Swiss biotechnology: The growth continues


The Swiss biotech industry continues to be buoyant and once again managed to increase its sales, exports and research investments in 2018. As a result, it is laying the foundations for further growth and forward-looking development. Capital investment in listed biotech companies saw an especially striking increase: Polyphor boasted one of Europe’s most successful flotations in recent years.


The Swiss biotech industry can once again look back on a record year. Industry sales increased by 6 percent compared to 2017, reaching CHF 4 billion. The number of people employed within the 249 biotech companies and 63 suppliers rose by around 4 percent to over 14,300. The industry has been laying the foundations for this impressive, sustained growth spanning a number of years with investment in research and development, which has been increasing for years and which rose by a further 32 percent from 2017 to 2018. Successful IPO, less VC investmentThe capital raised by public companies grew to CHF1.2 billion. Idorsia, Crispr, Basilea and the IPO of Polyphor contributed to this success. Having raised around CHF 155 million, this was the largest biotech IPO in Switzerland in over 10 years, and one of the three largest in Europe in the last three years. Jürg Zürcher, Partner at EY, who presented the Swiss Biotech Report at a press conference expects more IPOs in 2019. On the other hand the investment in privately held companies, mostly start-ups, decreased from CHF666 million to CHF357 million. There are several reasons for this explained Jürg Zürcher, Partner at EY. Investors are getting more selective, promising companies such as Polyphor have gone public and the companies which closed huge financing rounds in 2017 were not in need of fresh money in 2018. The Swiss Biotech Report can downloaded on the website of Swiss Biotech. The various shapes of successThe secret to the Swiss biotech industry’s success lies not in individual leading-edge companies, but in its diversity. Each year, the Swiss Biotech Association presents companies with the "Swiss Biotech Success Stories Awards" in recognition of outstanding achievements: Okairos - a company that was brought to Switzerland to benefit from the good ecosystem and sold to GSK in 2013 for USD250m Roche Glycart - founded in 2000 as ETH Zurich Spin-off and acquired by Roche in 2005 Selexis - founded in 2001 and sold to JSR life Science in 2017 Biogen and Vifor Fresenius Medical Care Renal Pharma. These companies received the award at this year’s Swiss Biotech Day after being nominated in 2018.The companies nominated for the coming 2019/2020 period were also announced. For the first time, the nominees include an individual: Prof. Dr. Werner Arber, who was awarded the 1978 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. With his groundbreaking research in the field of molecular genetics, he was instrumental in the development of biotechnology in many ways over several decades. Furthermore, three foundations have been nominated that have been supporting biotech startups with great success for more than 10 years, thereby making a significant contribution to the growth of the industry: Venture Foundation, Venturelab and Venture Kick. Three outstanding and commercially successful biotech companies additionally made it onto the independent jury's list: Actelion, Debiopharm and Helsinn. The Swiss Biotech Association will be working closely with these laureates over the coming 12 months to highlight the diversity and innovative strength of the Swiss biotech industry based on these successes. (Press release / SK)