How has the Bio-Technopark Schlieren become a biotech hotspot?
Mario Jenni:When I came to Schlieren with my start-up back in 2000, just four life science companies were located here, and it was already clear that synergies would help us to progress. The principle has become established practice since then: exchange between academia and both start-ups and established companies is paramount. We could always be convinced by affordable, ultramodern laboratory infrastructures for this. Three world-renowned sources of innovation form the basis for this: the University of Zurich, the University Hospital Zurich, and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. The former occupies one of the high-rise buildings in the Bio-Technopark.
The biotech ecosystem of Greater Zurich has long been a home for young challengers – is that still the case today?
There are still young challengers, but the biotech cluster in the Greater Zurich Area has now reached a critical mass and created a dynamic ecosystem. This can be seen in the way that the Bio-Technopark has developed too. In the first phase, only researchers from local universities established companies. Often, they were able to sell these companies but remained true to the location with new start-ups. In parallel with this, the success stories attracted established companies. For instance, the pharmaceutical giant Roche operates an innovation center on the site. The third phase is now ongoing, in which experienced life sciences managers come to Schlieren with their start-ups. This also is thanks to the general advantages of the Greater Zurich Area.
What advantages are those?
Location factors such as the availability of highly qualified workers or the quality of life are more important than we often realize. We want to attract companies and talented people, who could alternatively go to San Francisco or Munich. This region can score highly with Lake Zurich, the nearby mountains, an international airport, and broad range of sports and cultural offerings.
In 2020 six companies moved to the Bio-Technopark; in the first months of 2021 alone three more companies did the same. Isn’t it gradually getting a bit cramped?
The spaces available at the moment are practically full or reserved but we offer more. This is very important for expanding start-ups. Out of a potential four high-rise laboratory buildings, only three are ready at the moment and we have the option of building further on our former industrial area in the north-west.
The Bio-Technopark has made international headlines, for instance with the company Neurimmune and its Alzheimer’s therapy. Could you give any other current highlights?
I have heard from guests at international conferences that everybody is talking about the Bio-Technopark and the biotech ecosystem of Greater Zurich due to acquisitions and innovations. In general, we are a hotspot for antibody-related therapeutic agents and the universities are excellent in this area as well. One wonderful new development for the Bio-Technopark is Dinaqor AG moving in, which will establish gene therapy production at our location. Moreover, personalized medicine is becoming more and more important. Cutiss, an award-winning spin-off from the University of Zurich, plans to manufacture personalized skin transplants here in the near future.
Mario Jenni co-founded the Bio-Technopark Schlieren in Zurich in 2003 and has been the CEO since then. Jenni studied molecular genetics at the University of Zurich and is co-founder of several life science start-ups. He was appointed Greater Zurich Honorary Ambassador in 2019.
Interview: Yvonne von Hunnius
Since 2003, the Bio-Technopark Schlieren-Zurich has developed into a life sciences park of national and international renown. Spanning an area of 55,000 square meters, over 50 companies and many institutions currently have roots there, including start-ups such as Cutiss, Biognosys and Neurimmune, in addition to the pharmaceuticals company Roche with its Innovation Center Zurich and the University of Zurich(UZH). Roche and the UZH occupy a high-rise laboratory building each, with both providing floorspace of 10,000 square meters.