Swiss pharma lags behind in global innovation ranking

An employee works on the production of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a factory in Marburg, Germany, on January 20, 2021. Keystone / Biontech Se Handout

Pharmaceutical companies are currently among the most innovative firms in the world alongside tech and software giants such as Apple and Alphabet, according to the Boston Consulting Group (BCG). But Swiss pharma companies rank low in their latest Top 50 list.

This content was published on April 15, 2021 - 13:09

“Pharma companies performed strongly this year, joining technology and software companies that have dominated the rankings in recent years,” said BCG in a statementExternal link on Thursday. The group have released their “Most Innovative Companies 2021” report that features a Top 50 ranking.

In 2021, nine pharmaceutical companies were ranked by BCG experts among the 50 most innovative companies, three times more than the previous year.

US pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, which have developed vaccines against Covid-19, were ranked the 10th and 20th most innovative firms. Abbott Labs (29th) and Merck & Co (35th) also featured highly in the table that was topped by Apple, Alphabet, Amazon, Microsoft and Tesla.

Swiss pharmaceutical giants Novartis and Roche, which did not launch any Covid vaccines, were ranked 36th and 48th most innovative firms, respectively. They were nonetheless ahead of the British-Swedish multinational AstraZeneca (49th) and the German firm Bayer (50th).

Swiss Covid vaccine?

While not at the forefront in developing vaccines, Swiss companies have been stepping up their involvement in manufacturing Covid-19 vaccines. Lonza is producing ingredients for the Moderna vaccine at its production plant in Visp, southern Switzerland, while pharma giant Novartis has signed deals to help manufacture both the Pfizer/BioNtech and CureVac vaccines. Roche has been focusing on Covid-19 tests and treatments.

The question of whether Switzerland should have developed its own Covid vaccines has been in the headlines in recent weeks. Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset has been caught up in a controversy for reportedly turning down an offer by Lonza to produce vaccines domestically.

Newspapers have claimed that in spring 2020 Berset missed the chance to secure a Swiss-based vaccine production line via Lonza. Berset has since said there was no clear connection between investing in Lonza and securing access to the Moderna vaccine.

A parliamentary commission plans to investigate the matter. It’s not known when their findings will be published.

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