The Swiss biotech industry experienced a record investment in the pandemic year 2020, according to the new Swiss Biotech Report.
Driven by the corona crisis, the Swiss biotech ecosystem is thriving as never before. This is evidenced by the Swiss Biotech Report from EY, the Swiss Biotech Association (SBA) and eight other organizations. The report was presented online for the second year in a row ahead of Swiss Biotech Day (postponed to September 7, 2021) due to the pandemic. "For the Swiss biotech sector, 2020 was a record year," said SBA CEO Michael Altdorfer during the presentation of last year's key data on the Swiss biotech and life sciences sector.
Compared to the previous year, capital investments in private and listed Swiss biotech companies tripled from CHF 1.2 billion to CHF3.4 billion. The export quota grew by four percent year-on-year to 44% or CHF 99.1 billion, and the number of employees increased by 8% (previous year 5%) to around 16,300, distributed roughly equally among the 314 listed and private companies (including 63 suppliers) – record figures since the report was first published.
Around CHF2.7 billion was invested in listed companies, including around CHF 470 million in ADC Therapeutics in the course of an IPO and subsequent capital measures. CRISPR Therapeutics (CHF 940 million), Idorsia (CHF866 millio ), Molecular Partners (CHF80 million) and Basilea (CHF125 million ) also raised large amounts. Most of the private capital was acquired by VectivBio Holding AG (CHF135 million), SOPHiA Genetics (CHF100 million) and the newly formed Noema Pharma (CHF 54 million).
Meanwhile, sales by companies in the sector fell slightly to around CHF 4.5 billion last year, down from CHF 4.8 billion in 2019. On the other hand, investments in research and development grew by 10% to CHF 2.2 billion. According to Altdorfer, this is also due to the fact that Swiss drug and vaccine development activities are diversified. While Big Pharma is focused on repurposing potentially COVID-19 effective approved compounds and producing and marketing life-saving drugs beyond the pandemic, biotech drug developers such as Molecular Partners are contributing, for example, by providing innovative virus-neutralizing COVID-19 drugs that are currently being evaluated for regulatory approval under the U.S. ACTIV program.
According to Altdorfer, in addition to Switzerland's internationally leading drug and diagnostics ecosystem, there is still untapped potential in industrial biotechnology that will be leveraged in a proven manner. Interestingly, Switzerland achieved its globally leading productivity since 2011 largely without massive government intervention. Unlike the U.S., the U.K. and Germany, which have invested billions in vaccine development, especially by domestic companies, the Swiss government is involved in the international distribution of vaccines via COVAX and relies on market forces and collaboration.