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“Thanks to an eye for niche products, innovation and interpersonal solutions on a global level”, Von Gahlen has been able to win the coveted Koning Willem I Prize in the SME category.

Von Gahlen develops and produces production facilities for nuclear medicines. The Zevenaar based innovative company is one of the three finalists of the Koning Willem I prize, which will be awarded on Wednesday. Earlier, Von Gahlen won the Pearl of the Economic Board in recognition of the company as an important link within Lifeport, the innovation network of the region Nijmegen – Arnhem – Wageningen.

Von Gahlen supplies, produces, and develops laboratory equipment used in the production of nuclear medicines. With their knowledge and skills, they belong to the top and therefore deliver their products and solutions worldwide. Radioactive drugs are used for, among other things, the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

Nuclear kitchen

Von Gahlen has been active in that market for almost fifty years, approximately from the beginning of nuclear medicine. “We make hot cells, a kind of nuclear kitchen consisting of shielded cabinets in which medical radioactive isotopes are processed,” says Alex Duiker, who is director of the family business together with his brother Jaap. “In this nuclear kitchen, all kinds of operations take place, such as cleaning or making chemical compounds. The medical product is made, filtered, and filled in the right packaging to be sent to the hospital for the treatment of patients.”


Medical isotopes are often made from a nuclear reactor, for example in Petten. Or they are produced in a circular particle accelerator, often a cyclotron. That’s where Von Gahlen comes in. “Many of our customers are academic hospitals and companies that have a cyclotron and are producing medication themselves.” This makes the company essential for diagnosing and treating cancer. “If a professor has an idea for a new drug, we are the technical partner for the science,” says Duiker. “The market has professionalized over the years and we provide all kinds of standard solutions. But we also team up with startups or scientists who want to research new methods. Together with them, we develop a whole new production facility for innovative projects. Even if it’s far from certain in the beginning whether it will be a success, we would like to be that partner.”

“A top chef is nothing without the right stove”

Alex Duiker, Von Gahlen

There are barely a handful of companies active in this field, so Von Gahlen sells their products and solutions all over the world. “Our main markets are Europe and the United States, but also Asia or the Middle East,” says Duiker. He is proud that his company contributes to people’s health. “We empower the heroes of healthcare to do great things for their patients. Our role is in the background, but very important. I always say: a top chef is nothing without the right stove.”

And the market is developing rapidly. Diagnosing with nuclear agents has been going on for a long time, for example via radioactively made sugar water that is injected into a patient. The drug goes to the cells that divide the fastest, so you can get a good picture of the tumor by means of a PET scan. Currently, new drugs are being researched that offer a combination of diagnosis and therapy. Duiker: “These new drugs make the tumor visible but at the same time attack it. This requires a different type of hot cell than has been used so far, so that is a development we are currently working on.”

Courage and decisiveness

Just two years ago, Von Gahlen received the Regional Pearl of The Economic Board, which is awarded to special, innovative, or sustainable companies in the field of Food, Health, and Energy. And now the company is a finalist in the biennial Koning Willem I award in the SME category. Von Gahlen scores high on the core values of courage, decisiveness, and innovation. “Especially in these difficult times, we are pleased with the positive appreciation.”

On November 25th, the presentation of the Koning Willem I prize took place. Besides Von Gahlen, the nominees in the SME-category were Anthura (innovative breeder in the horticultural sector) and Van Raam (producer of custom bikes).