Shire is one of the world's leading biotechnology companies in the treatment of rare and complex diseases. The globally active company has been operating an international headquarters in the Greater Zurich Area in Zug with activities in the areas of research and development, production, sales and marketing since May 2014. We spoke to Rute Fernandes, General Manager Shire Switzerland GmbH.
What main challenges is Shire currently facing?
The therapeutic area of rare diseases poses major challenges for patients, doctors and companies. One reason for this is that reimbursement of costs by the authorities and health insurance companies is sometimes difficult. In some cases, only a handful of patients are affected by a certain rare disease in Switzerland. Unlike in Germany, "orphan drugs", i.e. drugs for the treatment of rare diseases, are unfortunately not automatically certified in this country as having an additional benefit or are reimbursed as soon as they are approved for marketing. For this reason, doctors and patients in Switzerland sometimes have to wait much longer for the use of a new drug, while German and French patients, for example, already benefit from it. In order to be able to apply new therapies in Switzerland immediately, we are dependent on the rapid work of local authorities. The fact that the expertise for a "rare disease" is often "rare" itself must not lead to slower access to orphan drugs than to drugs for more frequent indications. Patients and their needs are our top priority. We work tirelessly to improve the lives of these people. Therapies that make a real difference for patients and all those who support them on their way.
What are the most important ongoing developments at Shire?
More than 40 research projects are currently underway in 45 countries worldwide (70% rare disease research; 17,000 patients included; 20% children). Worldwide research cooperations continue to be of great importance and drive exciting developments and research approaches. Our research activities in the field of genetic engineering in particular offer completely new starting points for therapy methods.
What were the decisive factors for Shire to locate its international headquarters in the Greater Zurich Area?
We made the decision to locate in Zug for strategic reasons. These include business reasons such as access to a pool of highly skilled workers and an attractive infrastructure. Taxes are just one of many location factors we are considering.
How helpful was the support of the Canton of Zug in the settlement process?
We had a very good and close cooperation with Mr Guido Bulgheroni from the Economic Promotion of Canton Zug, which continues to this day. The establishment of our company went very smoothly also thanks to him.
What does this branch of Shire in the Greater Zurich Area promise for the future?
Shire considers the creation of attractive jobs essential for our own team and our joint business success. Our Zug office - like all our offices worldwide - is located in a central location with access to public transport, not far from important customers and business partners, and within reach of local bioscientists and resources. The opportunity to work in an attractive location means a lot to our employees and Shire. An attractive workplace acts as a magnet for talented employees, promotes productivity, defines our image internally and externally and provides a good feeling. There is a clear connection between an efficient company and an attractive workplace.
How does Shire find the right talents?
The numerous pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies based in Switzerland form an innovative and research-driven technology cluster within Europe. This alone is a great incentive for highly qualified employees to find their to this area. Conversely, we are using this effect to expand corporate divisions such as research and development, production (in Neuchâtel), sales and marketing in Switzerland.
Can you benefit from the life sciences environment in the Greater Zurich Area and Switzerland as a company? Do you cooperate with local universities/companies?
Shire is currently increasing its investment in promoting local talent. Since 2016, Shire has been working with local universities to offer life science graduates a permanent six-month internship. In our view, this is a good opportunity to provide university graduates with the necessary work experience when they enter the job market. In 2017 we supported eight interns, in 2018 there will be 8 interns and 2 trainees.