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 600 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 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 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 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 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 600 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 27’000 employees in the life sciences sector, the Basel region boasts a production of goods and services worth USD 301 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 13 billion p.a. At the same time, Basel’s annually received USD 9 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 7 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.

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Gabriela Güntherodt

Your contact person

Gabriela Güntherodt

Member of the Management Board, Head of International Markets & Promotion

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

Member of the Management Board, Head of International Markets & Promotion

Contact us

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 five core fields: Life Sciences, Medtech, Information and Communications Technology, Production Technologies and Micro, Nano & Materials. 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.

Sebastien Meunier

Your contact person

Sebastien Meunier

Member of the Management Board, Head of Innovation & Entrepreneurship


Tel. +41 61 295 50 15

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

Your contact person

Sebastien Meunier

Member of the Management Board, Head of Innovation & 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.

Sebastien Meunier

Your contact person

Sebastien Meunier

Member of the Management Board, Head of Innovation & Entrepreneurship

Contact us
Gabriel Schweizer

Your contact person

Gabriel Schweizer

Senior Project Manager Asia


Tel. +41 61 295 50 13

gabriel.notexisting@nodomain.comschweizer@baselarea.notexisting@nodomain.comswiss

Accessing China

The importance of China as a place for doing business has increased enormously in the past few years – not only as an offshore destination for low-cost production of consumer goods, but also - and increasingly - as a major sales market. The expansion of business into China offers great growth potential especially for small to medium-sized enterprises in the high-tech sector. However, it is not easy to gain a foothold in this complex business area.

BaselArea.swiss therefore offers comprehensive support from a single source to companies in the Basel region (cantons Basel-Stadt, Basel-Land and Jura) – from the initial market evaluation through company trips to concrete procurement of business partners. Besides the necessary expertise, our advisors have excellent local contacts, which have been established over many years of exchanges both on the political and on the business level. BaselArea.swiss also cultivates a large network of companies and experts with experience of China who keep abreast of all the latest developments.

Companies can benefit specifically from the following services:

  • Connect & Advisory: provision of basic knowledge for building business operations in China and individual, case-by-case consulting by experts from Switzerland Global Enterprise.
  • Company and delegation trips: besides the official programme, contacts with potential business partners can also be initiated on an individual basis.
  • Events: deepening exchanges between China and the Basel region with the aim of developing new, shared business potential.

Life sciences companies also benefit from partnerships with the Zhangjiang High-Tech Park and the new Fenglin Life Sciences Park in Shanghai and thus have access to the leading life sciences hub in China. The longstanding team of local partners provides support in both building a business in Shanghai (product registration, funding, marketing and so on) and in establishing contacts with potential business partners and clients.

Gabriel Schweizer

Your contact person

Gabriel Schweizer

Senior Project Manager Asia


Tel. +41 61 295 50 13

gabriel.notexisting@nodomain.comschweizer@baselarea.notexisting@nodomain.comswiss

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report Precision Medicine

“Precision medicine is the best opportunity to reconfigure healthcare”

04.12.2017

After 20 years with the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, Bernard Munos set out to better understand pharmaceutical innovation – specifically what makes it possible and how to get more of it. Munos is now a Senior Fellow at Faster Cures, a Center of the Milken Institute, and the founder of the consultancy InnoThink, which advises biomedical research organizations on how to become better innovators. He also contributes to Forbes magazine, an American business publication. Munos travelled to Basel in October, on behalf of HKBB and DayOne to participate in the “Powertalk”.

Mr. Munos, precision medicine has been around for a couple of years. These days everybody seems to talk about it. Why is that?

Bernard Munos: The healthcare system is increasingly torn apart by powerful forces. On one hand, science is delivering amazing things such as protein therapeutics (peptides, monoclonal antibodies); cellular therapies (CAR-T); gene editing (CRISPR); and a growing array of technologies based on a molecular understanding of diseases. The only problem is that this is very expensive. In addition, the population is aging, and older people tend to get diseases that are costlier to treat. The result is nearly infinite demand for costly care, which is clashing with the limited resources available to fund it. But, as it turns out, precision medicine is the most promising opportunity to change the economics of pharmaceutical R&D, reconfigure healthcare, and deliver affordable care to all.

In other words: the current system is not built to distribute the benefits of the new technologies?

For decades, R&D was much simpler: We took a disease that we typically did not fully understand, threw a bunch of compounds at it and saw if something would work. If it did, you had a drug. This was crude, but not a bad strategy since it gave us drugs long before we understood the diseases they treated. Sometimes, however, it does not work. For example, we have thrown over 350 compounds at Alzheimer’s, but none has worked, and we still do not know what causes the disease. There’s got to be a better way, and that is precision medicine.

What will change with precision medicine?

Once we understand how diseases work, our capabilities are so powerful that we can often design a disease modifying molecule literally within months. Precision medicine, along with the technologies that enable it, will give us the insights we need to develop those drugs. But it translates into a smarter – and ultimately cheaper –  way to do science and develop drugs –which is why it will prevail.

What do we need to establish to get precision medicine taking up more speed?

According to the Food and Drug Administration, the number one impediment to innovation is the lack of natural histories for most diseases. This means that we do not have baseline data that describes the course of the disease, and therefore we cannot measure the improvement that a therapy would bring. It really limits our ability to innovate. Many diseases progress quietly for many years before they are diagnosed. Take Alzheimer’s or pancreatic cancer: by the time they show symptoms, it is too late for an intervention. Precision medicine will change that by collecting data while the diseases progress but the patients are asymptomatic. This will advance disease discovery and give us the knowledge we need to develop better therapies. Much of this will be enabled by new and inexpensive data-capture technologies such as biosensors, apps and other plug-in devices that are advancing very rapidly.

But first of all this means new investments – who is going to pay for all this?

At the moment, public companies spend US$110 billion per year on clinical research, much of which goes to collect data. This is an enormous amount of money, and companies gather indeed vast quantities of data, but they are limited in scope and often of mediocre quality. In 2014, the company Medidata Solutions ran an experiment to test the capabilities of biosensors. They assembled a couple hundred patients and equipped them with a few low-cost biosensors such as activity trackers and heart monitors. Over a couple of months, they collected up to 18 million data points per patient and per day. That data was later reviewed by regulators and declared to be “FDA-compliant”. One key point, however, is that its collection cost was trivial. Other evidence suggests that, by redesigning trials to leverage digital technologies, we can cut down the cost of data collection by as much as 80 percent. This is big enough to change the economics of clinical research, but it does more. It also enables better research. Today, drug trials focus on homogenous patient populations, because one needs to minimize the sources of variance. But the result is trials that do not represent very well the populations that we want to treat. Biosensors, on the other hand, can collect lots of data on larger populations, and statistical significance is usually not an issue. It is also high-frequency longitudinal data which gives us a much better picture of what happens to patients.

How will this change medicine?

Today, when someone comes down with Alzheimer’s, we don’t know when it started, or why, and therefore have no way to intervene on the course of the disease before it is too late. If we had data on pre-symptomatic patients, scientists could look back and pinpoint when the disease might have started and how it progressed. With such information, we could design better drugs and intervene earlier when the prognosis is better and treatment costs cheaper. It could potentially move medicine from treatment to prevention, but implementing it won’t be easy. Our whole healthcare system is designed to treat not prevent. Changing it will require a lot of retraining, but it’s the way to go.

Crucial will be the question who owns the data and who will have access to the data?

A key requirement of precision medicine is that data needs to be connected. It will be scattered over hundreds of databases, but they need to be interfaced so that they can easily be searched. Some of the data will be public, but much of them will be collected and controlled by the patients themselves. A majority of patients has signaled a willingness to share their data for legitimate research purposes, but whoever controls data will also control innovation. Patients hold values that are dear to them – such as transparency, openness, and affordability – and they will likely expect the recipients of their data to comply with these values. This will be a big change for the culture of R&D and will have significant consequences for the design of clinical research.

This will change the Value Chain – who will win, who will loose?

Precision medicine will bring some desirable changes: Historically pharmaceutical companies have generated their own data and competed on the basis on such proprietary data. Increasingly, however, data will become a commodity. For instance, the data from the “All-of-Us” million patient cohort that the U.S. National Institutes of Health is assembling will be in public access. There are numerous other large patient cohorts around the world that are being created and whose data will also be public. This will change the basis of competition. Scientists will increasingly work from shared, public data, and their performance will depend upon their ability to extract superior knowledge from the same data used by their peers

What does this mean for the Basel Life Science Cluster?

Big corporations struggle to generate enough internal innovation. The bigger they get, the greater the bureaucracy and the more regimented they become. This creates a climate that is less hospitable to innovation precisely at a time when large companies need more of it. To sustain revenue, they must access a source of external innovation that can supplement their own.  Relying on licensing, mergers or acquisitions does not work well, as companies seldom find what they want to buy at a price they are willing to pay. Innovation hubs such as BaselLaunch or DayOne are a better solution. They allow the local community to create shared infrastructure – such as incubators and support services – that can become a global magnet for entrepreneurs. They also give the local large companies an opportunity to mentor the startups and offer scientific support. For them, it is a way to seed the local ecosystem with innovation that they can harvest later on.  Basel is especially suited for this because innovation tends to blossom where cultures overlap. This has been a factor in the city’s past success, and it is an asset that can be leveraged again.

Do we have enough data scientists?

You certainly have them in Switzerland. Data sciences have long been a strength of Swiss education. It goes hand-in-hand with engineering, physics and other sciences in which Switzerland excels. It is also an important advantage since there is an acute shortage of data scientists around the world. Processing the big data flows discussed earlier requires much larger numbers of data scientists that we are currently training. In America, this has been identified as a critical workforce issue. Switzerland is in a stronger position.

Would an open data platform work like a catalyst?

Scientists flock to data. In all scientific projects, a huge amount of resources – as much as 80% – is spent on data collection and cleanup, which are seldom the most interesting parts. If Basel can offer rich data that is already curated, scientists will be able to accomplish much more while focusing on the part of their work where they really add value. Having data in open free access will also help attract researchers from other disciplines who currently do not engage in biomedical research – such as mathematicians and artificial intelligence experts. Such cross-pollination is a powerful catalyst of innovation.

About Bernard Munos
Munos is a Senior Fellow at FasterCures, a center of the Milken Institute, and the founder of InnoThink, a consultancy for biomedical research organizations. He regularly contributes to Forbes and is a board member and independent non-executive director of innovative healthcare companies.

Interview: Thomas Brenzikofer, Annett Altvater

report Production Technologies

VR, AR, mixed – three words for reality

14.12.2017

event Invest in Basel region

The Digital Evolution In Biotech And Pharma

Date: 08.01.2018

Place: KPMG LLP, 55 Second Street, 11th Floor, Conference Center, San Francisco, CA 94105

report Innovation

“We want to improve the visibility of startups at the University of Basel”

06.11.2017

Christian Elias Schneider has been Head of Innovation at the University of Basel for eight months now. His job is to promote entrepreneurship and projects in collaboration with industry.

Mr. Schneider, you took on a newly created post at the University of Basel. The idea is to give innovation a face at the university. What specifically does that mean in terms of your work?

We picked two focal areas: first, attention should be drawn to the topic of entrepreneurship at the university. Researchers with good ideas should have incentives to monetize these ideas. And those who are already working towards this goal should receive more support. The second focal area is on collaboration with the business world. The objective here is to realize more projects together with industry partners.

How do you go about this task?

In the many conversations I’ve had with startups at the university in recent months, it has become clear that there are hardly any connections within this scene; many of the entrepreneurs have never met each other. Of course, many young entrepreneurs struggle with the same problems, so we brought them together and founded the Entrepreneurs Club to give them a platform for sharing and discussion. We want the entrepreneurs to see themselves as a team – a group that is recognized and valued by the university and by society. We can offer them access to people who would be difficult to approach individually.

What can you offer the entrepreneurs? What have they been waiting for, and what have they been lacking?

First, the startups at the university were lacking visibility. People didn’t know who they were, and they were often completely on their own. We believe our role is to offer them visibility – both within the university and externally – and help them build relationships with industry partners, the financial sector and other service providers. There are also plans to offer startups expert coaching and mentoring at an early stage.

For a few months you have been offering courses that teach University of Basel students and staff important startup skills, such as preparing business plans, handling IP rights and much more. How have these new resources been received?

Demand is huge. We have been practically overrun and overwhelmed by the success. As a result, we are considering to expand the service, with the goal of talking to students about these important issues at an early stage. The earlier that entrepreneurs deal with these issues, the fewer mistakes they will make later. For example, it’s important that we make researchers aware of IP issues very early in the game. Otherwise, they run the risk of revealing important knowledge too soon and then being unable to protect it. These courses offer help at an early stage, and this support can then be smoothly incorporated into coaching.

For the last eight months, you have been Head of Innovation at the University of Basel. What responses have you seen so far?

Everyone I’ve talked to in recent months has given very positive – in fact, enthusiastic – feedback about our innovation initiative and other resources. Clearly, it was time that the University of Basel actively tackled this issue and filled a gap.

On November 10, the University of Basel will be holding its first Innovation Day in Allschwil. What can we expect?

At the Innovation Day, we will demonstrate what is important to us: bringing people together, debating innovation, developing new ideas – and doing this in a stimulating and open atmosphere. More than 200 people have signed up, the waiting list is long and we’re happy that this new event has been so well received right from the start.

What would you like to achieve over the next two years?

Startups should feel at home at the University of Basel. The individuals should connect with each other, and an active, dynamic scene should emerge that will also interest startups in the region as a whole. In the long term, we may certainly evolve into a hub with an international appeal that will attract founders and young entrepreneurs. We want to help Basel become a preferred place for many startups to realize their visionary ideas. We will be able to do this only if we work closely with all partners: with the local universities, with institutions such as BaselArea.swiss – and, most importantly, with industry partners. In discussion with business, it is clear that the doors are open.

Interview: Matthias Geering, Head of Communications & Marketing at University of Basel

report Life Sciences

Roche Diagnostics is a top employer

11.12.2017

event Micro, Nano & Materials

Diagnostic tools: challenges and new approaches

Date: 11.01.2018

Place: Switzerland Innovation Park Basel Area AG, Gewerbestrasse 24, 2nd Floor, 4123 Allschwil

report Life Sciences

"You should always have something crazy cooking on the back burner"

03.10.2017

When Jennifer Doudna gave her keynote at Basel Life in September, the auditorium in the Congress Center was packed. Susan Gasser, Professor of Molecular Biology at the University of Basel introduced Doudna as groundbreaking and extremely innovative. The Professor of Chemistry and of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, Berkeley was on top of Gassers wish list for the Basel Life. The leading figure of what is known as the CRISPR revolution among scientists sat down with BaselArea.swiss during her stay in Basel to talk about her lab, flexible career paths and what makes a great researcher.

In your keynote you stated that you always did a lot of basic research. What changed for you and your lab after you published the CRISPR findings?

We are still doing deep dives into CRISPR technology. A lot of our work is about discovering new systems and looking at RNA targeting and integration. These things do not necessarily have to do with gene editing, but are our primal motivation. But there were quite a few changes. We started doing a lot more applied work. That led to all sorts of interesting collaborations with people that I would probably never had the chance to interact with in the past. It has been a great opportunity to expand both deeper and broader.

How do you manage to direct your students and postdocs in your growing lab?

I hire really good people that can focus on both innovative initiatives mixed with projects where a clearer outcome can be forecasted. I give them some guidance and then I cut them loose. We also build teams in the lab which works really effectively. I do not always get it right, but when I do, amazing science happens.

You live in an area where entrepreneurship seems to be some kind of lifestyle. What is your view on the environment in Europe for both doing research and creating companies compared to the benchmark California?

There are some interesting – probably cultural – differences in the way people approach science. At Berkeley, a lot of our students are planning to go into academia. And a lot of students in California not only want to go into industry, but want to start their own company or join a startup. From talking to my Swiss colleagues, it sounds like many students in Switzerland are uncomfortable with that. They want to go to a large company and get a nice salary. Nothing wrong with that. Still, I think that it is good to encourage students to take a risk and to try something that is outside of their comfort zone.

How does that work out in Berkeley?

Two of my students started companies with me directly based on their work in the lab. One company creates new technologies that will be useful therapeutically or in agriculture. In the other case, we are figuring out how to deliver gene editing to the brain. Both students became CEOs and were able to do all the steps it takes to build their company, deal with the legal stuff and funding, conceptualize the business plan and the science. They had to hire people, build a team, and make deals. I always tell those students, I could never do their job.

How do you motivate students to take that step anyway?

I think one of the reasons that we have a lot of entrepreneurship in the bay area is because Silicon Valley is around the corner. That kind of mindset permeates everything. My kid sees young entrepreneurs who are not that much older than a teenager building the next robotics and AI companies. Granted, there is lots of failure for every single success. But teenagers see a successful person and feel motivated to give it a shot.

How can a culture like that be created?

You cannot replicate Silicon Valley culture. But I think you can create a culture that values risk taking and that validates people who do things that are not traditional. If you try something and it does not work out you should not be penalized. Instead, you should be able to go back and get the job at the big corporation. If we encourage our students to see all those options from academia to corporation and startup, they realize that they do not necessarily have to commit themselves to one path for their entire career.

Were you ever tempted to switch sides?

I toyed with it. Back in 2009, I left my job at Berkeley and joined Genentech as a Vice President of basic research. I only lasted a couple of months.

Why was that?

From the outside, it seemed like an exciting way to take my research in a much more applied direction. When I was inside I realized I was not playing to my own strengths. Instead, I realized what I am good at doing and what I really like. It all boiled down to creative, untethered science. I love working with young people and I like creating an environment where they can do interesting work. Not that I could not have done that with Genentech, but it was very different. The process was super painful, but also valuable. I returned to Berkeley and decided to go with the reason why I am in academia: crazy, creative projects that might not be clinically relevant but are interesting science. That was when I decided to expand the work on CRISPR. Had I not made the foray to Genentech and then back to Berkeley, I might not have done any of the CRISPR work.

One topic you are dealing with is the unsolved patent struggle about CRISPR Cas9. Does this effect your work?

I try to look at it very pragmatically. Because ultimately I am an educator. You could say this is my own education. I have learned a huge amount about the patent and legal process, some of it unpleasant. Someday I will write a book about that.

Another jury might be more distinctive on your achievements: You are a hot candidate for the Nobel Prize. How does that make you feel?

I try not to think about it too much. Yet, I feel very humbled. It makes me take a step back and ask myself: What is the purpose of prizes like that? I think they highlight science, the advances that are made and how these might influence people’s lives positively. I did not chose this job to win prizes, but because I really love science.

Is that enthusiasm for science what makes a great researcher – or is there a magic formula?

I think it is a combination of willingness to try new things coupled with a willingness to listen to people. I have seen these extremes both in myself and in my lab. I have real maverick students with creative ideas. But they can never follow a protocol because they are sure they will do better. This often does not lead to good science. The flip is true as well: If you always just follow protocols and never take a step out of the procedures you also do not create the most interesting science. We usually set up one line of experiments that are following a path and where we will surely get some data that are of interest for us. The second project is something that is of interest to the student. This mixture often leads to the best science.Let’s face it: You do not get rich in academic science. The joy in science is the freedom of making discoveries, of finding things out. I tell students: ‘If you stay in academic science, play with that.’ You should always have something a bit crazy cooking on the back burner. That is what makes it fun.

Interview: Alethia de León and Annett Altvater, BaselArea.swiss

report BaselArea.swiss

UNESCO recognizes Basel Fasnacht as intangible heritage

07.12.2017

event Medtech

New MedTech EU MDR/ IVDR Regulations – Consequences and Solutions

Date: 30.01.2018

Place: Halle 7, Gundeldingerfeld, Dornacherstrasse 192, 4053 Basel

report Invest in Basel region

Spirochem opens new state-­of-­the-­art Services and R&D facilities in Basel

29.09.2017

Basel – The fine chemicals company SpiroChem has relocated to state-of-the-art facilities in the Rosental area of Basel, offering the company an ideal location to significantly expand its operations. SpiroChem has also strengthened its board of directors.

SpiroChem is a spin-off of the Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, where it was also located until recently. According to a statement, the company is now fully operational at its new facilities in Basel.  

“We are excited to announce our move to state-of-the-art facilities in Basel. Our new set-up is ideal for interaction and collaborations with large and small organisations, providing flexibility and speed to solve problems, allowing our clients to focus on effectively designing the drugs of tomorrow,” said CEO Thomas Fessard.

SpiroChem offers new molecules, which are used in the R&D of new medications, and it is now a world leader in this industry, developing innovative solutions for the biotech and pharmaceutical sectors.

“SpiroChem intends to become a key player in Basel’s vibrant, innovation-driven, life science scene, supporting our ambition to increase our portfolio of clients and recruit talented employees to join our growing, cutting-edge company,” said Fessard.

In anticipation of the upcoming growth path, SpiroChem has also strengthened its board of directors with the appointment of Anthony Baxter, who has extensive experience in the pharmaceutical industry.

“His industry experience and network will be invaluable as we continue to grow our portfolio of small, medium, and large pharmaceutical, agrochemical and life science clients worldwide,” added Fessard.

report Life Sciences

Genentech receives approval for brain cancer treatment

06.12.2017

event ICT

ICT-Talent Scouting Event

Date: 08.02.2018

Place: GIBM, Standort Pratteln

report BaselArea.swiss

13 startup projects qualify for the first phase of BaseLaunch

18.09.2017

The BaseLaunch Healthcare Accelerator program from BaselArea.swiss started on September 14. Over 100 applications were received from more than 30 countries, and the selection committee has selected 13 projects to go on to Phase I. Now, the project teams will work with industry experts to further develop their business case over the next three months.

More than 100 projects from over 30 countries were submitted to the BaseLaunch accelerator program from BaselArea.swiss. The submitted projects ranged from therapeutics and diagnostics to digital healthcare and medtech. Instead of 10 as originally planned, the selection committee chose 13 promising projects, which will now proceed to Phase I. "The innovation potential of the project proposals was impressive," says BaseLaunch Selection Committee Chairwoman Trudi Haemmerli, CEO of PerioC Ltd and Managing Director of TruStep Consulting GmbH. “We look forward to seeing how the chosen project teams fine-tune their business cases during Phase I.”

According to Stephan Emmerth, the BaselArea.swiss Business Development Manager for BaseLaunch, the selected projects cover a wide range of objectives: from new approaches for the treatment of diseases such as Alzheimer's or novel immunotherapies to innovative drug delivery methods and next-generation gene therapies for cancer treatment. Other projects focus on new diagnostic procedures for finding cancer biomarkers or revolutionizing the detection of neurological diseases by deploying digital measurement methods.

The development stages of the projects were just as varied. Some projects were submitted by entrepreneurs wishing to establish a company with the support of BaseLaunch. Other projects came from existing startups that had already successfully managed the initial rounds of financing and wanted to further develop the company with the help of BaseLaunch. The founders of these companies and members of project teams also had different professional career histories. Some of the applicants selected for Phase I have many years of R&D experience in the industry; others come from a university background.

"We have chosen the most promising projects. Additionally, selected projects should benefit as much as possible from BaseLaunch and its regional life sciences ecosystem," says Alethia de León, Managing Director of BaseLaunch. “We paid particular attention to a sound scientific and technical foundation, a high level of innovation and the entrepreneurial potential of the founding team.” Alethia also commented on the productive and collaborative selection process with representatives from healthcare partners that included Johnson & Johnson Innovation, Novartis Venture Fund, Pfizer and Roche. "Our discussions during the selection process were very constructive," she says.

The 13 selected startups will have three months from September 14 to develop their business ideas. They will be supported by the BaseLaunch team as well as a number of experienced entrepreneurs and consultants. In this first phase, up to CHF 10,000 will be available for each of the projects. The selection committee will then select three of the Phase I projects to progress to Phase II. This phase lasts for 12 months, with each project receiving funding of up to CHF 250,000. The selected project teams in Phase II will also have access to the BaseLaunch Lab in the Switzerland Innovation Park Basel Area, where they will be expected to achieve important research milestones and further develop their business cases.


Overview of the selected projects:

ABBA Therapeutics develops therapeutic antibodies against novel targets for cancer immunotherapy.

The β-catenin project aims to develop novel therapeutics for the treatment of colorectal, lung, liver, breast, brain and ovarian cancers by removing pathological proteins from the human body.

CellSpring analyzes human cells grown in special 3-Dimensional environments to develop new tools for diagnosing early-stage cancer.

Eyemove strives to detect early-stage neurological diseases through eye-tracking.

Polyneuron Pharmaceuticals is committed to the development of a promising new drug class to treat autoimmune disorders.

The SERI project develops new medicines to treat anxiety and stress related disorders by modulating the activity of cannabinoid molecules in the human body.

SunRegen develops novel drugs for neurodegenerative diseases.

T3 Pharma develops the next generation bacterial cancer therapy.

The mission of T-CURX is to exploit its unique ‘UltraModularCAR’ platform to provide best-in-class immunotherapy.

The mission of TEPTHERA is to offer individualized therapeutic cancer vaccines.

TheraNASH develops precision medicine for fatty liver disease (NASH) - a rising cause of liver cancer world-wide.

VERSAMEB is a regenerative medicine research and development company.

One biotech in stealth mode is developing novel Immuno-Oncology drugs.

report Precision Medicine

The revolution comes from outside

05.12.2017

report Supporting Entrepreneurs

Yannick Guerdat : une success story made in Jura

05.12.2017

report Precision Medicine

"In Switzerland, we often sell promising technologies too early"

05.09.2017

Ulf Claesson is a "serial entrepreneur". During the past 25 years, he has set up companies that have gone on to become firmly established in the market. In 2012, he joined Clinerion as CEO and shareholder. Since then, the company has positioned itself in the medical data field and recently entered into a partnership with British company Cisiv. Clinerion's software helps recruit patients for clinical trials run by major pharmaceutical companies – in real time. But the competition never sleeps. A growing number of competitors is now appearing, especially in the USA where there is no shortage of risk capital. In this interview for the Innovation Report, Claesson explains how the Basel-based healthtech company plans to maintain its leadership position.

Interview: Thomas Brenzikofer

Mr Claesson, what was behind your decision to get on board with Clinerion?

Ulf Claesson: Clinerion was originally an IT platform with a complicated name. Its founders hit upon the idea of building a large data hub for the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries. That was quite an ambitious idea. I reckon that the WHO or the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation could possibly manage it. But a small company in Basel? As an IT person, I quickly saw how good the core technology was.  What wasn't clear, however, was the problem that the technology was going to solve. So we started working on that and felt our way slowly but surely towards the patient recruitment use case. Today, we are the only company in the world able to identify in real time from millions of patient data records those patients who are suitable for a specific clinical trial.

So you have aligned the company with a particular niche?

Yes, absolutely. When you are building a company, you must concentrate on solving a genuine problem. Our technology gives the customer clear benefits. Finding patients usually takes months, sometimes years. We cut this to weeks, or less. We ensure that a pharma company, hospital or contract research organisation already before the start of a clinical trial knows exactly where candidate patients are located and exactly how many there are. Depending on the goal, the study protocol can then be optimised as required. Because we avoid guesswork and identify genuine patients who meet the study criteria in this very moment, the study design is robust and risk is minimised. Not only that, but a study sponsor knows exactly where and how many of his "sites" he must place. Real-time information is particularly valuable for this. As soon as I activate a study protocol, the doctors involved are notified and can call their patients in.

Is it easy to convince hospitals to collaborate with Clinerion?

We were rather naive about this at first. From an IT perspective, it makes sense to do everything in the cloud. That is exactly what we tried to do, but most people were negative about it. We also found that attitudes to data protection, as well as the regulations themselves, vary considerably from one country to the next. These factors make a cloud solution virtually impossible to implement. Today, we are installing a hardware appliance within a hospital's IT infrastructure. The data therefore remains exactly where it is collected and it is as secure as all other patient data. We can also only access consolidated and aggregated meta information, which earns us the trust of decision-makers and the people using the system.

What exactly motivates hospitals to disclose their data?

We all basically share the same objective of providing relevant patients with drugs as soon as possible. We play a role in achieving this. The university hospitals are carrying out research to some extent for their own interests. We help them to carry out their internal studies more quickly. The pharmaceutical companies remunerate the hospitals for each patient who participates in a study. The doctors feel that participating in interesting studies is important. In our experience, the number of studies that hospitals are offered increases significantly as soon as they start working with us.

How many patients do you currently have access to?

We have access to 35 million patients via the hospitals. And we certainly need that many. The numbers can start dwindling rapidly depending on the symptoms you are searching for.

You operate mainly in emerging markets such as Brazil and Turkey.  Why is that?

With the exception of the UK, Europe is more cautious about taking part in clinical trials. By 2020, Turkey expects to have increased the EUR 50 million turn-over in clinical trials in 2014 to EUR 1.5 billion. In Brazil, they are even changing the law to make it easier for pharmaceutical companies to carry out more studies in the future. In clinical trials, it is important for all participating patients to receive the same standard of care. Participants in trials might therefore receive better care than usual. This applies to some countries in Eastern Europe, for example. For some patients, this can be an incentive.

Does your data acquisition prioritise emerging markets?

No, not exclusively. We are also well positioned in a number of European countries. But we can certainly do better. We would also like to expand our presence in India and Taiwan, for example. Great Britain is a key focus for us and our partnership with Cisiv will help here. We recently entered into a partnership with this UK company. Cisiv’s platform complements our screening programme perfectly.

It sounds like a data contest. How close is your main competition?

There are three competitors. But we are the only ones able to provide real-time results. Our competition in the USA, however, has access to much more capital. At the last investment round, one of our competitors raised 32 million dollars.

Do you find it difficult to compete with that?

It is certainly difficult for an ICT start-up in Switzerland to obtain those kinds of amounts. We are not completely dependent on external investment, however. We have a very loyal shareholder base and have sufficient funding, even though we are still a long way from being profitable.

Could a sale be on the cards?

Our vision is to provide patients with medicines. If we see that we can achieve this goal more quickly, we would be willing to consider it. But selling is not currently under consideration. I have already founded a number of companies. Some were sold too early, even though we could still have helped them progress through one or more growth phases. I am convinced that Clinerion will succeed in that regard.

Do you consider the lack of growth financing to be a problem for the Swiss start-up scene?

Most certainly. Good technologies tend to be sold off too early because their owners cannot find the money they need for the next major milestone, typically for the global expansion phase.  

What do you suggest?

Imitating Silicon Valley will get us nowhere. Also because costs there are unacceptably high at the moment. We really need to focus on our strengths. Just to give you one example: twice as many startups are established at ETH Zurich each year than at UC Berkeley. When universities foster a supportive environment, a start-up community develops all on its own. The students I meet at ETH are ambitious and full of energy. I also note, however, that many Swiss students prefer the security of working in a large corporation. We need a greater willingness to accept risk. We need to work on it.

How do you see innovation hub Basel?

We have good access to the sector here, and we can also recruit staff from neighbouring Germany. The labour market is therefore less competitive than in Zurich for example. We feel right at home here in Basel.

Interview: Thomas Brenzikofer and Annett Altvater

About Ulf Claesson
Ulf Claesson studied production technology at Chalmers University in Gothenburg and also gained a management degree at the University of St. Gallen. He worked for IBM and Hewlett-Packard, established spin-offs for various companies, and founded his own start-ups. In his lecture on "Technology Entrepreneurship" he passes on his experience as a "serial entrepreneur" to students at ETH. He is a member of the board of directors of various companies, the Foundation Board Director of the AO Foundation, and has been the CEO of Clinerion since 2012.

report BaselArea.swiss

Shanghai Biotalk: From Shanghai to Basel

04.12.2017

report Micro, Nano & Materials

Sensors – a fantastic event about hardware, machine learning and humans

04.12.2017