• Tuesday, April 23, 2024 @ 11:00 am

From its European headquarters in Basel, Switzerland, BeiGene strategically collaborates with stakeholders worldwide to advance oncology research and development. It is commercially present in 40 countries and runs its clinical trials in over 45 countries.

Sirpa Tsimal
Switzerland Global Enterprise | Director Investment Promotion 

Sirpa Tsimal talks with Gerwin Winter and Jan-Henrik Terwey of BeiGene about the company’s global mission of making cancer treatments more accessible and affordable.

Gerwin Winter Head of Europe
Jan-Henrik Terwey VP Medical Affairs Europe


Briefly, describe what BeiGene does 

BeiGene is a global biotechnology company committed to developing new cancer medicines that are more accessible and affordable to far more patients around the world. 

With more than 10’000 employees worldwide working on five continents, it has one of the largest oncology research teams in the industry with ~1’100 scientists, driving a treatment pipeline that covers 80% of the world’s cancers by incidence. 30% of its clinical trials have involved European participants across a range of countries in the continent, of which 16 have been pivotal. 

Our fundamental belief is that patients deserve access to high-quality, innovative, and impactful medicines. Cancer has no borders, and so, as a global company, we seek to ensure our therapies are accessible to as many eligible patients as possible. Our collaborative approach to pricing and reimbursement requirements has resulted in rapid patient access, often faster than industry averages. 

BeiGene Reception Desk

Could you tell us about the history of BeiGene and when it established its presence in Basel? 

BeiGene was founded in 2010 by an American entrepreneur, John V. Oyler, and a preeminent Chinese-American scholar-scientist, Xiaodong Wang, with the mission to build the first, next-generation global biotechnology company by addressing the two biggest challenges in cancer treatment: access to medicines and affordability. They combined their scientific knowledge, entrepreneurial mindset, and shared passion for fighting cancer to create a global company that would play a significant role in how cancer is treated.

With more than 40 offices worldwide, Basel, Beijing and Cambridge, Massachusetts are its administrative locations. BeiGene has been operating out of Basel since 2019, and officially inaugurated its offices in 2022 to serve as the company’s European HQ. 

Why did BeiGene choose Switzerland as European HQ location? 

When we decided to open our European office, we had to make two decisions: first the choice of country, then the choice of canton/state. Switzerland was the ideal candidate from the beginning.

Switzerland has an excellent reputation as one of the most competitive business locations in the world. It offers stable political, social, economic, and financial conditions. In addition, Switzerland has long been recognized as the most innovative country in the world, with the best access to talent. 

The presence of renowned research institutes and pioneering work being done by organizations like the Swiss Group for Clinical Cancer Research (SAKK) shows us that Switzerland is at the forefront of translating science from the lab to the clinic. Moreover, the geographical location in the heart of Europe offers Switzerland a unique framework to benefit from synergies on a national and international level, such as a highly qualified workforce, strategic access to the European market, and excellent networking opportunities.

We chose Basel for our European HQ as it has a well-established pharmaceutical industry and is home to a very strong biotech industry. At BeiGene, we value the power of collaboration. The existence of more than a thousand different research groups in Basel is proof of its vibrant, collaborative ecosystem. As a rapidly growing company, we wanted to be where talent is. Switzerland acts like a magnet to qualified workers from abroad and retains the talent it grows, and Basel is no exception. It has an experienced talent pool, with more than thirty thousand exceptionally skilled people. 

What is your growth strategy for Switzerland and internationally? 

BeiGene is at an inflection point for our business and will look to build on our foundation in 2024, which we expect to be an exciting and transformational year. We are already an innovative oncology leader in hematology and are rapidly becoming a leader in solid tumors. We have one of the largest oncology R&D teams and most compelling pipelines, with more than fifty potential medicines. The company’s global revenue is already one of the top 10 for innovative therapies in hematological malignancies. 

Switzerland supplies BRUKINSA, a Bruton’s Tyrosine Kinase (BTK) inhibitor and BeiGene’s flagship product, which won the prestigious “Prix Galien Suisse” 2023, to all major commercial markets. BeiGene’s solid tumor medicine, TEVIMBRA, is currently under review by Swissmedic. 

At BeiGene we take pride in our ability to attract and expand our global teams to meet our ever-evolving needs. We have more than 10’000 colleagues worldwide. Since 2022, Europe’s headcount has tripled to reach 600 colleagues by the end of 2023 including approximately 250 colleagues in Switzerland.

As a leading oncology R&D innovator, what do you think of the Swiss research community? 

Switzerland is home to a globally unique life sciences cluster. In addition to large chemical and pharmaceutical firms, this encompasses a concentrated network of medtech, biotech, and nanotech companies. In comparison to other top international locations, the Swiss life sciences industry has the highest work productivity. It comes as no surprise that chemical and pharmaceutical products make up more than half of Switzerland’s most important exports.

Switzerland features world-renowned academic institutions developing cutting-research in oncology, through the work of its associated cancer centers, such as the Department of Oncology in the University Hospital of Zurich, the Swiss Cancer Center Basel, part of the University Hospital Basel, the Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research located at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, just to name a few and in no particular order. These and other research centers and their faculties play a critical role in advancing the understanding of cancer biology and developing novel cancer treatments.

Switzerland consistently invests a significant portion of its GDP in research and development, both public and private. Moreover, it’s a country that has robust intellectual property protection laws, an important incentive for companies to invest in R&D, without significant concerns of infringement.

BeiGene Switzerland receiving the prestigious Prix Galien in the Cancer
category in 2023 for its self-developed BTK inhibitor BRUKINSA®

What is your experience collaborating in life sciences ecosystems beyond borders? 

Our fundamental belief is that patients deserve access to high-quality, innovative, and impactful medicines. “Cancer has no borders. Neither do we.” is our motto. As a global company, we seek to ensure our therapies are accessible to as many eligible patients as possible around the world. Our efforts to close existing health equity gaps require multi-stakeholder collaboration, namely among industry, academia, and government. By working together, we can reduce health inequities and improve the health and wellbeing of millions of patients globally. 

We support healthcare industry efforts and government policies that advance science, enhance medical innovation, and work to build health equality for patients around the world. Our collaboration with a multitude of healthcare players extends from the very beginning of the development process until medicines are made available to patients. As an example, we engage with cancer communities around the world to gain insights to bring the patient voice into what we do, from clinical trials to patient-centered outcomes research but also to inform disease education and awareness efforts. 

We have a solid innovative portfolio validated by clinical results, global approvals but also major external collaborations, such as Novartis, Bristol Myers Squibb, Seagen, Leap Therapeutics, to name just a few of the more than 20 industry collaborations. Our partners share our patient-centric vision and our unwavering commitment to transformational science. 

Switzerland is synonymous with high quality, innovation, and stability. Its willingness to support companies in doing business is unmatched. In Switzerland, industry, academia, civil society, and the government are action-driven and committed to facing challenges together and making the best of opportunities that arise. It’s a small but powerful country, catalyzed by strong networking, top talent, and excellent connections with the rest of Europe and the world.

How will cancer treatment develop in the future?

As the world’s population ages, the number of people being diagnosed with cancer is expected to increase. Over 35 million new cancer cases are predicted in 2050, a 77% increase from the estimated 20 million cases in 2022.¹

Overall, the future of cancer treatment is likely to involve increasingly complex and individualized combination therapies aimed at improving outcomes, reducing side effects, and ultimately achieving better long-term control of the disease. Collaboration among researchers, clinicians, pharmaceutical companies, and patients will be crucial in driving these advancements forward. 


1 https://www.who.int/news/item/01-02-2024-global-cancer-burden-growing--amidst-mounting-need-for-services 

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