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Basel Area becomes the Swiss hotspot for Chinese pharma companies


More and more Chinese pharmaceutical companies are choosing the Basel Area as location for their subsidiary in Switzerland. Among them is Hengrui Medicine, Asia's largest pharmaceutical group by market capitalization. The other heavyweight, BeiGene, operates in Europe’s prime life sciences location already since 2018. The Basel Area is visibly developing into the Swiss hotspot for Chinese pharmaceutical companies.

Largest pharmaceutical companies in Asia by market capitalization (img: Visual Capitalist)

Until now Hengrui Medicine is not very broadly known outside of Asia, but the company has grown steadily over the last years. With the Chinese market growing rapidly this is going to change. According to an analysis of Visual Capitalist, Hengrui Medicine is by now the largest pharmaceutical company in Asia by market capitalization.

Hengrui Medicine was established in 1970, the company ranks now top 30 worldwide in pharmaceuticals industry by a market capitalization of over 58 billion USD, and is home to more than 25,000 employees worldwide. The company leads the Chinese markets for anti-cancer drugs, surgical anesthetics, specialized infusions, and contrast agents.

In recent years Hengrui Medicine expanded to the USA and Europe. Only in 2020 the European headquarters was established in the Basel Area. The Basel site will be dedicated to the clinical research and development of Hengrui’s innovative drugs in Europe. The organization will grow to 50 employees by the end of 2021, more expansion is planned for 2022.

Michael van der Laan, Head of Clinical Development of Hengrui Europe Therapeutics AG: “There are so many different biotech companies starting a business here, and I guess one of the reasons for that is the innovation they find here in Basel. We plan to spend significantly here in Basel to build up the research and development organization. Basel is one of the few places where you can do that in Europe. One of the things that sets Basel apart is the large talent pool in the pharma industry.”

Another heavyweight from Asia is BeiGene. The global commercial-stage biopharmaceutical company, has established a regional headquarters in Basel and manages its European clinical trial operations and prepare for the potential launch of its drug candidates outside of Asia. Its presence in Basel might have helped in one of its latest deals: Novartis has signed a strategic collaboration agreement to in-license tislelizumab from BeiGene in major markets outside of China, accelerating the potential for Novartis to enter the large and growing checkpoint inhibitor field. Under the terms of the agreement, Novartis will obtain the development and commercialization rights to tislelizumab in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the European Union, United Kingdom, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Russia, and Japan in exchange for an upfront payment of USD 650 million plus royalties and milestone payments.

When it comes to Chinese pharma companies in the Basel Area Hengrui and BeiGene are not the only ones. Also Luye, Worg Pharmaceuticals and Adagene established a subsidiary in the Basel Area. This makes the Basel Area to the Swiss hotspot for Chinese pharma companies. The investment and innovation promotion agency Basel Area Business & Innovation supported the companies in establishing the Basel subsidiaries.

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