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January 2021

Business News (January 2021)



Swiss PharmaCan successfully tests anti-COVID drug
Swiss PharmaCan and Australia-based MGC Pharma have successfully concluded phase II clinical testing for their COVID-19 therapeutic candidate, ArtemiC. Phase III will start this year. The results also open up market potential for other inflammatory illnesses.

Swiss PharmaCan and its Australia-based study partner, MGC Pharma, have announced that phase II testing of the potential anti-COVID drug ArtemiC has produced promising results, showing a statistically significant improvement in the clinical recovery of COVID-19 patients versus a placebo group.

None of the subjects treated with ArtemiC required supplemental oxygen, mechanical ventilation or intensive care. In contrast, these interventions were necessary for 23.4 percent of patients in the placebo group. The study involved 50 infected patients at three independent hospitals in Israel and met all of the COVID-19 study requirements of the North American regulatory authority, the FDA.

ArtemiC is a drug candidate based on Swiss PharmaCan’s innovative, licensed technology. It imitates the same molecular encapsulation process that the human body uses to absorb liposoluble molecules, called micellization. Swiss PharmaCan explains on its website: “We can now achieve results that were once thought impossible – and we do it using only natural products.”

According to the press release, the phase II results open up market opportunities for a variety of illnesses that are associated with a potentially fatal cytokine storm, as is COVID-19. This includes influenza, autoimmune diseases, inflammatory gastrointestinal disorders, and the effects of chemotherapy. Consequently, the phase III study is expected to be an international, multicenter study involving 250 patients with a broad spectrum of inflammatory indications for the use of ArtemiC. It is anticipated to take place in Brazil in the first half of 2021. 

ETH and EPFL impress with Master’s study programs

The Master of Science in Quantitative Finance, a study course jointly offered by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH) and the University of Zurich (UZH), is regarded as the best Master’s study program in this field. This is reflected in the rankings compiled by Risk.net. The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) also performed well with its offering in this field.

The financial news platform Risk.net has published its latest rankings of the world’s leading quantitative finance Master’s programs. The Master Quantitative Finance taught jointly by ETH and UZH has risen eight places since last year’s ranking, to claim fourth position overall in the world. It is therefore the highest-ranking course in this field in Europe. The top three spots are taken by universities in the USA, namely Princeton University, Baruch College (City University of New York) and New York University.

According to the rankings, the employment rate of graduates from the joint program at ETH and UZH is 100 percent. Erich Walter Farkas, Academic Director, explained that the program was successfully delivered digitally in the face of unprecedented disruption due to the coronavirus crisis in 2020. The courses will be conducted remotely in 2021 as well

EPFL makes the top 20
In addition to the Zurich Master’s course, the top 25 included another degree program in Switzerland, at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL). It ranked 19th. At 91 percent, the employment rate for this course was likewise very high.

“The Way Swiss Companies Benchmark Is a Very Good Enabler For Us.”
Jenji is a fast-growing tech company based in Paris, offering its customers the first real-time, data-driven expense management platform based on artificial intelligence. The innovative company has identified Switzerland for its AI and financial ecosystems as a good opportunity for growth. Jenji set up offices in Zurich in early 2020 as a starting point to access the DACH region.

Jenji wants to revolutionize the world of expense reports. The company’s software is the first product to bring both a financial and an artificial intelligence approach to the professional expense management sector. With this innovative approach, Jenji has become the most attractive expense management product on the market. As recognized experts in AI, Jenji’s founders are making news in the fintech press and their pitches are regularly requested by consulting firms specializing in digital transformation. The company was founded in 2015 and is headquartered in Paris, France. Since then, it has doubled the number of its employees every year and now has around 60 employees in France, Romania, Australia, Singapore, and Switzerland.

Ticino Ebola drug receives US authorization
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized an Ebola drug developed by two laboratories based in the Greater Zurich Area. They were a vital part of the success of the clinical trials.

According to a press release issued by Università della Svizzera italiana (USI: University of Italian Switzerland), the FDA has approved a drug for use in the USA to treat Ebola which was originally developed on the back of research conducted at two labs based in the canton of Ticino: the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB), which forms part of USI, and Humabs BioMed. Both facilities are located in Bellinzona. Humabs is a subsidiary of Vir Biotechnology, which is headquartered in San Francisco, California.

The drug is based on the monoclonal antibody mAb114. The IRB was able to isolate and characterize this antibody in collaboration with Humabs. This is the first form of treatment based on just a single antibody developed to combat the effects of the deadly Ebola virus.

The results obtained by the Ticino labs and subsequent publication in highly regarded scientific journals such as “Science” and “The Lancet” contributed to the success of the clinical field trials conducted in 2018 during a renewed outbreak of the virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the press release explains. Furthermore, the “significant support” of the U.S. Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) over several years was also key to this successful outcome.



Novartis signs initial agreement to provide manufacturing capacity for Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine
Novartis announced on January 29 that it has signed an initial agreement to leverage its manufacturing capacity and capabilities in order to address the COVID-19 pandemic by supporting the production of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine. The agreement will see Novartis utilizing its aseptic manufacturing facilities at its site in Stein, Switzerland.

Under the terms of the contract manufacturing agreement, Novartis plans to take bulk mRNA active ingredient from BioNTech and fill this into vials under aseptic conditions for shipment back to BioNTech for their distribution to healthcare system customers around the world.

Subject to reaching a final agreement, Novartis plans to commence production in the second quarter of 2021 at its state-of-the art aseptic manufacturing plant in Stein. Initial shipment of finished product is expected in the third quarter.

The Novartis manufacturing team is in advanced discussions with a number of additional companies to take on manufacturing activities such as mRNA production, therapeutic protein production as well as raw material production for Covid vaccines and therapeutics. The specifics will be disclosed once those discussions are concluded.

“Novartis has been mobilizing on multiple fronts to support the global pandemic response,” said Steffen Lang, Head of Novartis Technical Operations. “As a company reimagining medicine with advanced therapy platforms, we are committed to leverage our manufacturing capabilities to help support the supply of COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics around the world. We expect this to be the first of a number of such agreements.”

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine has been authorized for use by the health regulatory authorities of about 50 countries, including Switzerland and the European Union member states where it has been granted Conditional Marketing Authorization and it has received authorizations for emergency use in e.g. the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada, as well as in Hong Kong.

SourceNovartis

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