CEO, Swiss Biotech Association
Switzerland’s role in developing effective solutions to global challenges is not limited to the field of life sciences, as Bertrand Piccard, founder of the Solar Impulse Foundation, exemplifies in his guest editorial to this year’s Swiss Biotech Report. But Switzerland’s contribution to global innovation has certainly been particularly strong in the field of healthcare.
Given the small number of patients and size of the local market, Swiss biotech and pharmaceutical companies have traditionally focused on innovation that could benefit patients worldwide. At the same time, the Swiss R&D hub has built international networks and collaborates closely with international partners around the world. Multinational institutions such as the World Health Organization have chosen Switzerland for their headquarters.
In 2023, the Swiss Biotech Association celebrates its 25th anniversary. This provides an opportunity to look back and reflect on the highlights of the healthcare innovations that biotech and pharmaceutical companies have developed, often in collaboration with academic research partners. Whether it’s effective treatments for acute viral and bacterial infections, powerful tools for anesthesia and pain management, new ways to address chronic diseases such as diabetes or high blood pressure, and the novel approaches in oncology that harness the immune system to fight cancer cells, patients around the world are benefiting from these breakthrough discoveries.
While we used to rely on synthetic small molecules to develop new drugs, versatile antibodies now offer new therapies (see Swiss National Science Foundation article, p16), and the latest developments in cell-based treatments and gene therapies have brought us closer to the possibility of not only treating the symptoms of a disease, but potentially providing a cure. We are also moving closer to precision medicine that is highly targeted and effective for specific patient populations.
Since Swiss researchers almost always work in international collaborations, few of these advances were developed by Swiss research groups alone. As the analysis by the Swiss Institute of Intellectual Property shows, Swiss researchers contribute disproportionately to the global biotech patent pool, with the vast majority of contributions coming in the context of international patents generated through cross-border collaborations (see article, p18). Thus, many of the highlights shown on the opposite page have been the result of collaborations between Swiss academic research groups, biotech SMEs and large pharma companies as well as their international partners. And ultimately, these innovations benefit patients worldwide.
For more than a century, Switzerland has established and expanded its role as a leading life sciences research, development and manufacturing hub, helping to develop new therapeutic treatments and establish new modalities and platform technologies to address global medical needs.
This report also highlights that Swiss biotech companies continue to attract significant capital investments which enabled them to invest CHF > 2.7 billion in their R&D projects in the past year. Thus, we are confident that Switzerland will continue to be an important partner in healthcare innovation going forward.
On behalf of all the partners of the Swiss Biotech Report 2023, I encourage you to dive into the articles in this year’s report that each address the main topic of “Effective solutions for global challenges” from a different perspective. They highlight success stories, the power of international collaboration, a spirit of sharing results and experience, and the benefits Switzerland can offer as an international hub for R&D with a rich source of talent and all stakeholders required to advance R&D projects effectively (see interview with Amit Munshi, p42). This includes global CDMOs (e.g. Bachem, SIX Swiss Exchange article, p38), an active regulator that engages in international alliances (see Swissmedic article, p40), but also many partners that explore the power of biotechnology innovation beyond healthcare (see SATW article, p26, and scienceindustries article, p30)