The biotechnology sector includes a wide array of technologies and applications, with a significant share of Swiss players. Under the umbrella of NTN Swiss Biotech, biotechnet Switzerland together with the Swiss Biotech Association (SBA) has been instrumental in generating private-public partnerships to support the biotechnology area.
Prof. Laura Suter-Dick
President biotechnet Switzerland, University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland, School of Life Sciences (FHNW)
The speed of scientific and technical development as well as the continuous position of Switzerland as a key player in biotechnology make the ties between industrial and research partners still necessary, if not indispensable. Thus, the dissolution of NTN Swiss Biotech in the fall of 2018 represents the end of a formalized union but is definitely not the end of the joint efforts of SBA and biotechnet to foster interactions between Swiss biotech stakeholders. 2018 was an important year for biotechnet Switzerland. On the one hand, we were deeply devoted to fulfilling the commitments linked with the financial support by Innosuisse (former CTI). On the other hand, we were devising a strategy allowing us to play our role in the years to come. With this in mind, we continued our relationship with SBA, jointly formulating a Memorandum of Understanding that outlines common areas of interest.
biotechnet started prioritizing specific fields of interest, sponsoring and promoting focused events addressing key biotechnological developments in Switzerland. One of the highlights was the formal initiation of the Translational and Clinical Bio- Manufacturing (TCBM) platform in May 2018, as a natural evolution of the former Regenerative Medicine platform.
Now the focus has been sharpened and the platform, jointly led by Prof. Eliane Müller (SCRM & University of Bern) and Prof. Steffen Zeissberger (Wyss Zurich), has capitalized on synergies between five organizations from Swiss universities and university hospitals, that use and operate cleanrooms (including biomanufacturing) for translational clinical applications. In a related topic, the Tissue Engineering for Drug Discovery platform (TEDD), led by Prof. Michael Raghunath (ZHAW), continued its successful trajectory promoting scientific events as well as visits to industrial partners. In a field soon to face new regulations, the In Vitro Diagnostics platform jointly led by Prof. Marc Pfeifer (HES-SO) and Dr Dieter Ulrich (CSEM) organized the second very successful Point of Care (POC) Symposium in October.
The Personalized Medicine platform led by Dr Silke Schneider (University of Zurich/ETHZ) organized a conference entitled ‘Personalized Health Technologies and Translational Research’ in Zurich ( June 2018). biotechnet also strives to increase the international visibility of Swiss biotechnology. Hence, the Bioresources platform led by Prof. Philippe Corvini (FHNW) made it possible for biotechnet and SBA to chair a session at the ‘European Conference in Biotechnology’ in July 2018 in Geneva. It also promoted the very successful ‘International Symposium on Persistent Toxicant Substances’ in November 2018 in Muttenz. In the platform Biocatalysis and Biosynthesis Prof. Rebecca Buller (ZHAW) organized a second CCBIO (Competence Center for Biocatalysis) Symposium; a meeting that provides a platform for scientific knowledge transfer and dialogue. Addressing a key societal and health issue, the Antibiotics platform led by Prof. Markus Seeger (University of Zurich) chaired a session in Basel Life 2018 entitled ‘Antibiotics Brought by NTN Swiss Biotech’, a topic that met the interest of the pharmaceutical industry and academia alike.
There is no future without education. Hence, biotechnet has been promoting biotechnology skills for nearly 20 years. In 2018, biotechnet supported the realization of the ‘XIII Summer School on Advanced Biotechnology’ with the Università degli Studi di Palermo. In a more tailor-made approach, with the platform Training for Pharma/Biotech Prof. Daniel Gygax (FHNW) promotes interactions between the industrial sector and the directors of universities of applied sciences in the area of life sciences, to ensure that Switzerland remains a top choice for the biotech industry requiring specialized staff.
Albeit the need for some refocusing and definition of specific fields of academic and industrial interest, biotechnet remains committed to closely interacting with SBA and the Swiss biotech industry. With its collection of competencies and enhanced networking, biotechnet strives to identify niches that may lead to larger research programs with the end goal of technology transfer and industrial commercialization. The future has just begun.
biotechnet Switzerland is a network of universities of applied sciences, universities and research and technology organizations. It comprises 10 full members and a large number of associated and platform members in each of the thematic platforms. As such, it provides an excellent means to channel access to a wide variety of competencies in biotechnology to support biotech industry. For further details or to join the network, please visit www.biotechnet.ch.