Success stories

Digital trade fair a resounding success for Topadur Pharma AG

Swiss startup Topadur Pharma AG successfully showcased itself at the digital edition of the BIO International Convention 2020, the substitute event for the attendance-based trade fair in the USA that was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Topadur CEO Reto Naef likes the virtual format.


Reto Naef had actually planned to attend the BIO International Convention in San Diego at the beginning of June. The founder and CEO of the Swiss pharmaceutical company Topadur had previously attended the world’s largest biotech trade fair held in Philadelphia last year and as a participant at the Swiss Pavilion was able to benefit from the support of Switzerland Global Enterprise (S-GE) and the Swiss Business Hub USA.

Valuable coaching

The coronavirus led to the BIO International Convention being canceled and replaced by a virtual event – the BIO Digital 2020. As in the past, Topadur counted on the support of the Swiss Business Hub USA to prepare for the event. Its experts revised Topadur’s advertising material such as flyers and its one-pager, optimized the BIO Digital profile, identified qualified partners and investors, checked the pitch video and organized a test run of the individual pitch presentation with Topadur. “Thanks to the coaching during the preparation phase, we were able to present ourselves professionally on this international stage,” recalls Naef, adding: “During the four-day conference, I had the opportunity to hear numerous fascinating presentations and hold around 40 discussions with potential partners or investors.”

Its more efficient to do it virtually

The presentations and meetings were coordinated and scheduled by the exhibition management. Online presentations, video conferences and telephone conversations in familiar surroundings instead of stressful overseas trade fair marathons marked by jet lag and sensory overload. For the Topadur founder, the virtual implementation of this international conference was more than just an alternative to the conventional format. In fact, in future, he would prefer this “more efficient and more relaxed option.” Naef, who holds a doctorate in chemistry and became an air miles millionaire during his successful, 35-year career as a research manager at Novartis, puts it as follows: “At local events, you rush from table to table, have appointments every half hour, attend dozens of meetings within a few days and finally find yourself exhausted at home with a stack of business cards without being able to remember all the details.”

Relaxed and focused communication

His experience of BIO Digital 2020 was completely different: The first meeting with a potential partner in the East was early in the morning, the last meeting with a participant in America was late in the evening. In between, there was plenty of time for follow-ups, reflection, file sharing as well as occasional breaks. Naef is convinced that “these aspects and the fact that travel costs and a lot of time can be saved clearly speak in favor of the virtual variant.” Even if there are no spontaneous encounters, “which can be very enriching, but can also be organized on a smaller scale.” For the Topadur founder, the virtual event was also successful in terms of the future of his company: “Although there are still no concrete results, we are currently holding promising talks, both with potential investors and possible future pharmaceutical partners.”

Researching for the benefit of humanity

The passionate researcher prefers to invest his time in Topadur Pharma AG, which he founded in 2015 after taking early retirement. He did so after making an evidently groundbreaking discovery – after six years of research in his spare time and at home in his cellar. With it, he created the basis for new drugs, which led to him finding private investors and also receiving state funding. Today, 17 highly qualified employees at the Schlieren site develop drugs that, as Naef summarizes, “are based on two effects, which have been proven to lead to unprecedented efficacy.”

Market maturity imminent

Whether preparations for healing chronic wounds or against the proliferation of scar tissue, whether drugs for the prophylactic prevention of hair loss, for treating glaucoma or intestinal tumors, Naef is convinced that, after the usual ten-year development and testing phase, extraordinarily effective products will be brought to market in the next few years. “If all goes well, the first product, the one used to heal chronic wounds, will be on the market in 2023.”

Sustainable for staff and investors

The market for Topadur products is huge, as there are no comparable drugs. Does the big money beckon? Is Naef planning a lucrative sale of the company? “No way,” answers Naef. Instead, he is pursuing two goals: “On the one hand, I want to do something meaningful, something that can benefit suffering people.” On the other hand, he bears responsibility for his employees and investors. “Ultimately, it’s about creating something sustainable and giving something back to the state and society, as it is ultimately they who have made our research and our success possible.”

Trade show appearance with S-GE

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