Welcome to BaselArea.swiss

Fostering innovation & accelerating business in Switzerland’s most dynamic economic region >>>>

No. 1 in Swissness

Swissness means business-friendly, reliable and productive. As an economic powerhouse and with decidedly pro-business core values, ... >>>> Swissness means business-friendly, reliable and productive. As an economic powerhouse and with decidedly pro-business core values, the Basel region is a shining example for these Swiss virtues.

No. 1 in Life Sciences and Healthcare

The entire life sciences value chain in one place and easily accessible? That’s what makes the Basel region unique and a preferred ... >>>> The entire life sciences value chain in one place and easily accessible? That’s what makes the Basel region unique and a preferred location for research, development, production and headquarters functions - for 700 companies and counting.

No. 1 in Innovation Industries

Switzerland is considered the most innovative country in the world, according to various studies. Access to knowledge, highly quali... >>>> Switzerland is considered the most innovative country in the world, according to various studies. Access to knowledge, highly qualified and international talent and a strong industrial backbone have turned the Basel region into the leading innovation hub of Switzerland.

No. 1 in Access from and to Europe

Via container ship or by plane: Outstanding connectivity and transportation, bordering Germany and France, and a central location i... >>>> Via container ship or by plane: Outstanding connectivity and transportation, bordering Germany and France, and a central location in the middle of Europe have established the Basel region as a preferred logistics hub and metropolitan platform for international trade.

No. 1 in Culture and Leisure

World-class art treasures, culture and sports events, an international, urban ambience nestled in a healthy natural landscape for r... >>>> World-class art treasures, culture and sports events, an international, urban ambience nestled in a healthy natural landscape for recreation, all of this combined establishes the Basel region as one of the most livable and lively spots to dwell and work in the world.

BaselArea.swiss is a joint initiative for innovation and economic promotion by the cantons of Basel-Stadt, Basel-Landschaft and Jura in Northwestern Switzerland. BaselArea.swiss supports entrepreneurs and companies from abroad with the successful implementation of innovation and business ventures in the Basel region.

Through an extensive network of 15'000 decision-makers, innovators, experts, influencers and multipliers, BaselArea.swiss provides its clients direct access to relevant expertise and specialized know-how.

BaselArea.swiss offers its clients customized services in four main areas:

Invest in the Basel Region

Invest in the Basel Region helps clients with personalized support in deciding where to locate their business activities in the Basel region. Companies can expect competent advice during the entire site selection and settlement process.

Connecting Innovators

Connecting Innovators helps connecting companies and researchers in technology, R&D and innovation matters, and within the tech industry sectors Life Sciences, Medical Technologies, ICT, Micro, Nano & Materials, and Production Technologies.

Supporting Entrepreneurs

Supporting Entrepreneurs offers entrepreneurs, who plan to start a company in the Basel region, overall help and support during the operational implementation of their business plans. Furthermore, start-ups and SME in expansion mode from the technology sectors mentioned above can benefit from strategic networking services to connect with industry experts and investors.

Accessing China

Accessing China provides companies in Northwestern Switzerland, which are looking to expand to China with a competent partnering network for a smooth market entry and implementation of their expansion project in China.

BaselArea.swiss also manages a comprehensive information platform, which showcases the competencies and specializations in the Basel business region, and further advances the integration of the region’s innovative players:

Innovation Reports

Covering the latest stories and reports on innovation in the Basel region and featuring a monthly newsletter with interviews, background stories and news about company settlements in the Basel region.

Innovation Events

BaselArea.swiss organizes and co-hosts more than 50 events annually dedicated to knowledge transfer and entrepreneurial culture. “Innovation Events” is where innovators and entrepreneurs share their thoughts and experiences about the latest in innovation.

When it comes to competitiveness and the ability to innovate, Switzerland has been one of the world’s top business locations for years. Several factors are responsible for Switzerland’s leading position: In addition to its excellency in education and a state-of-the-art infrastructure, one prominent reason for equating Swissness with business-friendliness, reliability, and productivity certainly is the efficiency of Swiss government authorities. For decades, companies and their investments in Switzerland have been able to benefit from a strong legal system, planning reliability and financial stability. Such an environment also provides the single most important precondition for sustainable expansion into new markets. Not coincidentally, Switzerland can claim the highest density of multinational enterprises.

The Basel region has made major contributions to this Swiss success story. Not only lay the beginnings and origins of numerous leading global players here, their successes also fuels the economic growth of our dynamic region. For instance, GDP numbers for the Basel region are significantly above the national average: The greater agglomeration of Basel achieves the highest gross domestic product per capita. At the same time, the Basel region is boosting Switzerland’s innovative capabilities, largely due to its leadership in life sciences and other high-tech sectors that are strongly represented in the area. For example, roughly a fifth of Switzerland’s value of exported goods is generated in the Basel region – remarkably considering the Basel region represents less than 10% of the Swiss population.

Four eminent features are at the core of the excellent reputation that Switzerland, and the Basel region in particular, enjoy when it comes to global competition of business, industry and knowledge locations:

Intelligent tax policies

Federalism as Switzerland’s guiding principle encourages active fiscal competition among cantons - which keeps tax rates within reasonable brackets. Apart from a flat tax rate on a federal level, the cantons are solely responsible for setting the tax rates - and for providing a best possible business environment for companies. As a result, the main beneficiaries of the Basel region are companies active in innovative industries with a high value add, as well as companies investing substantially in research, development and production.

Liberal labor market

Given the high density of internationally active high-tech companies in the Basel region, local authorities are supportive in order to answer the demand for highly qualified experts and executives from abroad. Companies also benefit from one of Europe’s most liberal labor market, while simultaneously being able to offer employees great benefits. The Basel region’s labor regulations and market allow companies to react quickly if changes in the business environment require action.

Sustainable infrastructure

In Switzerland, 5 minutes of train delay is considered unpleasant and exceptional – which routinely puts a smile on the faces of visitors from other countries. It is a well-known fact that the Swiss public infrastructure is rightly considered one of the most modern and reliable of the world – much to the advantage of companies in the Basel region: Exceptional connectivity by car, train or plane from and to all of Europe – and by waterway on the Rhine to all over the world.

Dual education system

Only a third of young Swiss finish high school and continue to earn degrees at one of Switzerland’s top universities. For many other countries this might represent a disastrous educational failure. In Switzerland, it’s actually part of the country’s success of professional formation. The aim of Switzerland’s “dual” education system is that a majority of young people will complete a Swiss-Federation-certified apprenticeship in order to join the workforce early on. A specialization, mostly „on the job“, is possible and often pursued at one of the country’s technical colleges or universities of applied sciences. This provides the Swiss labor market with a steady supply of entry-level employees with several years of on-the-job training and who will flexibly work in the most promising sectors, and where the actual demand is from employers and the industry. In addition and especially in the Basel region, there are many and well-established international schools that address the needs of expats and their kids for easy integration.

Being the only political system based on direct democracy, Switzerland has developed a uniquely cohesive political and social culture over the centuries. It is characterized by federalism, autonomy, and concordance, and has been the foundations of a stable political and social environment and is an embodiment of Swiss values. With its open-mindedness, the pragmatic can-do attitude of its authorities and people, the Basel region is a superb example of a business location that offers companies a great environment in which they’re all but certain to thrive.

The Basel region is one of the most sought-after life sciences locations in the world and clearly Europe’s No. 1. With Roche and Novartis, two out of three global market leaders, hail from the Basel region from where they run their global operations.

Just like them, several other international players have established central business divisions here in Basel, among them Elanco (Eli Lilly Company), Abott and Bayer. A good deal of newcomers such as Actelion, Basilea, Evolva and highly specialized companies like Bachem and Polyphor complete Basel’s life sciences ecosystem. Not surprisingly, the Basel region has also morphed into a hotspot for promising start-ups.

The Basel region is home to a total of 700 life sciences companies that are making a substantial contribution to an already dynamic business environment. Their sustainable success is mainly based on the following three factors

The life sciences industry is the growth engine of the Basel region – home-grown and here to stay

With a total of 33’900 employees in the life sciences sector, the Basel region boasts a production of goods and services worth USD 405 million per hour. This makes the Basel region by far the world’s life sciences destination with the highest productivity. When it comes to gross value, the Basel region is a world champion too: Nowhere in the world are higher production volumes to be found than in the Basel region, with its USD 23 billion p.a. At the same time, Basel’s annually received USD 6 billion investments in research and development makes the region a leader in this discipline too. Local life sciences are responsible for above-average economic growth – a fact reflected in the spotless reputation that the industry enjoys in the Basel region.

In the Basel region you’ll find talent and specialists with all kinds of competencies – quite often even in walking distance

From research and start-ups to manufacturing, marketing and distribution you’ll find the complete life sciences value chain of the Basel region practically on-site, and hence a deep talent pool of experienced specialists and experts at every stage and for every function of your company. Add top-of-the-line research institutes like Biozentrum at the University of Basel, the Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering of the ETH Zürich and the Friedrich Miescher Institute, and you’ll begin to grasp the extent of the Basel region’s unique life sciences mix. Its depth and density of resources, expertise and talent – oftentimes literally in walking distance – is unmatched in a global comparison and provides a uniquely fertile ground for innovations of the future.

The Basel region is a beacon of innovation in the life sciences – with a long tradition of more than 250 years

The Basel region can rightly claim to be the life sciences location with the longest history. From the beginnings with its industrial silk ribbon dye mills in the mid-century 1800s up to the biotech revolution, the Basel life sciences ecosystem has repeatedly evolved and reinvented itself in the course of the industry’s larger developments. This success story continues to be written. Unlike other historically grown life sciences centers, the Basel region has enjoyed solid and sustainable growth in recent years. And given a planned capital expenditure of 6 billion Swiss Francs for public and private infrastructure projects in the next couple of years, the region’s next growth spurt is just around the corner.

Tradition, a strong industrial backbone, and profound expertise in research and development, as well as in commercialization, have made the Basel region one of the most complete and full-fledged life sciences destinations in the world. You really would be hard pressed to find a region more suitable for efficient, sustainable and successful pre-commercial and commercial project development in the life sciences.

High-tech is the driving economic force in the Basel region and a guarantor of higher-than-average growth. And it will stay this way.  Because a strong industrial backbone, an international business environment that attracts talent and specialists from all over the world, combined with the world-class Swiss educational system have rendered the Basel region an ideal biotope for innovation. Here, companies, in particular from medical technology, ICT, precision mechanics, as well as from chemical industries, will benefit from the following location features:                         

The Basel region stands on strong industrial ground in the high-tech sector

92% of the industrial value added in the canton of Basel-Stadt is created by high-tech companies. Similarly, in the more rural cantons of Basel-Land and Jura, it is well above 70% and hence above the national average of around 60%. And it’s this latter percentage that has lifted Switzerland into the ranks of the most innovative nations in the world.

The Basel region is a front-runner in research and development

In Switzerland, the private sector is responsible for 69% of investments in research and development - a rather high ratio in global comparison – and 40% of which are generated in the Basel region, even though it holds only 10% of Switzerland’s population. Five of the 10 Swiss companies with the most patents registered are headquartered in the Basel region: Roche, Novartis, Clariant, Syngenta and Endress+Hauser. That’s why there simply is no other Swiss business location that employs a larger workforce in research and development.

The Basel region is globally connected and attracts talents from all over the world

Approximately one out of five in the Basel region’s population of 700’000 hails from abroad; the expat community currently amounts to 36’000. Situated close to the borders of Germany and France, the Basel region also sees a daily influx of 70'000 cross-border commuters from these neighboring countries. It’s hard to think of another business location, where such intense international business dynamics are unfolding in so little space, to form a center of attraction for professionals and specialists from all over the world.

World-class science and academic education

In addition to being a strong industrial research and development location, the Basel region is also perfectly positioned within the European world of academia. With its 2'000 professors and 12’000 students, the University of Basel is one of the oldest in Europe and ranks among the top 100 worldwide. Less than a two-hour train ride away are the Federal Institutes of Technology ETH Zurich (which has a life sciences department in Basel) and the EPFL Lausanne, both among the world’s absolute top-notch universities. In total, the Basel region (including its bordering countries) is home to no less than 167 research institutions in a perimeter of a few 100 kilometers. In addition, Switzerland’s dual education system and the University of Applied Sciences in Northwestern Switzerland provide a steady supply of highly trained professionals and skilled specialists.

Studies and surveys rank Switzerland year after year as one of the world’s leading location for innovation. Thanks to its strong industry backbone, a thoroughly international business environment that attracts talent from all over the world, and combined with the Swiss academic and dual education system, Basel has established itself as the innovation hub of Switzerland. The density of its offerings is truly unique: Maximum scientific performance, industry expertise and know-how, and a qualified labor force can be found within walking distance in the Basel region.


As early as during the Roman Empire, the Basel Rhine Port was known as the most southern navigable port in the waterways leading to the North Sea. After the opening of the first – and for many years the only - bridge over the river Rhine between Lake Constance and the North Sea in Basel in the year 1226, the city evolved into an important trade hub. Bordering France and Germany, and favorably situated in the center of Europe, the Basel region has maintained its leading role as the most important transportation and logistics hub of Switzerland – with many benefits for local industries and business in general.
In addition, the Basel region is particularly suitable for companies intending to establish an international headquarters in Europe, and for businesses actively pursuing new opportunities in global trade. The Basel region offers the following unique benefits:

The Basel region is an important European traffic hub

A mere 15 minutes by taxi or bus away from downtown Basel, the EuroAirport connects the region directly to more than 90 destinations in Europe, Northern Africa and the Middle East. From the city’s three Rhine ports, containers can reach Rotterdam within three days and be shipped from there all over the world. A train leaves nearly every hour to all major Swiss cities like Zurich (including the Zurich International Airport), Bern, Lausanne and Geneva, as well as economic centers on the river Rhine (i.e. Freiburg, Karlsruhe and Strasbourg). And Europe’s leading metropolitan and capital cities such as Frankfurt, Paris and Milano can be reached easily and conveniently in a few hours on a high-speed train.

The Basel region is Switzerland’s leading logistics hub

Basel’s three Rhine ports handle 12% of Switzerland’s foreign trade along with 842'000 tons of food and produce per annum. The entire Basel region processes a third of Switzerland’s foreign trade. Basel’s EuroAirport is Switzerland’s leading airport for freight. This fits the picture of Basel as a logistics hub, with a workforce of more than 23'000 employed in the logistics sector. 990 logistics companies – among them market leaders such as DHL, Panalpina, Goldrand or Kerry Logistics – call the Basel region home. Here, they provide sophisticated solutions for complex challenges, e.g. in supply chain management, that are routinely in demand by companies in the life sciences and the chemicals industry.

With its central location in Europe, the Basel region is an ideal location for companies active in international trade

Companies as diverse as Davidoff (specialty tobacco), Dufry (retail), Transgourmet (catering) or BIS (Bank for International Settlements, international finance) underline that goods of all kinds are being traded and provided from Basel. Accordingly, Swiss retail giant Coop (the country’s second largest supermarket chain), and Manor (largest Swiss department store) have chosen to locate their headquarters here. The Basel region is also an important location for an array of international trade fairs and exhibitions. A large portion of the international watch and jewelry industry’s revenue is realized annually at BaselWorld. And ArtBasel simply is the world’s most important art fair. A growing number of international consumer brands have discovered the advantages of Basel as a trade hub and opened European headquarters in the Basel region. Among them are for instance the well-known US lifestyle brand Fossil, bicycle manufacturer Cannondale, or fashion and design label Tally Weijl.

A growing number of global companies is discovering the appeal of the Basel region for opening a global or European headquarters, particularly given the outstanding connectivity and transportation system, and the local competencies in logistics and international trade. Well-established Swiss companies and start-ups alike are taking advantage of this central location within Europe. Last but not least, the vicinity to Germany and France, a thriving exchange with the rest of the world, and the cosmopolitanism of the local population make for a dynamic, continuous and sustainable growth of the entire business region.

Breakfast in Germany, lunch in France and dinner in Switzerland: where three borders meet and brimming with the cosmopolitan flair of global businesses, the Basel region sports an un-paralleled quality of life, at a lower cost than in other metropolitan areas of Switzerland. Award-winning architecture, the historic downtown, and a rich and elaborate cultural life – from hipster to classy – are the pillars of an outstanding urban lifestyle in the Basel region. At the same time, a well-developed public transportation system provides quick and direct access to suburban and rural residential areas along with natural parks and sites for local recreation.

Just ask newcomers and recent arrivals: Not only does the Basel region sport Switzerland’s largest expat community with a comprehensive offer of international schools for their kids. Basel can also claim the largest share of expats that have settled and made their home in the region for longer than 5 years. There’s more than one reason for this:

In Basel’s urban lifestyle and rich cultural life there’s something for everyone

The roots of Basel go all the way back to the times of the Romans and the Celts. The region reached its prime for the first time towards the end of the Middle Ages and at the beginning of Modern Age. Of course, Basel didn’t stop there: Today, a thriving creative sector, a variety of restaurants for the local foodie scene, paired with a rich calendar of cultural events all but guarantee a vibrant metropolitan lifestyle. On a stroll through the picturesque historical downtown, during the local carnival season, at a concert in the neo-baroque symphony hall, or simply while enjoying an outdoor movie on the Münsterplatz town square in summer: there is always something going on in Basel.

In Basel, art lovers have come to the right place

The Kunstmuseum Basel, founded in 1671, is considered the oldest public community art collection and according to a rating of the Times of London one of the top 5 art museums in the world. By no means a less appealing point of attraction is the Fondation Beyeler museum, which was designed by the Italian star architect Renzo Piano. Another Basel art highlight is the world’s largest art fair, the Art Basel. Every year, artists, collectors, galleries and auctioneers, as well as celebrities and VIPs have their calendars marked for Art Basel. Some of them might even catch one of the many internationally acclaimed and award-winning performances of the Theater Basel (with opera, drama, and ballet).

Sports are always happening in the Basel region – and not only at the stadium or on the couch

The best of the best in European football (viz. soccer) competitions are hosted by local favorites FC Basel in their St. Jakob Park home stadium. And the aces of the ATP Tour are serving it up at the Swiss Indoors tennis tournament – including the region’s very own native and superstar Roger Federer. Even outside the arena, the folks of Basel are quite keen on sports: No other Swiss city can claim a higher bicycle use, be it commuters riding to work or recreational cyclists on one of the numerous bike paths in the surrounding country side. Runners find unobstructed tracks along the shores of the river Rhine. Cross-country skiers can glide for miles and miles on the gentle runs in the canton of Jura. And after a short drive of less than two hours, alpine skiers and snowboarders will stand on pristine slopes in the Swiss Alps.

Where the borders of Switzerland, Germany and France meet, and an enticing diversity of activities awaits

A wine tasting in Alsace, a gourmet feast in Southern Baden-Württemberg or a cozy picnic on a mountain range in the Jura? In the Basel region there’s hardly a wish that cannot come true in an hour’s drive. And there’s always something new to discover! Ever wanted to jump in a cool river after a hot summer’s day? That’s when the shoreline of the river Rhine turns into a veritable Mediterranean Riviera – in the heart of the city of Basel.

Variety and diversity within short distances, a first-rate public transportation infrastructure like no other, and safety and political stability routinely place Switzerland in the top ranks of the leading quality of living surveys. All of this can easily be found in the Basel region, enriched with a unique mix of arts and culture, lifestyle and an international flair. Not surprisingly, Basel is considered one of Switzerland’s hippest and trendiest places among young Swiss.

Our services
Gabriela Güntherodt

Your contact person

Gabriela Güntherodt

Head of International Markets & Business Affairs, Member of the Management Board

Contact us

Invest in Basel Region

Is your company in expansion mode? Are you looking into establishing a presence in Europe and Switzerland to break into new markets? Then the Basel region is your location of choice. Within close proximity you’ll find everything you need for long-term and sustainable succeed.

A number of multinationals, first and foremost in life sciences, guarantee for a truly international business environment. The Basel region sports a global-minded talent pool, and a highly skilled workforce across the entire value chain and across functions. Located in the center of Europe and directly neighboring France and Germany, the Basel region offers an outstanding business framework while enjoying Switzerland’s world-renowned quality of life.

Would you like to find out how your company can benefit from establishing a presence in our business location? We’ll gladly show you how. Our specialists advise companies like yours during every stage of their expansion projects, comprehensively and expertly:

Evaluation

Taxes? Job market? Competitors? Permits? Industry environment? We compile all the relevant information and data about the Basel region and Switzerland for you, customized to your individual project requirements.

Site selection

Any open questions? We facilitate contacts to the right experts to answer your questions. We’ll connect you to our government authorities, industry and legal experts, and provide professional support during your real estate search.

Site visit

Would you like to get to know the Basel region first-hand? We’ll diligently plan your site visit and put together a customized itinerary, with maximum efficiency and fully matched to your requirements.

Business development

Do you want to accelerate your business growth? We support you in establishing relations to local partners and organizations - accelerating your access to the Basel region’s highly diverse business and innovation ecosystem.                                        

Our services are free of charge to companies that are evaluating the Basel region as a potential business location, and hence will contribute to our dynamic business environment. Being innovative with an open mind for new ideas has a long tradition in the Basel region. We are looking forward to hearing about your business idea and helping you to become successful right from the start.

Gabriela Güntherodt

Your contact person

Gabriela Güntherodt

Head of International Markets & Business Affairs, Member of the Management Board

Contact us
Frank Kumli

Your contact person

Frank Kumli

Head of Innovation & Entrepreneurship, Member of the Management Board


Tel. +41 61 295 50 19

frank.notexisting@nodomain.comkumli@baselarea.notexisting@nodomain.comswiss

Connecting Innovators

Connecting Innovators brings together ideas, companies and entrepreneurs. This happens both informally at the specialist events organized by BaselArea.swiss and also formally through the individual support provided by BaselArea.swiss for projects with the procurement of experts, cooperation partners and funding. And here the experts from BaselArea.swiss have a broad network of more than 8000 innovators they can fall back on.

In terms of subject areas, the focus of Connecting Innovators is on three core fields: „Therapeutic Innovation and BaseLaunch“, „Healthcare Innovation - DayOne“ and „Industial Transformation“. Each of these technology fields is managed by a specialist. In close collaboration with industry, the Technology Field Manager defines the programme of events, acts as contact partner for projects and cultivates partnerships with relevant research groups and other institutions in the Basel region.

Connecting Innovators thus offers the ideal entry point for gaining a foothold in the Basel region and profiting from its diverse innovation ecosystem. Entrepreneurs, innovators and experts get together for regular exchanges of ideas and know-how at more than 80 meetings each year – in a variety of formats:

  • Events: focus on knowledge transfer, offering companies and especially also start-ups the opportunity to present themselves and their projects and promoting regular exchanges of experience and knowledge across companies and disciplines among innovators in the Basel region.
  • Workshops: address a topic in depth by facilitating dialogue within a body of experts that extends across companies and disciplines – with the aim of exploring the spectrum of applications for new technologies and initiating concrete projects and cooperative ventures.
  • Technology & Innovation Circles: are seen as initiatives that run for several years in order to develop an innovation topic further within a community that extends across companies and disciplines and to exploit new market potential.

BaselArea.swiss also offers specific events and services to companies in the founding phase under Supporting Entrepreneurs.

Frank Kumli

Your contact person

Frank Kumli

Head of Innovation & Entrepreneurship, Member of the Management Board


Tel. +41 61 295 50 19

frank.notexisting@nodomain.comkumli@baselarea.notexisting@nodomain.comswiss
Sébastien Meunier

Your contact person

Sébastien Meunier

Director Industrial Transformation and Entrepreneurship

Contact us

Supporting Entrepreneurs

Looking to start a company? That’s great, because our region lives from entrepreneurship. As promoter of innovation and inward investment for the Basel region, BaselArea.swiss provides support especially for entrepreneurs focused on technology and innovation.

At the heart of the service we can offer is our programme of seminars and workshops:

  • Founder Course: The centrepiece of the supporting services on offer is our programme of seminars and workshops: our basic package - the founders’ course - is aimed at all interested parties planning to start a company. You can find an overview of the next courses here: Overview courses

The further range of support on offer is aimed exclusively at start-ups and entrepreneurs with concrete projects from the innovation and technology sector:

  • Seminars & Workshops for Entrepreneurs: These allow a more in-depth examination of various business issues, such as the business plan, funding, product development, pricing and intellectual property, as well as marketing and communications. This series of events is aimed exclusively at start-ups and high-tech SMEs with concrete innovation projects.

In addition to the courses and seminars, BaselArea.swiss also offers individual consultations on concrete projects. The focus here is exclusively on companies and projects with strong growth potential from the field of innovation and technology:

  • Connect & Advisory: In an initial consultation, our expert assesses the need for support and sets up contacts with specialists, research institutions or potential cooperation partners.
  • New Venture Assessment: In a guided process and at individually convened expert meetings, start-ups and innovative SMEs can get their business projects reviewed by established industry experts, entrepreneurs and investors. Further information

With these provide, BaselArea.swiss above all covers the early phase of founding a company. The aim is to valuable information and concrete recommendations between the initial idea and the actual start-up, right through to the first implementation plan and financing round. This not only gives entrepreneurs more security, but also enables them to speed up the implementation of their project quite considerably.

Sébastien Meunier

Your contact person

Sébastien Meunier

Director Industrial Transformation and Entrepreneurship

Contact us

BaselArea.swiss

BaselArea.swiss promotes innovation and inward investment for the cantons of Basel-Landschaft, Basel-Stadt and Jura.

BaselArea.swiss today employs around 30 people and has an annual core budget of 5 million francs, which is borne by the three cantons and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO).

The core function of BaselArea.swiss is to promote the strengths of the economic region as a center for business and to support both Swiss and foreign entrepreneurs and companies in the implementation of their innovation and business projects in the region.

At the sites Allschwil, Basel and Jura, BaselArea.swiss operates the Switzerland Innovation Park Basel Area, where offices, laboratories and common areas are offered and a favorable environment exists for bringing innovative products to market maturity.

BaselArea.swiss also runs three initiatives with funding programs: BaseLaunch for therapeutic innovation, DayOne for healthcare innovation and i4Challenge for industrial transformation.

Services
BaselArea.swiss offers its clients services in three areas:

  • Under Invest in Basel Region, clients receive decision-making aids tailored to their needs to help them establish their business activities in the region and are given expert advice throughout their establishment process.
  • Under Connecting Innovators, companies and researchers receive support in the areas of technology, R&D and innovation within the Technology Fields of Life Sciences, Medtech, ICT, Micro, Nano & Materials and also Production Technologies.
  • Under Supporting Entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs who settle in the region or start up a new company here receive general assistance with the operational implementation of their project. In addition, start-ups and expanding SMEs in the above-mentioned Technology Fields are provided with support through targeted networking with experts and investors.

Channels
To support this portfolio of services, BaselArea.swiss operates a comprehensive information platform and thus contributes to the sustainable positioning of the Basel region as a leading centre for innovation and business. Here BaselArea.swiss provides two channels in particular:

  • Innovation Reports: reports on the innovation scene in the Basel region and publishes a monthly newsletter with interviews, background reports and information on starting up a company and establishing a company in the region.
  • Innovation Events: at more than 50 events a year focusing on knowledge transfer and entrepreneurship, BaselArea.swiss provides innovators and company founders with an opportunity to network on current issues.
Sébastien Meunier

Your contact person

Sébastien Meunier

Director Industrial Transformation and Entrepreneurship


Tel. +41 61 295 50 15

sebastien.notexisting@nodomain.commeunier@baselarea.notexisting@nodomain.comswiss

Our Channels: EVENTS | REPORTS

report Life Sciences

“The first steps are slow and then suddenly things start rolling”

02.12.2019

After more than 25 years in the pharma business, Andreas Katopodis founded the biotech company Anaveon together with Professor Onur Boyman. In 2019, the startup raised 35 million CHF and will shortly complete the establishment of its new laboratory as the company progresses its products towards clinical development. With a lot of optimistic realism, Andreas takes stock.

BaselArea.swiss: Andreas, how is the startup going?

Andreas Katopodis: The labs finally look like labs, and if everything goes well, we should be conducting experiments by December.

You were director of the transplantation team at Novartis for a long time. Now you are CEO of a startup developing IL-2 complexes to treat cancer. How did that journey start?

I am a molecular biologist by training but have always been fascinated by immunology. When I started working, Cyclosporine had been in the market for some years, which enabled solid organ transplantation and significantly extended patient life expectancy. This was fantastic! At Novartis, I was responsible for identifying new targets for autoimmune diseases, while also working to achieve transplantation tolerance. Immunological tolerance makes it possible to receive and keep an organ without the need for continuous medication throughout a patient’s life. The opposite of tolerance is rejection. These types of biological pathways are relevant to rejecting a tumor. So we were thinking how we could use our expertise in transplantation tolerance to reject tumors instead. We got together with Onur Boyman from the University of Zurich whose research is focused on cytokines and their role in the regulation of immunity.

Please talk us through the science behind it.

The immune system has both effector and tolerance mechanisms. The effectors prime immunity against anything the body sees as foreign – be it viruses, bacteria or a kidney from another person. An acceptance mechanism on the other hand passivates the immune response. It is Yin and Yang: every action leads to an opposite reaction that keeps the system in balance. The research on IL-2 undertaken in Onur’s lab resulted in antibodies which could modulate effector mechanisms. We then used Novartis’ expertise to develop these antibodies into new drugs that would be amenable for cancer treatment. Unfortunately, for strategic reasons, in 2016 Novartis stopped the project.

What came after Novartis had stopped the project?

The short version: Onur and I were passionate about what we were doing and licensed it out of Novartis and the University of Zurich. We started a new company, Anaveon, and are focused on bringing the asset into clinical testing.

Anaveon is developing therapeutics based on the fusion of an antibody to IL-2. How complicated is that?

What we are doing at Anaveon is not exotic science – it's also not routine and we look to mitigate risk where we can. We know all the ingredients: IL-2, T-cells and NK cells but what we don’t know is exactly how they work in the treatment of cancer.

How hard was it to get a project out of Novartis?

It was straightforward, but it took a long time. Novartis has a clear and professional process for the licensing of later-stage assets discontinued due to strategic reasons but no such process exists for early stage assets and I think that’s why it took us a little longer.

Were you directly involved in negotiating the licensing deal with Novartis?

No. To make the process fair for everybody, Onur worked with the Novartis out-licensing team and I did the same with the team at the University of Zurich. In these negotiations one must have a clear focus, a lot of patience, and an attitude that only accepts success. In the end, we got the asset at terms that all parties were satisfied with.

Now, you are an entrepreneur. How conscious of a decision was that?

Life was great at Novartis because we always had project after interesting project and many resources to pursue them. But what drives most people in my business is actually seeing the result of your hypothesis translated into new treatments for patients. I worked in Transplantation Research for many years. There's nothing more incredible than seeing a person on dialysis getting a new kidney. Cancer is something that we are all too familiar with. Founding Anaveon for me was a bigger and more interesting calling. So, it was not so much entrepreneurship, but following this concept that I believe in and seeing what it does in the clinic.

How optimistic are you about the outcome?

As we all know, there is a high attrition rate in clinical development, but we have lived and breathed this science for a long time and believe in the potential of this project. The early progress went exceptionally fast and it would be an incredible waste not to test it in the clinic.

You got funding from the University of Zurich Life Sciences fund and BaseLaunch. In 2019, you successfully concluded a Series A financing round led by the British life sciences fund Syncona. The Novartis Venture Fund joined as well: You raised 35 million CHF. That is a great achievement.

I want to go back a little bit at this point… In the drug development process, there are so called compound decision points. You first need to establish that your target or the mode of action is relevant to the disease. It’s a proof of concept of your target. You must then decide, how you are going to pharmacologically interfere with that target. This second part is time and resource consuming because you are using different compounds, different antibodies, which can take years to develop and test. We were lucky that we had gotten to the compound decision point already, meaning that lead compounds were already shortlisted. We knew that one of them would work. When we founded Anaveon, we were ready to start the actual manufacturing and testing of the lead compounds.

Which factors further facilitated the funding process?

We initially received 1 million CHF from the University of Zurich Life Sciences fund, which allowed us to start the early manufacturing steps. Additionally, BaseLaunch supported us, first with a non-dilutive grant and then with a loan. Anja König, the Global Head of the Novartis Venture Fund, was pivotal in helping us attract financing. With her guidance, we didn't oversell, we didn’t knock on too many doors, and we were lucky to get term sheets within less than 6 months. I think it was a combination of being very realistic and showing a balanced view to the investors. The bottom line is: Can you show that you have a good concept? Do you believe in the concept? Can you make other people believe in that concept and in you and your team?

You work together with professional VC funds. What is your experience so far?

I personally prefer professional investors. They are able to judge the validity of your project and to challenge and guide you. They are often more expensive than private angel investors, but I believe that is the price you pay for experienced, professional help. My advice to startups is to try and engage early on with professional investors. Of course, they are more demanding. Usually they are like us scientists in the sense that they want their imagination to be caught about something exciting. The best ones want to get in and help build the company, and I think that's what Anaveon has got right now.

Often, startups struggle with defining the valuation, especially at such an early stage.

We also struggled with that issue. It is difficult to gauge what a good price is. I don't think building a successful company is about getting the highest valuation. Instead, you want to find the best partners. Some of these funds are very big, so a lot depends on the actual people that are involved. During the due diligence process, there is a lot of time to get to know all the people involved. In our case, we went ahead with the investors we felt most comfortable with. I try to do that in general in my life as well. That is how I put our team together.

How far will you get with 35 million CHF?

We will get a first answer in the clinic. With 35 million CHF we can do phase I studies, but we will need to raise additional funds as we progress though the clinic. At some point we might consider identifying one or more partners who will be able to push us through combination therapy studies and that decision will be something that we will work on as a team and with our investors. We have the vision of increasing our footprint into other areas of cytokines.

How is the competition?

The competition in the next generation IL-2 field is ahead of us. Yet, we are convinced that we have a best-in-class therapy. Physicians, patients and payors will use the drug that provides the best chance for survival or, potentially a cure, instead of going for the second best. Oncology is a big field and there's room for another player using the same mode of action as long as they can differentiate their drug. We are lucky because we have investors who will be able to help us move along fast. And it is like with most other things in life: The first steps are slow and then suddenly things start rolling.

What was the biggest challenge so far?

One challenge I had was finding labs and getting them organized. It’s the bricks and mortar of the biotechnology business. The major challenge was to put together an organization. Basel is excellent in terms of talent pool with pharma experience. Of course, it is different from US biotech hubs where you bump into another opportunity just as you step out the door of the last one. People here are less mobile. Meanwhile, more people are willing to take the gamble. The beauty about a small startup is that you can capture both the hearts and the minds of people, whereas in pharma they get people's minds but not so much their hearts. In our business with a small company, teams are very lean. Everybody is extremely important and critical. They also appreciate other advantages like making fast decisions.

What was crucial for you in forming your team?

Technical excellence is crucial, but not sufficient. The team members have to take the risk willingly, not just because they don't have anything else to do. I was looking for people that have a vision. We had openings advertised in various channels, but as it turns out we never hired any person through advertisements. Until now our hires have come to us via word of mouth.

You seem to enjoy every minute of this. Anything that scares you?

The scariest part so far was to conclude the series A. Now the scariest part is to be able to go into phase 1. Sometimes it feels like cruising on an avenue with many lanes and all of a sudden it becomes a very tight area and you need to squeeze by. An example would be finding the right formulation for our compound. There will be more of these bottlenecks in the future. I've seen it before: you make the best plans and suddenly all depends on an unexpected factor.

report Precision Medicine

Data Driven Healthcare – and Europe?

12.12.2019

event Life Sciences

Anaveon: Re-focusing IL-2 to fuel anti-cancer immunity

Date: 12.12.2019

Place: Markthalle Basel, Steinentorberg 20, 4051 Basel

report BaselArea.swiss

Switzerland Innovation Park Basel Area opens site in Jura

22.10.2019

Switzerland Innovation Park Basel Area has opened its third location. The park is now represented in Jura alongside its locations in the Cantons of Basel-Landschaft and Basel-Stadt. This represents something of a milestone for the operators BaselArea.swiss.

Switzerland Innovation Park Basel Area is now represented in all three supporting cantons of the operators BaselArea.swiss. Following on from locations in Basel and Allschwil BL, a third location was opened in Courroux. Domenico Scala, President of BaselArea.swiss, described this milestone: “We have now successfully closed the circle”.

The new location will focus on the field of medical technology, health technology, digital health and industrial transformation. A usable area of 1,200 square meters will be available for these pursuits. SMEs and start-ups will be able to use the office space to further develop their visions and secure success. In addition, BaselArea.swiss is offering relevant support programs to this end in the form of DayOne and i4Challenge. The first companies are already moving in to the Switzerland Innovation Park Basel Area, for example the software development company NextDay.Vision, which is based in Jura. In November, the start-up Ersys, which is active in the field of system ergonomics, will follow NextDay.Vision’s suit. The Research and Development Center for Micro and Nanotechnology CSEM will be offering consultancy from November onwards at the new location. At the same time, a total of 1.6 million Swiss francs is being invested in the expansion of the two floors of the building, which will be of benefit to the Jura economy.

The Canton of Jura has also been supporting the creation of this new location right from the very beginning of the projects. Jacques Gerber, President of the Jura Cantonal Government and Minister of Economic Affairs and Healthcare, has indicated that the Jura economy can flourish on the back of the Switzerland Innovation Park Basel Area by tapping into the innovation ecosystem. Moreover, Claude-Henri Schaller, Head of the Cantonal Office for Economics and Labor, commented: “We have poured all our energy into offering the best-possible framework conditions for the Jura economy. I think that we have managed to meet these requirements”.

report Life Sciences

Roche diabetes app replaces blood glucose meter

10.12.2019

event Entrepreneurship

Seminar: Vorbereitung zur Firmengründung

Date: 14.01.2020

Place: Switzerland Innovation Park Basel Area, Gewerbestrasse 24, 4123 Allschwil, Raum Vision

report BaselArea.swiss

GRID boosts innovative power of Basel region

26.09.2019

Work on the construction of the GRID complex for innovation and commerce has begun on the BaseLink site in Allschwil BL. By mid-2022, the Switzerland Innovation Park Basel Area will be operating from the new site as its anchor tenant.

With the GRID (Grand Réseau d’Innovation et de Développement) and the neighboring newbuild of the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, the ecosystem of the Basel region will be further expanded in the fields of life sciences, biotech, public health and medtech, it was reported in a press release from the Switzerland Innovation Park Basel Area, its operator BaselArea.swiss and Senn Resources AG. The latter has been tasked with constructing the GRID building designed by Basel architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron.

In this building, the GRID Campus of Collaboration, space will be created on five floors and an area of around 50,000m2for “offices and laboratories for teaching, research, development and production of innovative products for the future”. To this end, 150 million Swiss francs is being invested. By mid-2020, the Switzerland Innovation Park Basel Area will have given up its existing location in Allschwil and leased 6,000m2 at the GRID complex. Tenants are expected to have been found for the remaining space as well by this point. The goal is for the GRID to offer workplaces for 2,220 people.

The GRID will further enrich the area around the Bachgraben, which is already home to companies such as Actelion and Idorsia as well as institutions in the fields of life sciences, biotech, public health and medtech. A new building for the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute will also be constructed in this area. The GRID will contribute to “the Basel region further gaining significance as a first-class ecosystem for innovation”.

Allschwil is the largest of the three planned sites making up the Switzerland Innovation Park Basel Area, with the second in Basel and plans to create a third in Delémont. The Switzerland Innovation Park Basel Area is one of five locations in the network of Switzerland Innovation Park. It is backed by the two Basel cantons, Jura, the Handelskammer beider Basel and the University of Basel. 

report Life Sciences

Pharmaceutical location Basel contributes to prosperity

09.12.2019

event Entrepreneurship

Seminar: How to start a company in Switzerland?

Date: 12.02.2020

Place: Hochschule für Wirtschaft FHNW, Peter Merian-Strasse 86, 4052 Basel, Room 4.15

report BaselArea.swiss

“The Switzerland Innovation Park Basel Area and the Jura are a match made in heaven”

26.09.2019

The Switzerland Innovation Park Basel Area will be opening its Jura site on 25 October. Claude-Henri Schaller, Director of the Office for the Economy and Labour and Vice President of Switzerland Innovation Park Basel Area AG, is convinced that the Innovation Park can make a major contribution to the diversification of industry in the Jura and will create stronger ties between industry and research.

BaselArea.swiss: Is it fair to say that the Jura is a watchmaking canton?

Claude-Henri Schaller: I would go as far as to say that there is no such thing as a Swiss watch that isn’t at least partly made in the Jura. The watchmaking industry was the first sector to become established in the Jura – and it still defines the canton today. Currently, around 44 percent of jobs in the Jura are in the secondary sector, more than in any other canton. The international groups Swatch, Richemont, LVMH and Festina all have production sites in the Jura canton. Rolex also works with a lot of local suppliers. But our businesses are also applying their watchmaking expertise to other fields. The medtech sector is growing in importance here.

Is its strong focus on the precision engineering industry a strength or a weakness for the Jura canton?

The canton’s heavy reliance on the industry has pros and cons. On the one hand, export problems have a direct and marked effect on us. On the other hand, when the economy is booming we quickly feel the effects. The economic cycles in the Jura are shorter than in other regions. The unemployment rate can rapidly go up, but can quickly fall again. And we put our extensive expertise in precision engineering to good use in the medtech, mechanical engineering and aviation technology sectors. But our aim is to encourage further diversification in the businesses here.

Why is diversification so crucial to the Jura?

If the watchmaking industry is going through a bad patch, businesses need to have other options for growth and winning new markets. Diversification also creates other societal and economic opportunities: we are currently investing heavily in advanced skills training – we have one of the highest graduate qualification rates in the country. But this investment is not currently paying the dividends we would have liked. By fostering innovation in the Jura canton we are creating opportunities in the fields in which we excel. That enables our businesses to grow – and has positive repercussions for society as a whole. We want to ensure that our highly qualified workforce stays in the Jura or comes back to us.

So there’s room for improvement. Where does the canton intend to start?

In an SME, the boss does more or less everything themselves – carrying out research, generating sales, searching out innovation and new markets. Currently, companies are doing their research and development in house, usually behind closed doors. They are very secretive about it. Although we have the Haute Ecole Arc Neuchatel Berne Jura, we don’t have a research centre specifically for industry. That means that at the moment we’re not getting involved in research early enough or closely enough. But innovation is not about universities or businesses working alone any more. To come up with innovative solutions, industry and academia must work together more closely. The Jura site of the Switzerland Innovation Park Basel Area is an important building block in this.

In what way?

The political authorities in the Jura canton are pursuing three goals. We want to encourage innovation, support the diversification of industry and foster collaboration between research centres and businesses. With the Switzerland Innovation Park Basel Area now in the Jura, we have the opportunity to improve the research infrastructure and create closer ties between business, research, science and technology universities and the canton.

What role will the Innovation Park in the Jura play?

The Switzerland Innovation Park Basel Area has sites in Basel, Allschwil and now in Courroux in the Jura canton. The site here has the potential to become an enabler, promoting and organising links and projects at supracantonal level. A Jura-based company is now perfectly able to start up a project with Basel University Hospital on the Allschwill site, while a Basel-Stadt project can also make use of the resources in the Jura. With its specialisation, the Jura is a valuable addition to the expertise available in the Basel region. That’s also promising when it comes to developing new products.

How will you convince businesses to collaborate more and to use the Innovation Park in the Jura?

To reach as many SMEs as possible, we are working closely with the Chamber of Commerce, and together with BaselArea.swiss we have formed an advisory board. It’s up to representatives from industry and research to engage with the process of mutual exchange. Of course, we also need to keep businesses informed, working hard to explain the options open to them. The Switzerland Innovation Park Basel Area is of course all well and good as a political initiative, but the proof of the pudding lies in tangible projects and results. That’s why our job now is to identify, organise and see through suitable projects.

What sort of projects does the Jura site of the Switzerland Innovation Park Basel Area have in mind?

The innovation park concept is eminently suited to the Jura and our economy. Our businesses are keen to discuss concrete projects, and by working with research institutes they can get them up and running. On the Jura site of the Switzerland Innovation Park Basel Area, we are initially concentrating on the healthcare sector. We’re looking at how to improve the organisation of the healthcare sector in the surrounding regions. This may entail innovative processes or new solutions. One project is tackling the shortage of doctors. We are working with nursing staff to come up with innovative solutions for how nurses can take on a wider remit. I am convinced that the healthcare industry has enormous potential for the future. Other projects under the Industry 4.0 banner are set to follow.

What makes you think the Jura site of the Switzerland Innovation Park Basel Area will be a success?

There’s been an awful lot of interest in creating an Innovation Park in the Jura, much of which has come from businesses. Our first tenant, the IT security firm NextDay.Vision, signed up even before we were open. And we have all the skills required to run an innovation park. In addition, BaselArea.swiss is firmly established in the canton. A network is already in place. I am confident that with the Switzerland Innovation Park Basel Area we can get something good going here. What’s more, the Innovation Park’s remit is not just to help Jura-based businesses work together – we are open to the entire Basel region. I am very optimistic. The Jura already has a far-reaching reputation for its industrial know-how, and that’s something the Innovation Park can build on.

Interview: Annett Altvater

report Life Sciences

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06.12.2019

report Medtech

Artidis raises close to CHF 9 million in seed funding

06.12.2019

report Life Sciences

"We make no compromises in creating the highest potential company"

26.08.2019

Versant Ventures has a strong history in building successful companies such as Therachon, Black Diamond or CRISPR  Therapeutics. We talked to Alex Mayweg, partner at Versant Ventures in Basel, about the beauty of Versant Ventures discovery engine Ridgeline Therapeutics, translating science into successful drug development programs and the future of drug discovery.

Alex, what does Versant Ventures do?

Alex Mayweg: Versant Ventures is a leading global venture fund focused on biotech that is excelling in early biotech investment and company creation. We have just celebrated 20 years in the business. Our strategy is to source the most innovative opportunities globally that could revolutionize the healthcare industry. We have three ways to build companies: One way is to invest in existing companies, together with others. However, in 50 percent of the opportunities, we create and initially finance the company all by ourselves. On top of that, we also operate discovery engines, such as Ridgeline Therapeutics – where we incubate the science, elaborate, and address the risks to then translate it into drug discovery programs and companies. To that end, we have assembled some of the best drug discovery professionals in the industry who help build the companies and science and may also end up moving into the newly created companies as they grow.

Versant Ventures has its headquarters in San Francisco and runs offices in the USA, Canada – and in Basel. Why the Basel area?

Versant has a strong track record in Europe. We have funded a number of successful companies here, like CRISPR Therapeutics or Therachon that was recently acquired by Pfizer. Thanks to our long established Basel office and our discovery engine that we launched three years ago, we can now harness the tremendous drug discovery expertise that exists in the region directly. Thousands of drug discovery professionals live here. This is unlike any other area in Europe and I think that makes the region very competitive globally. We have already committed up to 100 million dollars to the Basel area companies that we created through our discovery engine Ridgeline. We are very dedicated to the region, yet some companies may also have to grow up in the US. Many of our companies have dual footprints.

How does Ridgeline work?

The discovery engine is a team of excellent people who are creating companies that use Ridgeline as a resource and for support to be built. It’s a beautiful model. We create big vision companies that eventually become independent that initially have the support of people that know what they are doing to create a strong data set and come up with the right strategy. In this model we can attract talent that is hard for small startups to attract at an early stage. We have a great mix of biologists, cell biologists, cancer biologists, immunologists and chemists with both deep and broad experience in their fields.

What realm do you cover with your discovery engine?

We are agnostic when it comes to modalities. We have companies focused on small molecules and on proteins. Antibodies are incredibly powerful modalities, but we haven’t found the opportunity that has exited us so far. We are also seeing opportunities in cell therapy and other modalities emerging in this region. It would be very interesting for Switzerland to put a footprint down in this area as I see increasing activity and excellent science here.

Where do you find the science that excites you – or does the science find you?

It’s a mix of both. We identify themes that we feel are going to be important and we actively look for the academics with programs in those themes. We have to play to the future and look for the top quality academics in these areas. Very often, we find them in Europe and in Switzerland not too far from our front door.

Academics are often attached to their science. Versant is known to bring its own people into company creation. How do you handle that potential area of conflict?

It always amazes me where people can develop to, what they can learn and how they stretch in their careers. We want to be incredibly supportive of that. Yet, drug discovery is hard and you do need experience and a few scars from failed programs to be effective. If you don’t use your experience and don’t set up the right strategy you might apply the technology on the wrong thing. The combination of engaged academic founders, entrepreneurs with teams of smart and experienced drug discovery professionals and leadership has been very successful. That of course also means that Versant takes on an important role in company creation.
We make no compromises in creating the highest potential company in a given space. We are thinking big and I think it’s that appreciation of what it takes to build such a company. With over 150 companies in Versant’s experience, the firm can draw on a lot of knowledge on how to do this.

You were working in drug discovery at Roche before joining Versant Ventures. What is different in discovering drugs for a venture fund?

Roche is a terrific place for drug discovery – in fact I learnt most things about drug discovery there. Venture-backed biotech is a very different experience. We see hundreds of innovative technologies a year, and the opportunity to select the most compelling discoveries and build them into drug discovery companies is incredibly exciting. We invest into the latest innovation and technology with small but focused teams at an early stage. The capital availability nowadays is incredible, and you can now launch and operate full-fledged drug discovery programs outside of big pharma with experienced teams and through contract research organizations which was impossible in this way ten years ago.

How much capital does Versant invest before you do a big external round?

We reserve tens of millions for our companies, always depending on the company, on how we put that capital to work and how we allocate it. If the company or technology has capital demands that we alone cannot deliver we might bring in other investors already earlier. I would say that we are able to seed companies with significantly more capital than is the norm in this region.

Your fund sizes seem to become bigger and bigger. Why is that?

Deep pockets are needed to create leading companies, and when the technology is so broad that there are multiple applications, you don’t want to drip-feed these opportunities. It is hard and expensive to do drug discovery. We see companies who are convinced that they can get a molecule in the clinic with three million in seed capital. We know they will need much more than that. At the same time, we do not raise mega funds and the VC-backed biotech model does bring efficiencies of how we use capital to create value.

What is your first take once you decide to invest?

We de-risk the company and explore strategies, meaning among others that the science needs to be reproducible in an additional set of hands. We are involved at an early stage, which allows us to judge the scientific risk really well. Having a close proximity has the advantage of understanding and of becoming a big proponent of the science. Scientists have a tendency to fall in love with their science but if Versant is convinced and validates the science too, that is a tremendous advantage in raising additional capital and bringing in next-round investors.

Is failure an option?

Attrition is almost defining the pharma industry. In big pharma you start with 50 programs, they go down to 30, then to 10 in the clinic. You always weed out programs. Interestingly, attrition of companies in our portfolio is quite low. However, science is science, and programs don’t always work. We always plan drug discovery from A to B as a straight line and yet whenever you travel it’s a winding path. What you initially set out to do you may not end up doing. Yet, the venture model always tries to maximize, preserve and leverage the value built. It rarely happens that you let things sit and decay.

What do you expect from the future of biotech?

Look at the history of drug discovery innovation that came out of the chemical industry in the Basel area. There are innovation curves that extend over decades. Past innovation cycles have extended human life and cancer survival, have lowered heart disease death rates and completely plummeted infectious disease rates. We live in an incredible time in biotech. Years ago, it was small molecules and then antibodies emerged. Now we have the full breadth of modalities including small molecules, biologics, cell therapy, gene editing, gene therapy and others, unlocking an enormous amount of innovation potential. Besides choosing the best opportunities in existing innovation curves, we also aim to invent new curves. As one of my partners at Versant recently said: The coolest technology is one that hasn’t even been invented yet, but we can promise one thing: When it gets invented we are going to source it and build an amazing company around it.

If you want to learn more on how Versant Ventures operates and its discovery engine Ridgeline Therapeutics, join us in Basel for Alex’s presentation on 18 September: Investor Spotlight: Ridgeline Therapeutics – A Versant Ventures Discovery Engine

report Life Sciences

Swiss TPH steps up fight against parasitic worm infections

29.11.2019

report Invest in Basel region

Basel areas hold promise for investors

28.11.2019

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