Strong growth in Swiss biotech

Strong growth in Swiss biotech, Last year in Switzerland, the biotechnology sector continued to grow and proved a magnet for fresh investment and capital. The Swiss Biotech Report 2020 shows this.

Strong growth in Swiss biotech

The presentation of the strong figures from the industry at Swiss Biotech Day would have led to Michael Altorfer, CEO of the Swiss Biotech Association. The Swiss leading biotech conference, which was scheduled for Basel, had been postponed until 15 September because of the coronavirus pandemic – and the Swiss Biotech Report 2020 was instead presented online.

In conjunction with EY and seven other partners, the Swiss Biotech Association publishes the report. Bottom line: Swiss biotechnology has continued to thrive and has been able to score points with growing revenue and a strong and diverse funding environment last year, incorporating in one of the world’s most comprehensive life sciences ecosystems.

In the 250 biotech companies and 62 suppliers, the total number of workers has risen by 5% to 15,070. It has established 40 start-ups. And R&D investment has risen by 7 per cent to approximately CHF 2 billion. Overall sales of CHF 4.8 billion in 2019 were reported by the Swiss biotech industry, CHF 800 million above the previous year.

The increase in sales is driven primarily by favourable cooperation and licensing arrangements for AC Immune, Basilea and CRISPR Therapy as well as increased revenue for those biotechnology companies which already market products/services.

Exports of pharmaceutical and biotechnological products underpin the importance of industry in the country: they accounted for approximately 40 per cent of Swiss total exports in 2019.

“”There is continual growth and we continue to attract specialists and young talent to Switzerland,” said Alexander Altorf in an interview with European biotechnology. “The great strength of the Swiss biotech sector is its continuity.

The investment in private and public biotech enterprises in 2019 was CHF 1.2 billion, significantly lower than in the past two record years, but still more than CHF 1 billion in 2019. The sum was split between public and private firms almost equally. New Swiss specialized funds, like Medicxi, ND Capital, Pureos Bioventures, and Bernina BioInvest, have strengthened this funding environment together with an ever-growing number of foreign funds. But no IPOs existed in 2019. “The landscape of funding is so widespread now that public pressures have fallen,” Altorfer points out.

He stresses the diversity of the Swiss biotech ecosystem. The expansion of production capacity for an increasing number of approved complex biologics and the treatment of cells has led to the expansion of multiple biopharmaceutical companies such as Biogen, CSL Behring, Novartis and Merck, for instance. Companies like SOPHiA Genetics, BC Platforms, Genedata, Insphero, SimplicityBIO and GenomSys are increasingly exploiting artificial intelligence possibilities.

“The new segment consists of these companies because the data pools are taped and analyzed and thus clinical development is significantly altered and studies designed,” Altorfer explains. A Swiss Biotech Report patent analysis shows how the scene develops dynamically. According to the report, over 3,000 patent families worldwide are already overlapping artificial intelligence and biotechnology.

Of course, during the presentation of industry figures, the current corona crisis was also the subject. Two dozen Swiss biomedical companies, according to Altorfer, are investing resources into the development of corona virus pandemic diagnostics, treatments or vaccines.

Simultaneously, restrictions on the collection of pre-clinical and clinical projects and time-frames are currently in place. The Swiss biotech industry is also challenged by the fact that most businesses do not have access to emergency aid loans, as businesses have to report revenues.

This is not the case for approximately 80% of Swiss biotech. Altorfer stated that discussions with federal and cantonal authorities have been ongoing to find solutions to alleviate the impact of the pandemic.

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