Smart answers to the corona virus


The emergence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus has triggered frenetic activity in the Swiss biotech scene. The race for suitable vaccines and therapies is in full swing.


Christian Schaub recalls his last trip to Japan in mid-February: "In Tokyo, the virus and the concern about its spread was omnipresent". For Redbiotec's founder and CEO it was clear from then on that the SARS-CoV-2 virus, unlike, for example, the MERS or SARS virus, would also become an issue in Europe and the USA.

Back in Switzerland, he gathered his team to start developing a vaccine concept. The new vaccine should be easy to administer and should not cost more than one dollar to produce.

Currently, five biologists and biochemists are working on the project. Schaub himself is in charge of financing and contacts with regulatory authorities and big pharma.  

Redbiotec is not the only Swiss biotech company that also sees the corona virus as a creative and business challenge.    

  • Like Redbiotec, InnoMedica from Zug and Fribourg has started a vaccine project. The first prototypes will be produced in April.
  • Thirdly, Basel-based Alpha-O Peptides' search for a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine is based on a concept that has already been used in the development of a malaria vaccine.
  • Basel-based Memo Therapeutics is developing antibodies to neutralise the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
  • Zurich-based Neurimmune is also working on anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. It should one day be possible to inhale them.
  • Relief Therapeutics is entering a clinical study with an American partner company to show whether the already approved drug Aviptadil can also help corona patients.

The approaches are very different. However, all companies have one thing in common: they take high risks. At present, the entire world is working on vaccines and drugs against the new corona virus and experience shows that big pharma usually only markets two or three equivalent products against a specific disease.

The entrepreneurial challenge for the small biotech companies is therefore huge: "We have to invest as much as possible and at the same time make sure that we keep the day-to-day business also progressing," says Christian Schaub. 

(Jost Dubacher / Stefan Kyora)