Swiss biotech industry continues to soar

A promising future thanks to an ideal environment

The Swiss biotech industry has reached record figures for 2017 in financing, infrastructure investment, and exports. This shows that confidence in its ability to create value and innovate remains unshaken. The most prominent example is the acquisition of Actelion by Johnson & Johnson, which, at almost USD 30 billion, was the largest stock exchange transaction worldwide within the life sciences industry over the past year.

Two female employees in biotech lab
Thanks to an ideal framework, domestic and foreign biotech and pharma companies invest heavily in the production infrastructure in Switzerland.

The success of the Swiss Biotech industry continues. In 2017, the sector matched the successes of the last few years and even topped them, as the latest figures from the Swiss Biotech Report show. Compared to the previous year, capital investment in private and listed Swiss biotech companies doubled from CHF 0.8 billion to CHF 1.64 billion – the highest figure since the report was first published. Industry sales* increased by 14 percent to reach CHF 3.79 billion. The number of employees within the total 237 biotech companies and 60 suppliers rose by around 2.5 percent to 13,725 employees. In addition, investment in research and development increased by more than 22 percent to CHF 1.39 billion.

A consistently high level of innovation

Swiss biotech companies continue to be attractive on the world market, and they remain on the radar of global pharma and biotech companies. Successful partnerships continued in 2017, and many new ones were forged. A know-how drain is repeatedly and successfully prevented, and instead, domestic activities are expanded in order to keep the high level of innovation and value creation in the country. A recent example is the takeover of Actelion by the global player Johnson & Johnson. Although Actelion is no longer included in the Swiss Biotech Report statistics, the spin-off of Idorsia has created a new biotech company affiliated with Switzerland as a research location. Further examples of past success were the takeovers of Prionics by Thermo Fisher; Okairos and GlycoVaxyn by GSK; Covagen by Johnson & Johnson; Serono by Merck; Speedel and ESBATech by Novartis; and Glycart by Roche.

A promising future thanks to an ideal environment

Switzerland has not only a highly specialized workforce, but also a dense supply network and a high level of availability of suppliers and service companies across all stages of the value chain. These virtually ideal framework conditions are one of the main reasons why both domestic and foreign biotech and pharma companies invested heavily in the production infrastructure in Switzerland in the past and continue to do so now. As a result, there are at least three production facilities for high-quality cell culture products (monoclonal antibodies) currently under construction:

CSL Behring in Lengnau, Biogen in Luterbach, and Lonza in Visp. Together with the existing production plants of Glenmark, Merck, Novartis, MSD, Roche, and UCB, these new facilities will continue to increase exports of pharmaceuticals, vitamins, and diagnostic products, meaning that the figures will exceed last year's record values. The value of pharmaceutical and biotechnology product exports in 2017 was CHF 83.8 billion, which is about 38 percent of the total Swiss export volume. Future prospects are also very promising: The solid development pipeline of the Swiss biotech industry and the quality of its patents, half of which are “world class patents” with a particularly high potential for value creation, will secure Swiss biotechnology’s place on the global market as a strong, competitive sector in the long term.

Further information

The Swiss Biotech Report 2018 sheds light on the most important trends, factors of innovation, and sources of innovation, and summarizes topics and facts on the development of the Swiss biotech industry. The report is available digitally on:

(Press Release, Swiss Biotech Association)

Download our factsheet on the Swiss biotech sector

* The annual figures for the Swiss Biotech Report take into account “red” biotechnology companies with headquarters in Switzerland, and do not include pharmaceutical companies such as Novartis and Roche, nor Actelion, which has been taken over by J&J. Therefore, in order to avoid distorting the performance figures for the biotech industry, the Actelion figures were left out of the calculation of the key figures for 2015 and 2016.

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