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Record year for Western Switzerland’s biotech industry

Life sciences

21 April 2021

Biotechnology companies based in Switzerland have experienced record investments in the pandemic year 2020. The western Switzerland region, home to the “Health Valley”, ranks second nationally in the financing of private biotech companies.

According to the 2021 edition of the Swiss Biotech Report, the Swiss biotech sector has once again gained in importance in 2020, a trend that the ongoing coronavirus crisis will further intensify in the coming years.

In 2020, the life sciences sector achieved a record export value of CHF 99.09 billion, representing alone 44% share of total Swiss exports this year.

Swiss biotech companies raised a total of CHF 3.44 billion, their best year ever. CHF 2.7 billion were invested in public companies, and private biopharmas and biotechs (i.e. not listed on the stock exchange) raised a total of CHF 747 million in capital.

The western part of Switzerland was ahead of the Zurich region (CHF 136 million) for the second year in a row with CHF 173 million raised. However, the Basel region, the stronghold of the Swiss pharmaceutical industry, far surpassed other regions in this respect, raising CHF 438 million in 2020.

A year of achievements for biotech companies in Western Switzerland

Based in St-Sulpice (canton of Vaud), global leader in data-driven medicine SOPHiA GENETICS has closed a $ 110 million financing round in 2020. This has allowed the company to enter the next stage of its expansion, with a focus on supporting the growing clinical and biopharma demand for data-driven medicine worldwide.

Specialized in Antibody Drug Conjugates (ADCs) for the treatment of solid and blood cancers, Lausanne-based ADC Therapeutics has generated $ 470 million thanks to its introduction on the Nasdaq.

As a specialist in treating autoimmune disease by restoring normal immune tolerance, Ecublens-based Anokion has initiated the first in-human-study for its second candidate ANK-700 for the treatment of Multiple Sclerosis.

An attractive, dynamic and ever-growing life sciences ecosystem

Western Switzerland boasts numerous prestigious life sciences companies. This dynamic region comprises the so-called “Health Valley“, a dense network of around 1,000 companies, 27,000 professionals, 5,000 researchers and scientists, 39 universities and research institutions, 500 high-tech labs, and 50 innovation support bodies, all collaborating to further the life sciences.

For instance, in 2020, German drugmaker Merck invested CHF 270 million francs in a new facility in Corsier-sur-Vevey, as well as entered a EUR 900+ million contract with Lausanne-based Debiopharm.

According to Christiane von der Eltz, General Manager and Managing Director of Merck Switzerland: “Switzerland offers attractive and stable conditions for international companies and is one of the best and most innovative locations for biotechnology in Europe. It occupies a unique political and commercial position that can be advantageous for biotech companies, whilst ensuring strong connections to the global markets. Modern infrastructure, high quality of life, and access to highly trained employees contribute to the extremely positive conditions for a strong and future-oriented biotechnology industry in Switzerland. And importantly, we can be confident that these conditions will be maintained over the longer term.”

In the canton of Bern, leading global biotech company CSL Behring has recently inaugurated a new state-of-the-art immunoglobulin manufacturing plant, an investment of about CHF 250 million. The company has also offered to help governments around the world by lending its expertise, technologies and facilities to help support rapid, scaled development of coronavirus vaccines and treatments.

According to Martin Schären, Senior VP and General Manager of CSL Behring AG: “Switzerland plays an important role for our global business. At the Bern site we are the Center of Excellence for immunoglobulins (Ig). The therapeutics we manufacture are key drivers in the success and solid growth of the company. (…) R&D fuels the company’s sustainable growth by advancing world-class science, technology, and collaboration. At sitem-insel AG, where we have our R&D hub next to the Insel Hospital in Bern, we are very pleased to have scientific experts so close to our manufacturing site. Our team of around 70 researchers fosters the important dialogue between industry and academic research, and promotes technology transfer and operational cooperation, as well as our network of strategic alliances. (…) Equally, our Research External Innovation (REI) team has entered a collaboration with Biopôle in Lausanne to offer additional R&D and technology development opportunities.”

Find out more on why CSL Behring chose Western Switzerland in the video below: