| Life Sciences Business Insight Series

Yesterday, today and tomorrow: the synergies driving the biotech clusters in Boston and the Basel Area

Although separated by the ocean, Boston and Basel share rich histories in the life sciences and are pillars of scientific innovation.

This article delves into the amazing similarities between these two clusters, arguing that the Basel Area is the ideal location for Boston-based companies wanting to expand their operations to the European sector.

Author: Kirsten Detrick

Boston and the Basel Area: rich heritages driving dynamic innovation

The life sciences scenes in the Basel Area, Switzerland, and Boston, USA, are true wonders of the 21st century, characterized by hard-working mindsets, regional academic and industrial know-how, and internationally recognized talent.

Boston/Cambridge: North America’s hottest biotech hub

The prestigious academic institutions in the Boston area need little introduction, with Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – just over the Charles River in Cambridge – having been at the forefront of scientific progress for over a century.

These world-class universities – together with a long list of other renowned academic institutions – have helped transform the region’s life sciences cluster into what it is today.

The area has given rise to countless startups and companies, including Biogen and Genzyme Genetics (now part of Sanofi), which were among the earliest scientific anchors in Cambridge, laying the groundwork for what is now a vibrant and thriving biotech ecosystem.

The establishment of the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research (NIBR) in Cambridge added even more clout to the region, and marked a significant milestone in this evolution, solidifying its position as a key player in the global life sciences landscape.

This has attracted new talent and investment to the region that, in turn, has served as a magnet for other leading global biopharma players, startups, and young companies. The area is now arguably North America’s hottest biotech hub, comprising numerous global players and thousands of exciting startups, many born out of symbiotic collaborations between academia and industry to drive breakthrough discoveries shaping the future of the life sciences sector.

Cambridge, Kendall Square

Basel: from humble chemical industry roots to a global biotech player

The life sciences sector is equally vibrant in the Basel Area. Its roots stretch back to the 19th century when the city flourished as a hub for silk dyeing.

The region’s chemical process engineering and bulk manufacturing expertise eventually evolved into the pharmaceutical and biotechnology sectors, creating a global powerhouse.

The close proximity of leading academic institutions – such as the University of Basel – provided the foundation for R&D capabilities in the region, which matured and intensified over time. As a result, companies founded in the Basel Area – such as Ciba, Sandoz, and Hoffmann-La Roche – emerged as pioneers of the chemical and pharmaceutical sectors.

Today, Basel-based Roche and Novartis are two of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, and these corporate powerhouses firmly anchor the Basel Area life sciences ecosystem, working side by side with exciting startups, cutting-edge research institutions, and internationally respected universities to drive healthcare and life sciences innovation on a global scale. Top-tier biotechs and advanced therapeutics companies like Alloy Therapeutics, Inc., BeiGene, Ironwood Pharmaceuticals, Ginkgo Bioworks, Inc., Moderna and Roivant Sciences have expanded their footprints by establishing European headquarters, acquiring exciting start-ups and fostering collaborative connections in the Basel life sciences ecosystem.

Opportunities on both sides of the Atlantic

Both Boston and Basel are at the forefront of the life sciences industry and exemplify the immense power of scientific entrepreneurship – and collaboration between academia and industry – to drive innovation.

The similarities between these destinations make them exciting prospects for companies wanting to expand and scale and reach international markets. This is especially true for biotech companies looking to break into the European market, where Basel offers unparalleled access to top-quality talent across the entire therapeutics value chain including global commercialization specialists, marketing and sales leaders, research and development professionals, manufacturing experts and more. Interestingly, although many of these experts have experience at larger organizations, there is a strong start-up mindset in the Basel Area, where – as in Boston/Cambridge – newly established companies are an everyday addition to the macro environment.

In fact, more than 33,000 life sciences professionals work in the Basel life sciences industry – across an incredibly wide range of organizations ranging from early-stage start-ups to publicly traded biotech powerhouses.

Basel offers expanding biotechs a uniquely advanced ecosystem that is on par with Boston with respect to R&D and commercial infrastructure and talent, all within the construct of attractive financial environment for growing companies.

Kirsten DetrickChief Representative USA at Basel Area Business & Innovation

Get support for your expansion to Switzerland 

The expansion process often takes years from start to finish—and rightly so. It’s a transformative decision, and companies want to be sure they’re making the right decision. Basel Area Business & Innovation is dedicated to helping companies make informed decisions, often via our free advisory services.

We support entrepreneurs, SMEs, and established firms by offering startup acceleration, catalyst projects, events, workshops, and collaborative workspaces. Our accelerator, BaseLaunch, for therapeutic innovation, helps biotech startups launch and grow. 

We also provide incubation infrastructure at the Switzerland Innovation Park Basel Area  for innovative development projects, SMEs and startups. Currently, around 250 people are working at 65 companies and 14 research groups are active at the park’s locations. 

Have a question or need guidance?
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Fabio MarelliManager USA at Basel Area Business & Innovation

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