On the occasion of its 20th anniversary, the Swiss Biotech Association launches Swiss Biotech Success Stories in recognition of the industry’s many accomplishments. Swiss Biotech Success Stories will grow over time to encompass all of the industry’s different facets. An independent jury of experts annually selects the laureates. The first recognitions go to Biogen, Glycart, Okairos, Selexis and Vifor Fresenius Medical Care Renal Pharma for their remarkable achievements and sustainable contributions to Switzerland and its biotech industry. Founders, scientists, investors and business partners celebrated the first laureates yesterday evening at this year’s Swiss Biotech Day.
«Biotech is one of the most innovative sectors in Switzerland. The industry represents an unparalleled success story, attracting talents and investments from all around the globe», said Michael Altorfer, Chief Executive Officer of the Swiss Biotech Association. «Our industry is as diverse and multifaceted as its successes. With Swiss Biotech Success Stories we are honoring our pioneers, entrepreneurs, innovators and leaders – all those extraordinary people who lead the way, open the horizon and prepare the ground for lasting achievements.»
Swiss Biotech Success Stories celebrate the many accomplishments and honors those who have made important and sustainable contributions to the biotech industry in Switzerland. Laureates are individuals –or groups –who earned extraordinary merits. Success is broadly defined as scientific, translational, medical or commercial accomplishments and other aspects with a positive impact on biotech industry and society in Switzerland. The recognition is awarded annually and reflects the diversity and variety of this industry sector.
Current members of the jury are Luca Bolliger, vice president of Swiss Biotech Association, president of the jury; and – in alphabetical order – Patrick Aebischer, emeritus EPFL president, professor and serial entrepreneur; Martine Clozel, co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Actelion and Idorsia; Gabrielle Gache, president of Swiss Healthcare Licensing Group; Ulrich Geilinger, head private equity at HBM Partners; Kaspar Hess, head of the entrepreneurial private banking at Mirabaud Basel; Birgit Voigt, business journalist at NZZ am Sonntag; Jürg Zürcher, partner, biotech/medtech leader GSA at Ernst & Young. Jury secretary: Thomas Staffelbach, senior advisor at TS Kommunikation.
Biogen for the many Swiss ingredients in its success story. Founded in Geneva in 1978, Biogen has been a key stimulus and model for the biotech industry in Switzerland and on a global level. Today’s success contains many Swiss roots such as today’s best-selling drug against multiple sclerosis or its latest Alzheimer’s candidate currently in Phase III development. In 2004, Biogen returned to Switzerland establishing its international headquarters in Zug, and, more recently, announced new production facilities in Luterbach creating 600 new jobs.
Glycart (now Roche Glycart) for its role as pioneer in antibody engineering in cancer immunotherapy. The Schlieren-based company successfully engineers antibody glycosylation to increase immune-mediated cancer cell killing. A first drug based on this technology has been approved in 2013 to treat chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Since the takeover by Roche in 2005, the number of employees at Roche Glycart in Schlieren has increased from 29 to over 180.
Okairos for its innovative T-cell based vaccines for major infectious diseases such as malaria, hepatitis C, HIV, Ebola and others. Its novel replication-incompetent adenovirus vectors could open the door to the development of important new vaccines and offer immunizations against illnesses that lack vaccines. Okairos moved its headquarters to Basel to benefit from the innovation-friendly Swiss environment. In 2013, the company was acquired and integrated into GSK.
Selexis for its advanced technologies in protein expression particularly in novel and difficult-to-express proteins. With more than hundred partners worldwide, nearly hundred drug candidates in clinical development and three commercial products utilizing Selexis-generated cell lines, the technologies of the Plan-les-Ouates-based company allow biotech and pharmaceutical companies a rapid, stable, and cost-effective solution for the production of recombinant proteins.
Vifor Fresenius Medical Care Renal Pharma, a transformational joint venture, which provides Vifor Pharma direct access to dialysis patients facilitating the distribution of its products and recruitment for its clinical development. The success of the joint venture transformed Vifor Pharma into a global nephrology company in just 18 months. The vertical integration between a pharmaceutical and a medical device company could be a role model for the convergence of the two sectors.
Swiss Biotech Success Stories are sponsored by Mirabaud & Cie. SA, Switzerland Global Enterprise and Ernst & Young. The campaign is supported by Gebert Rüf Stiftung, the Canton of Basel-Stadt, Bench International and TS Kommunikation.