The world as a whole – and specifically the healthcare system – faces tough challenges, including the aftermath of the recent pandemic and rising healthcare costs. Collaborations between academic institutions, research organizations, and industry to propose, promote and implement innovations will help the biotechnology sector deliver solutions to existing and emerging issues. As a network of research organizations, Biotechnet Switzerland helps bring together key actors to address specific questions.
Biotechnet Switzerland | President
School of Life Sciences, FHNW | Professor of Cell Biology and in vitro Toxicology
Sex and gender differences can have a strong impact on appropriate diagnosis and treatment, as diseases often present differently between the sexes. Established diagnostic tools and therapeutic approaches are mainly designed for males, with female pathophysiologies largely understudied in the past.
Members of Biotechnet Switzerland facilitate discussion, research and implementation of tools promoting women’s health. The topic of sex and gender health was prominently addressed at the 2022 Swiss Symposium in Point-of-Care Diagnostics organized by the Biotechnet thematic platform In Vitro Diagnostics, co-led by Prof. Marc Emil Pfeifer (HES-SO) and Dr. Samantha Paoletti (CSEM).
Three startup companies presented projects that address women’s health, developed in collaboration with Biotechnet member organizations:
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has been called the silent pandemic and is an urgent global public health threat. It has caused the death of at least 1.27 million people worldwide and was associated with nearly 5 million deaths in 2019 (US-Center of Disease Control, 2022). It also has a major impact on veterinary medicine and agriculture. Causes of resistance are manifold, but the indiscriminate use of antibiotics, together with the inherent ability of microorganisms to develop resistance through mutations, is leading to an increased incidence of infections that either cannot be addressed with conventional antibacterial therapies or do not respond to pharmacological treatment.
Biotechnet’s antibotics thematic platform is led by Prof. Markus Seeger, (UZH) and fosters research cooperations between more than 20 participants from academia and industry. The platform’s members bring together their expertise to discover and develop novel antibiotics to treat multidrug resistant bacteria, as well as rapid diagnostics.
In addition to scientific advances, public awareness and outreach activities are key to fight AMR. In the context of the World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW), Prof. Seeger explained the problem of AMR and the importance of taking appropriate countermeasures in a series of videos produced by Pfizer shared on social media.
Animal experimentation in the life sciences has been a major topic of discussion worldwide for at least 50 years. It is a complex issue and requires the support of scientists, industry and health authorities.
In 2013, animal testing for cosmetic ingredients was banned in the EU, prompting the development of in silico and alternative in vitro cell-based methods. In 2022, a historic landmark was the FDA modernization act which explicitly allows registration of new drugs based on pre-clinical data that does not necessarily include animal data. New in vitro methods to test efficacy and safety of compounds are thus needed, including complex human-based three-dimensional cell cultures, and organ-on-chip approaches, known as microphysiological systems (MPS).
The Biotechnet thematic platform Tissue Engineering for Drug Development and Substance Testing (TEDD), led by Dr. Markus Rimann (ZHAW), has been promoting in vitro alternative methods for more than 10 years.
Biotechnet members are advancing applied research in in vitro and in silico testing and effectively providing alternatives to animal experimentation.
These advancements are leading to collaborations between pharmaceutical companies and members of Biotechnet, as exemplified by several recent projects funded by Innosuisse:
The circular economy, sustainability of resources, and the current energy crisis are global issues that must be tackled by fostering collaborations. To address these challenges, Biotechnet is leveraging its international partnerships.
Data science, artificial intelligence and quantum computing are powerful tools that can help us better understand diseases and develop more efficient treatments and diagnostics. Omics technologies have evolved a great deal in the past 20 years, due to advances in high-throughput technologies for generating and interpreting large amounts of genetic and molecular data.
Biotechnet’s newly formed Data Science platform led by Dr. Abdullah Kahraman (FHNW) and Moritz Kirschmann (CSEM) brings together Swiss-wide expertise from member organizations FHNW, CSEM, ZHAW and HES-SO. The group plans to foster interactions and exchanges on data analysis, machine learning and artificial intelligence in biotech on topics such as target molecule generation, digital twins of bioreactors, bioinformatics for omics technologies, and managing data in biotechnology.
Scientific symposia and collaborative projects bridging research and clinical activities are planned to harness the power of data science in providing solutions to health challenges.
In all, Biotechnet’s members strive to provide leading applied research and facilities that can support the development of effective solutions to global challenges. Discover how we can work with you by visiting our online directory.
Biotechnet members featured in this article:
CSEM: Centre Suisse d’electronique et de microtechnique
FHNW: Fachhochschule Nordwestschweiz
HES-SO: Haute école spécialisée de Suisse occidentale
UZH: Universität Zürich
ZHAW: Zürcher Hochschule für Angewandte Wissenschaften
MCI: Management Center Innsbruck (Austria, international member)
Palermo University (Italy, international member)