You know that story about the professor who didn't want to retire? No. Well, it happened in 1987. Professor Wijnberg was working at the University of Groningen, in organic chemistry. The professor reached retirement age, but wanted to keep working. Within the university, that was not possible; the rules were strict. Then Wijnberg founded a company of his own: Syncom. It has since become one of the university's most successful spin-offs.
"What exactly do we do? Chemically converting molecules into other molecules," explains Andre Heeres, project manager at Syncom. "In other words, organic chemistry. This is especially important for the development of new drugs. Almost 90% of Syncom's work revolves around those drugs. We get orders from the pharmaceutical industry."
Those assignments revolve around developing new chemicals, molecules, for drug research. Once Syncom's work is done, all the results go to the customer. There, testing is then done on mice and rats. Does the drug work well? Then testing on humans follows. Heeres: "Developing a drug follows a funnel model. Syncom is at the beginning, at the broad end. We are actually a service company, a service provider, for the drug developers."
Bioeconomy in Non-Food
Syncom is a textbook example of an innovative company. To keep innovations going at this type of company, NOM launched the "Bio-economy in the Non-Food Sector" project in 2016. Syncom also cooperates with others within this. For example, on a project with Tagetes, or African Marigolds. A plant that works as a natural pesticide.
"We also cooperate with NOM in other ways. For example, together with them, the province, Triade and Life Cooperative, we set up a fund: Pharma Connect Capital. Among other things, this fund invests in the very early phase of drug development. And, like NOM, we are involved in Chemport Europe. This is an initiative to green the chemical industry in the Northern Netherlands. Working together is Northern Netherlands is enjoyable, the cooperative spirit is great here. We share the same mentality and grant each other something."
Using organic chemistry to develop new drugs
Syncom's vision for the future? Continue to grow. Some 130 people currently work at the Groningen-based concern, and earlier this year Syncom merged with Nijmegen-based Mercachem. Mercachem is also a European drug discovery research organization. A peer, in other words. After the merger, the total number of employees stands at nearly 300. The future looks bright. "The demand for research from the pharmaceutical industry is increasing and together with Mercachem we see good opportunities to grow substantially."