SUISSE news Winter 2020
February 2020

Business News (February 2020)

Basel research set to improve child vaccines

The Basel-based Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute has uncovered new insights into the immune systems of children. This new understanding could help to improve the efficacy of vaccines. Children are set to benefit from the expertise of Basel research to an even greater extent in the future. 

Together with the Babraham Institute and the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), among other organizations, the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH) has been investigating the immune systems of children. This research revealed that the composition of the immune system and the children’s reactions to vaccines can be influenced by a myriad of factors. These also include non-genetic factors such as age, the country in which they grow up and anemia status, as detailed in a press release issued by the Swiss TPH.

According to the Swiss TPH, vaccines are often less effective in children that live in low and middle-income countries. It should also be noted that children in these countries are more dependent on vaccination protection due to the fact that infectious diseases occur more frequently than in countries with high incomes. The researchers’ new findings could now help to develop more effective vaccines for children in various regions around the world.

Across the world, the Swiss TPH is a renowned institute in the field of global health. It is based in Basel and works in close cooperation with the University of Basel. The Basel region is increasingly evolving into a pediatrics hub. In this context, the Botnar Research Center for Child Health (BRCCH) has recently started research activities in the area. It presented its first four research projects during a Spotlight Day on January 30. Moreover, the local business promotion organization is also supporting startups active in the area of digital health that seek to promote the health of children and young people by way of its DayOne Accelerator. 

Swiss firms realize record number of innovations

The innovative capacity of Swiss companies is the second-highest in the world. This is the conclusion of a recent comparative study conducted by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Large companies in Switzerland are particularly innovative in an international comparison.

Nearly three quarters of Swiss companies realized innovations between 2014 and 2016. With a score of 72 percent, Switzerland therefore came in second place in the rankings for innovative enterprises. In the current edition of the OECD Innovation Indicators report, Switzerland ranks behind Canada in first place, which recorded a score of just under 80 percent, albeit ahead of Norway (69 percent). Poland brings up the rear with a score of just 21 percent, while the average score stands at 53 percent. The only neighboring country of Switzerland to be included among the top ten was Germany, with a score of 61 percent. Data from a total of 39 OECD member countries and partner economies was analyzed for the study. The focus of this analysis was the extent to which companies have introduced new or improved products, services and business processes.

Barry Callebaut launches milk-free chocolate

Barry Callebaut has developed the first chocolate to not contain milk. As a substitute, the chocolate manufacturer has used plant-based raw materials exclusively available to the company. Barry Callebaut is therefore reacting to the rising demand for vegan products.

Barry Callebaut is launching a plant-based product range for the production of chocolates, as announced by the Zurich-based chocolatier in a press release. This Plant Craft product range also includes the first totally milk-free chocolate in the form of “M_lk Chocolate”. It is produced using plant-based raw materials extracted from a root and to which Barry Callebaut has exclusive access. Researchers at Barry Callebaut have been working on this development for two years. Barry Callebaut will manufacture the new chocolate at a new production facility, which will not be used for the production of conventional, milk-based products. Barry Callebaut expects capacity to reach several thousand tons. The first production facility will be located in Norderstedt in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, and will go into operation from the first half of 2021.

The Zurich-based chocolate manufacturer and supplier is therefore reacting to the growing demand for vegan products. “The next generation of consumers is looking for experiences that are tasty, healthy and good for the planet”, explains Pablo Perversi, Chief Innovation, Sustainability and Quality Officer and Head of Gourmet at Barry Callebaut, in the press release. He adds: “We want to be at the side of industry during the plant-based revolution.”

Merck invests CHF 270 million in new Swiss facility

Located near Merck’s current biotech commercial manufacturing site in Corsier-sur-Vevey, the new Biotech Development Center will bring together research and manufacturing.

German drugmaker Merck is investing 270 million Swiss francs in a new facility in Corsier-sur-Vevey, in the French-speaking canton of Vaud. Once fully operational by the end of 2022, the new Merck Biotech Development Center will focus on biotech development and manufacturing for clinical studies.

The facility will consist of a building providing a total of 15,700 square meters of development space, bringing together a cross-functional team of approximately 250 employees currently spread across different sites. It will be equipped with the most advanced digital solutions and highest technological standards, including continuous manufacturing and laboratory automation, with a special attention to sustainability.

“This investment in the Merck Biotech Development Center reflects our commitment to speed up the availability of new medicines for patients in need, and confirms the importance of Switzerland as our prime hub for the manufacturing of biotech medicines,” said Stefan Oschmann, Chairman of the Executive Board and CEO of Merck, at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new facility held on 27 January.

The pharma giant has invested more than one billion Swiss francs in Switzerland over the past ten years, reflecting the strategic importance of the country, where it employs more than 2,400 employees across nine locations.

GE healthcare to build new manufacturing facility in Switzerland

GE Healthcare Life Sciences announces plans for a new 7,360 square meter facility in Grens, in the French-speaking canton of Vaud, to meet the increasing global demand for cell and gene therapies.

GE Healthcare Life Sciences, a division of US-based multinational GE Healthcare, is investing in a new manufacturing facility in Signy Park, a business park strategically located in proximity to Geneva airport. The main focus of the new site will be the production of single use kits for the company’s Sepax and Sefia cell processing systems. However, the space will also include a Center of Excellence that will feature advanced cell and gene therapy manufacturing facilities and serve as a base for European customer trainings and educational initiatives. An R&D unit will also be based on the premises.

Emmanuel Ligner, President and CEO of GE Healthcare Life Sciences, explained that the new investment was driven by increased demand for the company’s resources and expertise : “Our Swiss operations are critical to the success of our cell and gene therapy customers, so this new facility will allow us to accelerate capacity and provide a single location where our research, engineering and service teams can thrive”. He also added that the new facility will allow GE Healthcare Life Sciences to attract Western Switzerland’s top talent.

The site is expected to be fully operational in 2022 and will be able to house up to 200 employees. It will complement the company’s global network of manufacturing facilities in the US, UK, Sweden and China.  

SCCC Corporate Members
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