Community member on the spot: Cees Korstanje

31 July 2019

In community member on the spot we take a dive into the career, challenges and professional passion of one of our community members, working in the biotechnology sector. This time, Cees Korstanje is ‘on the spot’. Cees is a former Translational Science Director/Director Pharmacology and has recently started his own consultancy business.


‘Stakeholder management is the biggest challenge in business partnerships’


  • What is your professional background?

To start with, I studied pharmacy in Leiden, followed by a PhD in pharmacology and pharmacotherapy at the University of Amsterdam. After my PhD, I initially worked in veterinary pharmacy & pharmacology at the University of Utrecht and obtained the pharmacology accreditation. After 2,5 years, I got the opportunity to step into the pharmaceutical industry. My interest had always been human drug development, so the decision was quickly made.

I started at Gist-Brocades, a small pharmaceutical company in Delft. At that time, Gist-Brocades did a lot of different things without much focus. After working there for three years, the company literally broke into pieces, because diversification was not a modern business model and not profitable for such a small company. I continued as Department Head Biopharmaceutical Research at the pharmaceutical division, which was sold to the Japanese Yamanouchi group. Other parts of Gist-Brocades were later incorporated by DSM.

Yamanouchi was using the European network, especially the marketing network, to bring their first products to Europe. I got the chance to work with very innovative drugs in the areas of urology, oncology, haematology, cardiovascular and CNS diseases. Together with the marketing department, I made profiles of these drugs, bringing our story to clients and doctors. We achieved that Yamanouchi, from a small company that no one had heard of, suddenly belonged to the top of the market in urology.

From Yamanouchi, I went to Astellas, becoming Translational Science Director and Director Pharmacology. I focused on translational science leadership, safety and clinical pharmacology, proof-of-concept studies for urology drugs, drug registrations and pharmacovigilance support. Because of a strategic reorganisation, Astellas recently stopped with R&D in the Netherlands, which meant that there was no employment for me anymore.

  • What is your current job?

Now, I am an independent consultant. In the Netherlands, I could no longer work at that same level as I did at Astellas. However, I could try finding short assignments, home and abroad, and help companies on an interim basis with problems they might have in the area of my expertise. That is why I started ‘Korstanje Pharma Consulting’.

  • What are your main activities?

I advise about biomarkers, as they are a linking pin between all the phases of drug development. And I assist companies with questions concerning how they can connect goals, resources and people. A good example company for me is Galapagos. They sell their own products on the market. For this, they incorporated a marketing department. It means they are generating revenues, what ensures that they can keep on developing themselves. Of course, there are other ways to go. But whatever route you take, you have to make realistic connections between the different phases of drug development to bring value to patients and the company. My mission is to add value to an organisation in this area.

  • What is the favourite part of your job?

I like to make an identity of a compound. What you see is that a lot of therapies today, consist of combinations of compounds, so the identity of the individual drug is important.

  • What has been the biggest challenge during you career?

Trying to convince people who think differently, with what you consider are valuable arguments. Stakeholder management is the biggest challenge in business partnerships.

  • What are your future goals?

I want to remain a part of the drug discovery community. I do not have to be in it full time, but it gives me a good feeling to share my expertise and contribute a little to the industry.

Cees KorstanjeWe want to thank Cees Korstanje for his time and insights in his career path. Cees will continue to share his expertise with us in the future on various topics in the industry. Read his article about Translational Science here.

Are you interested in sharing your story in the Biotechnology Community? Feel free to contact us at


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