ULB in Gosselies: from apprehension to success

September 25th 2019

Muriel Moser, Dean of the Faculty of Sciences, and Oberdan Leo, Vice-Rector in charge of research and valorisation at ULB, were among the first researchers to join the BioPark in 1999. Twenty years later, they remember their initial fears, their eventual success and their hopes for the future.


What were your first thoughts upon hearing that your department would be relocating to Gosselies?

Prof. Muriel Moser (MM): ‘Honestly, we were a little panicked at first! What were we going to do, out in the middle of corn fields? We were worried that being far away and having to commute might have adverse consequences on our research. And not just for us professors: we were concerned about losing students, about weakening our relationship with VUB, and so on. And yet, ten years later, it became obvious that the BioPark was a great success!’


In what way? What is the BioPark’s main benefit for researchers?

Prof. Oberdan Leo (OL): ‘Opportunities for collaboration. We can meet various industrial players at the BioPark, and there have been many examples of partnerships between academic laboratories and spin-offs or private companies. The same is true of researchers from the Faculty of Medicine who work in Gosselies. Since we had common needs, we pooled some of our resources, such as IT personnel . This has enabled us to move beyond the traditional division between faculties, in order to build a research hub centred on life sciences. What’s more, the infrastructures at our disposaltechnical platforms, animal facilities, etc.make our work much easier.’


What do you believe were milestones in the BioPark’s development?

OL: ‘A major one was the arrival of the research institutes: the IMI in 2004, then the CMMI in 2009. The former brought with it an outstanding sterile animal facility. As for the latter, it has all the instruments and expertise required for imaging, from live animals down to single molecules. This has enabled great synergies and kicked off new research projects.’

MM: ‘In 2006, the Walloon Region’s excellence funding program(1) supported strategic research in life sciences. The training sessions that HeLSci has been offering since 2009 are another valuable asset for our students and, by extension, our research.’


What can still be improved?

OL: ‘Access and mobility remain the BioPark’s weaker points. For international visitors, Brussels is a very attractive city in terms of science and culture, and so a connection to Brussels would greatly benefit the BioPark. Since there is no train station nearby, more daily shuttles(2) would be a good start.’

MM: ‘Public authorities should also increase their support for research, for instance by launching new initiatives promoting excellence.’

OL: ‘Recruiting qualified workers is essential to the development of the biotech industry. With the BioPark, ULB has established a foothold in Wallonia. If we manage to make Charleroi a hub for academic training in life sciences, this will bring us the influx of students that we need to develop.’



  1. Initiatives promoting excellence in universities provide 5 million euros to each programme, spread over 5 years.
  2. The shuttle that connects the Solbosch campus in Brussels to the BioPark currently makes only one return journey each day.


Author: Candice Leblanc