Switzerland is one of the most innovative locations for biotech start-ups in Europe. One reason, is that it offers an outstanding framework for procuring capital. Switzerland’s success as a biotech hub is evidenced by the number of biotech companies based there.
These have grown from 236 in 2010 to 314 in 2020 ad Swiss biotechs now employ more than 16,000 people.
- There are several organisations involved in supporting Swiss biotech start-ups. These include Universities such as the EPFL in Lausanne with its start up launch pad.
- Over 320 start-ups have been created since 2000 and the EPFL has a strong record of incubating and supporting start-ups.
- The ETH University in Zurich also offers support to start-ups and this includes biotech companies.
- An excellent reference site to see Swiss start-ups, investors, funding and tools for start-ups is: www.startup.ch
Recent notable Swiss biotech IPOs include ADC Therapeutics on the NY Stock Exchange in May 2020 at €215 million and CRISPR Therapeutics public fundraising in July 2021 which raised €400 million.
But what about smaller start-ups and where are the main developments taking place?
In 2020, the life sciences sector (biopharmaceuticals, medical technology, genomics, diagnostics and digital health) achieved a record export value of just over CHF 99billion. This represented 44% share of the total share of Swiss exports.
Also in 2020, Swiss biotech companies raised a total of CHF 3.44 billion. CHF 2.7 billion were invested in public companies, with private biopharmas and biotechs (i.e. not listed on the stock exchange) raising a total of CHF 747 million in capital.
A robust and established infrastructure for start-ups exists throughout Switzerland and three main regions are driving growth:
- The western (French) part of Switzerland is often referred to now as “Health Valley” and start-ups there are supported by several organisations including the EPFL university. With CHF 173 million raised in 2021, the area surpassed the Zurich region at CHF 136 million, for the second year in a row.
- However, the Basel region, the mainstay of Swiss Pharma, far surpassed other regions in this respect, raising a total of CHF 438 million in 2020.
The biotech sector in Switzerland is vibrant and growing with both start-ups and established companies enjoying an excellent support framework. And with demand for biotechnology in our daily lives also growing, it is hard to see a slow down in the development of new biotech products and companies.
In support of the above, and as the American politician Mike Pompeo recently said: “Feeding the world will be one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century. It will be impossible without using scientific advancements and biotechnology”.
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