Chapter 2
Collaboration is Key

The inspiring story of a true connector

With Jos Wetzels

Jos Wetzels takes a positive view on life despite the serious bicycle accident he had in May 2016. As a result, he suffered a spinal cord injury and is now confined to a wheelchair. As an experience expert, he now contributes as a volunteer to many medical studies. Through the roles of connector, motivator, and project leader, he inspires many people to approach the world with a more positive outlook.  

Born and raised in Limburg, Jos is convinced that this region has something to offer the world. He believes it is pivotal to collaborate, because only together we will make it happen. It is his mission to connect companies from all over the world to knowledge institutions in the Limburg region. How? Read it in this interview!

The story of Jos Wetzels

Jos was a nurse and nurse anaesthetist at the Zuyderland hospital in Sittard before continuing his career as director of operations at Boston Scientific. In May 2016, Jos suffered a serious bicycle accident in the Belgian Ardennes. He immediately realised that something was wrong. Jos: ‘Due to my background in anaesthesia, I realised that I had broken my neck and should not move.

Once in the hospital, he needed urgent surgery. Jos: ‘Because I had worked in the operating room, I had seen those operations, but now it was my turn.’ What followed was a long rehabilitation process and many physiotherapy treatments. ‘Now I can walk 10-12 meters with a walker. It took five years, but it is so valuable!’

Connecting in the Limburg region

Born and raised in Limburg, Jos sees it as his mission to strengthen the Limburg region. He was closely involved in the establishment of the Brightlands campus. Here he often took on the role of connector. ‘The unique thing about Brightlands is that we work closely with students. They are quick to point the finger at the sore spot because they are not in the company, so they work without bias. 

This also ensures that companies in the region realise: students can help companies and at the same time they gain experience.’ A win-win situation for everyone. In addition, Jos has attracted companies to the Limburg region. ‘That is a real challenge! We may be close to Germany and Belgium, but differences in law and regulations, as well as the language barrier, can really create a border. Despite this, Brightlands hosts over 100 startups currently. Something to be proud of!’

A valuable opportunity

Furthermore, Jos has participated in trade missions abroad, in collaboration with the Task Force Health Care. They work closely with the ministries and are also partners of Health~Holland. ‘We have to make sure that if we go abroad with universities, we present ourselves as a single entity to such a country. We are a small country with short distances; that is our strength! The Netherlands can still take steps in this regard; so first get the projects to the Netherlands and only then see in which region these projects fit best.’  

In March 2021, Jos participated as a jury member in the National Healthcare Innovation Award. Does he recommend this competition to other startups? ‘I have experienced it as very positive. It is the ideal way to see what is going on in the field of healthcare innovations. It is also a good opportunity to share knowledge with each other and possibly look for new partners who also want to join’. Finally, Jos would like to advise healthcare entrepreneurs: ‘Talk to people about financing options.

There is a lot of money for innovative programmes in Brussels and millions are left lying there every year. Furthermore, collaborate with knowledge institutions in your area and ask about the possibilities of letting students gain experience. As a company, you can benefit from this.’ Finally, Jos places a strong emphasis on connecting: ‘Help each other and refer people to the right organisations.’ Together we will make it happen!  

Read more on the website of Jos Wetzels.

National Healthcare Innovation Award 2022

Have you developed an innovative healthcare product that has already been successfully tested and implemented at the end user? And do you want to expand your market or further improve the product? Register now for the sixth edition of the National Healthcare Innovation Award 2022! The winner will receive € 15,000 (€ 10,000 for the professional jury prize and € 5,000 for the public prize), professional guidance in the further development of the innovation and access to a valuable network.

Treeway: paving the way towards a cure for ALS

In November 2021, Treeway, a Dutch biotechnology company, announced the start of a clinical stage phase 3 study for a new drug treatment for people with ALS in partnership with Ferrer, an international pharmaceutical company. At the moment, there is only one drug treatment certified to treat ALS in Europe, and this drug only increases the life expectancy by a few months. 

Effective treatment of ALS therefore continues to be a significant unmet need: a need that Treeway wants to meet. Treeway is a patient-founded and patient-inspired company, founded by Bernard Muller and Robbert-Jan Stuit, who were both diagnosed with ALS. 

Put the patients first

The company is committed to developing drugs for neurodegenerative diseases, so that every person who receives the diagnosis can lead an independent and fulfilled life. Treeway strongly feels that patient’s needs and experiences are important in developing drugs: They involve patients with ALS at all stages of the process. Treeway developed an oral drug that is user-friendly and highly accessible in terms of how the patient takes the drug and where he/she takes it.

All phases of clinical studies that took place concerning this drug were succesfull. Now the drug has been outlicensed to Ferrer. Ferrer has started with a large-scale clinical trial study to test the safety and efficacy in slowing down the disease progression in ALS patients. If successful, the drug will probably become the second drug treatment for ALS certified in Europe.

User friendly

highly accessible

Back in 2014, Treeway studied the use of the oral drug a public-private partnership with the ALS Center of the University Medical Center in Utrecht (UMCU) and Leiden Academic Center for Drug Research (LACDR). This project was one of the first public-private projects funded by Top Sector LSH via the PPP Allowance.

Improving the quality of life by treating chronic pain

A clear goal for Sella Therapies

Pain, when it is not effectively treated and relieved, potentially has a detrimental effect on people in all aspects of their participation and quality of life. Pain is not only a highly noxious experience per se, but it can also have an overwhelmingly negative effect on nearly every other aspect of life. People with chronic pain experience ongoing disruptions in physical functioning, professional and social life, sleep and mood. Current pain management therapies fail to adequately handle many pain modalities and have the risk of serious negative side effects.

To address this unmet medical need, Sella therapies is developing a medical device that is capable of treating people with chronic pain without major side effects. The implanted device targets the pituitary gland where it delivers small, safe electrical pulses. The electrical pulses activate the release of the hormone/neuropeptide oxytocin, inducing a powerful natural analgesic that can mitigate even severe pain. People with cancer and with severe pain, who do not respond to medication or experience side effects, will be the first to get treated by the medical device at the start of 2022 during a clinical trial at the Leiden University Medical Center.

The Venture Challenge

In the last couple of months, Sella Therapies has made significant steps by participating in the Venture Challenge Fall 2021. Wouter van Furth, founder Sella Therapies: ‘The questions, the exercises, and the feedback from the speakers and other participants have helped me see the unique value of our venture and formulate a business plan. During the last day of the Venture Challenge, we formally incorporated Sella Therapies and started as a business.

No matter what the jury may have decided with regards to winning the challenge, we already feel Iike winners; participating in the Venture Challenge has really moved us forward and was critical in starting the company in the right way with the right people.’ But who is the winner? This question will be answered during the Dutch Life Sciences Conference in January, where the winner of both the Spring and Fall edition 2021 will be announced!


Affordable innovative therapies for everyone

Therapy development is indispensable in the effort to shift care as much as possible to primary care and the home, to increase the participation of people with chronic conditions, and to improve the quality of life of people with dementia. Unfortunately, not all useful medical treatments are further developed - sometimes a promising innovation stops for organisational or financial reasons. Affordability, availability and sustainability of developed products are also not always guaranteed.


How do we get new treatments to patients as quickly as possible, at preferable benefits to them and to society and at the same time at acceptable costs?  This requires an integrated approach in which targeted funding through the chain and conditions for optimal cooperation play a central role. Future Affordable Sustainable Therapies (FAST) is a targeted systems-approach initiative from the Dutch government. Because the time is ripe for a joint approach and investment.