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Swiss biotech gathers in Washington

More than 100 delegates of Switzerland's leading biotech companies will take part in the convention

(Keystone)

Some of Switzerland's leading biotechnology companies are showcasing their products at the industry's annual convention in the United States this week.

More than 3,300 delegates from 50 countries, including scientists, investors and ministers have descended on Washington for Bio 2003.

The four-day conference, which opened on Sunday, is hosting the largest gathering of Swiss biotech professionals ever held outside Europe.

"It gives Switzerland a chance to showcase its expertise," John Williamson of the economic development agency, Location Switzerland, told swissinfo.

"Switzerland has an excellent reputation worldwide in innovative approaches to biotech."

More than 100 delegates from Switzerland are attending the meeting. The Swiss pavilion features drug discovery companies such as Esbatech and Athelas, as well as venture capitalists and representatives from the Swiss financial industry.

Pharmaceutical giants

Switzerland boasts about 220 biotech start-ups, not to mention Serono, the largest biotech company in Europe and the pharmaceutical giants, Roche and Novartis.

"For its size, Switzerland is a giant in biotechnology," said André Guedel, programme director for New York-based Location Switzerland.

The biotech scene is particularly vibrant in three locations: Basel has the largest cluster of companies, followed by Zurich and the area around Lake Geneva.

Switzerland ranks number six in Europe in terms of number of companies active in the industry, with 129 firms in the sector employing more than 11,000 people.

The leaders, Germany and the UK, have 360 and 331 firms respectively.

For market capitalisation and turnover generated in biotech, Switzerland is in the number two spot, while the UK, Switzerland and the Netherlands are the top three countries for biotech stocks.

Drug targets

During Bio 2003, scientists from Switzerland and Sweden are hosting a panel discussion on applying nanotechnology - the manipulation of particles at the nano-scale (one-billionth of a metre) - in biotechnology applications.

They will debate new approaches to drug targeting.


About 15,000 visitors are expected to attend Bio 2003, billed by organisers as "the world's largest gathering of biotechnology leaders".

It is the first time the meeting has been held in Washington in Bio's ten-year history.

The event has grown ten-fold since 1993 and by 47 per cent in the last two years.

swissinfo, Vincent Landon

Key facts

Switzerland boasts about 220 biotech start-ups.
The biotech scene is concentrated around Basel, Zurich and the Lake Geneva area.
Switzerland ranks number six in Europe in terms of the number of companies active in the industry.
For market capitalisation and turnover generated in biotech, Switzerland is in the number two spot.

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