Switzerland’s life sciences sector saw a strong year in 2021 with companies contributing to the Covid-19 pandemic and high levels of capital investments being key indicators of the sector’s strength.
This is according to the latest edition of the Swiss Biotech Report1 which was launched by the Swiss Biotech Association.
The sector saw a strong year for capital investments, with domestic and international sources contributing CHF 3.33B whilst R&D investments reached a new record of 2.65B. For R&D funding, the majority of it was directed to fields outside of Covid-19, such as immune-oncology and neurology or emerging fields such as the microbiome and cell-based regeneration.
Investors also supported data-driven business models that can enable the development of digital therapeutics or personalised medicines. Examples include the successful IPO of SOPHiA Genetics and the recent MDR certification for the Floodlight Application for multiple sclerosis patients from Roche which demonstrated the attractiveness of such data-driven approaches
2021 was the second-best year in terms of financing and Swiss public companies raised a total of CHF 2.51B. Highlight investments include SOPHiA Genetics with CHF 234M, Bachem with 584M, Idorsia with CHF 600M and Anaveon, which managed to raise CHF 817M in private capital.
In total, the Swiss biotech industry generated revenues of CHF 6.7B compared to CHF 4.9B in 2020. This increase can be attributed to an increase in product sales, favourable one-time events from collaboration and licensing deals, as well as a general positive advancement of the product pipeline and, as a result of that, regulatory approvals continuing at very high levels.
Last year also saw several Swiss biotech companies get acquired by larger pharmaceutical companies or biotechs. Key deals include Mestex, which was acquired by Grünenthal Pharma, Novartis acquiring Cellerys, and Inositec being acquired by Vifor Pharma. In terms of collaborations, the most prominent one was between Lonza and the US biotech Moderna to produce one of the urgently needed, mRNA-based Covid vaccines in Visp.
“Last year, we expressed some caution that the Covid pandemic might take its toll and that the Swiss inclination not to intervene in the free market, and to avoid providing direct government support for venture-based startups and small/mid-sized R&D companies, could backfire and weaken the innovative power of Switzerland,” said Michael Altorfer, CEO, Swiss Biotech Association.
“However, record levels of financing in 2020 and 2021 suggest that not only Swiss, but global biotech investors continue to recognise the attractiveness of investment opportunities on offer. Sustaining innovation and growth, therefore, has to continue to be a key priority. I am pleased to see that in response Switzerland is continuing to prioritise attracting top talent and is also further expanding international collaborations. The flourishing start-up scene should also receive a further boost from the new SPARKS capital markets segment, recently launched by SIX Swiss Exchange, which offers a cost-effective listing option facilitating access to global capital markets. New bilateral agreements, e.g. with Indonesia, support the extension of its global network, and Switzerland is also seeking to re-establish its full association with Horizon Europe.”
“2021 was clearly an exceptional year. Investor interest was demonstrated by very high levels of financing, record R&D investments and the creation of new biotech-specific investment funds, such as Pureos Bioventures and Bernina Bioinvest. Further, it is encouraging that Swissmedic, the Swiss agency for therapeutic products, approved 45 new drugs in 2021, which was again higher than the 42 approvals for innovative new drugs in 2020”, added Frederik Schmachtenberg, EY Partner, Global Life Sciences Lead for Financial Accounting Advisory Services.
Swiss Biotech Success Stories Awards for outstanding achievements
To recognise outstanding achievements, the Swiss Biotech Association again honored companies with the “Swiss Biotech Success Stories Awards”. At this year’s Swiss Biotech Day, Etienne Jornod and Genedata received the awards.
Etienne Jornod, who was Executive Chairman of the Vifor-Galenica Group, delivering 25 consecutive double-digit net profit growth, supporting millions of patients, and creating thousands of jobs. In 2020, he acquired OM Pharma with friends, aiming to create a unique biopharmaceutical company based on bacteria lysates expertise.
Genedata, global market leader for software solutions that digitalise data-rich and complex bio- pharmaceutical R&D processes, enables an R&D revolution driven by precision medicines and artificial intelligence approaches. It helps the industry to deliver innovative biotherapeutics, vaccines and cell & gene therapies faster.