based on scientifically validated content and the impact technology will have on this future.

How will technology have an impact on the future of our health and care? Think of Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, 4D-printing, wearables, and much more. Health House showcases these technologies in a very innovative and interactive way. Using the power of visualization, customization and digital storytelling, each visit to Health House is turned into an unforgettable experience.

Mission Lucidity: Decoding dementia together

As a world-class biomedical, clinical and nanotechnology R&D hub, KU Leuven, UZ Leuven, VIB and imec are on a mission to decode dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases, with the aim of curing or preventing them.

By leveraging the biomedical, clinical and technological expertise of the Leuven-based founding partners, they accelerate medical discovery towards a future without neurodegeneration.

By taking a multi-angle approach to tackle neurodegenerative disease, they zoom in on the cellular and intracellular levels via nanoscale technologies, and study symptoms and disease processes in humans. Mission Lucidity brings those two levels together by looking at the modulation of brain activity and processes.

Numerous Leuven-based health tech companies lead the way

The Leuven Innovation Region is the place to be for start-up and scale-up health tech companies. Several of those companies in the Leuven region have global appeal and are true world leaders in health tech.

Just think of icometrix, the global expert in brain imaging Artificial Intelligence. Or Materialise, a world player in 3D printing that also makes accessories for the medical sector. Oxurion is a pioneer in the treatment of eye diseases in diabetes patients. Heilig Hart Hospital is a frontrunner in quality care, with the patient as its central starting point. Comate is a global player in mechatronics, with several medical devices in their portfolio, ... need we go any further?

How can we help?

The Leuven MindGate team is at your disposal for any questions about the Leuven Innovation Region. Do you want to invest, work or study in the region? We can help you find your way.

We also facilitate collaboration and innovation between companies, knowledge institutes and government within the Leuven Innovation Region, and we are happy to guide any of these stakeholders towards innovation.