Newcomers at Biopôle
2021 was an incredible year for life sciences. Olivier looks back at the dozens of exciting companies who joined us this year.
In 2021, around 30 companies working in life sciences joined Biopôle, bringing the total count up to more than 120 companies, of various sizes and types, all working for the betterment of health.
But who are these newcomers? And what are they currently developing? Here is a short overview of the companies you should be keeping an eye on in 2022.
Digital health/health tech
The digitalisation of health is no longer a trend: we are seeing an increasing number of companies taking the opportunities that digital tools offer to shape their core business. Almost half of the companies joining in 2021 are working in life sciences and health tech.
Let’s start with artificial intelligence: Atinary Technologies
is a deep tech start-up that integrates AI, machine learning, robotics and cloud computing with R&D to revolutionise optimisation and discovery of breakthrough materials. Hedera Dx
is another young start-up: its platform solves complexity, giving a streamlined experience for clinicians to access information and liquid biopsy tests in early detection, therapy selection and recurrence monitoring. Meanwhile, Siftlink
develops analytics/AI solutions to help organisations take decisions faster and with more confidence, understand the external environment better, set R&D strategies and increase their value by generating and protecting key intellectual assets.
A major new player found a home at Biopôle in 2021. As Laurent Christe explains in this month’s interview
, the key activities of the Digital Health Unit of Swiss Post
include operating a platform for accessing electronic patient records; B2B services for healthcare professionals; B2C services connecting healthcare professionals and patients; and the delivery of IT services to healthcare professionals.
Telemedicine is getting popular in innovative treatments solutions (and the pandemic probably gave it an extra push in the right direction). The Vitruvian Shield
mobile application allows patients to share data collected by a smartwatch with medical professionals. It also allows users to manage their medication schedule, report seizures, ask for medical assistance in emergencies and much more. On the other hand, Dermapp
, which was developed for the Romandy market, offers online consultations by certified dermatologists to help patients solve skin problems.
Meanwhile, in the biobanking sector, Swiss Biobanking Platform
– initiated by the Swiss National Science Foundation in 2016 – is a reference research infrastructure of national importance supporting human and non-human biobanks.
And for any company looking to digitalise its business, BDVerse
helps life sciences companies with their digital transformation.
Medical devices and life sciences technologies
As David Neale said in his article
earlier this year, ‘medtech is everywhere, and it supports us – both as patients and medical professionals – through disease prevention, diagnosis, treatment and follow-up.’ According to MedTech Europe, there are more than 32,000 medtech companies in Europe, over 90% of which are SMEs. Argá Medtech arrived in February and is a venture-capital-backed company developing an innovative cardiac ablation system for the treatment of cardiac arrhythmias. We also host Cytiva
, which is a global life sciences leader dedicated to advancing and accelerating therapeutics. Their aim is to bring speed, efficiency and capacity to research and manufacturing workflows, enabling the development, manufacture and delivery of transformative medicines to patients.
Biotech and pharmaceuticals
Oncology is historically a core therapeutic focus at Biopôle. The presence of the oncology department of CHUV/UNIL and of Ludwig Cancer Research works like a magnet for young start-ups looking for research collaborations. Tigen Pharma
work in this field: while the first addresses serious diseases, such as cancer, with personalised medicine and immune therapies, the second has developed liposome-encapsulated cancer drugs, which offer an excellent alternative to conventional cancer drugs because of their reduced toxicity.
Another one to watch in 2022, Combioxin
is committed to the development of disruptive treatments for severe infections and has developed CAL02, a novel first-in-class antitoxin agent for the treatment of severe pneumonia. Just after its arrival on campus in August, Combioxin announced a worldwide licensing agreement Eagle Pharmaceuticals, Inc. for the commercial rights to CAL02.
An important newcomer at Biopôle this year was Ferring Pharmaceuticals
, with the opening of its Biologics Innovation Centre in April. The new centre targets unmet medical needs in the company’s specialist areas of reproductive medicine and maternal health, gastroenterology, and uro-oncology. Ferring’s decision to invest in this cutting-edge infrastructure marked a leap forwards in the company’s strategy to strengthen its capabilities and expertise in new biologic agents as it continues to grow.
Enabling technologies are gaining importance and, this year, two companies joined Biopôle:
develops a protein engineering platform powered by synthetic biology, nanofluidics and machine learning, which is able to synthesise and measure thousands of proteins in parallel. At the same time, Alithea Genomics
develops, manufactures, and commercialises cutting-edge solutions for large-scale blood transcriptomics. Their proprietary technology, called BRB-seq, makes it possible for the first time to generate RNA data from thousands of samples in a high-throughput and cost-efficient manner, allowing drug screening, biomarker discovery and large-scale population testing.
Last but not least, the RE(ACT) Discovery Institute
is an accelerator for research in therapeutic development, enabling academic laboratories with cutting-edge modern technologies to discover and develop potential treatments and diagnostic tools for rare diseases.
Investment and insurance
Research and development are great, but if they are not backed up by solid investment, they won’t go far. Cube Labs
is the first systematic venture builder in the healthcare technology space in Italy, designed to address the gap between the excellent local academic science community and the commercially promising life sciences market.
This summer, Groupe Mutuel
welcomed its first employees to its new offices, located in the Glycine building. Approximately 90 people are working on-site, from marketing to data analytics and HR.
When talking about diagnostics in western Switzerland, the first company who comes to mind is Abionic
. You probably have heard of their ultra-fast on site COVID-19 Saliva Test
announced a couple of weeks ago. While Nicolas Durand’s team was among the first to move to the campus back in 2009, in 2021 we also welcomed Testmate Health
. As explained in this video
, the company is a Swiss-based medtech start-up and a spin-off from the University of Geneva, developing rapid at-home self-testing kits, supported by digital health, that provide immediate results with equivalent accuracy to current lab tests.