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Top European Biopharma Locations for Life Sciences Businesses and Professionals

Europe has long been an established hotspot for biopharma.

Biopharma – the point at which biotechnology and pharmaceutical manufacturing meet – has hardly been an industry without growth.

The European biopharma market is estimated to be growing at a CAGR of 8.89%, reaching a projected 73.78bn in USD by 2027.

Globally, Europe is the second-largest biopharma market in the world, with factors such as rising incidences of chronic diseases, ageing populations, and the pandemic influencing this growth.

So, what is the current outlook for Europe’s biopharma market, and which top European biopharma clusters should you be keeping an eye on?

The European biopharma outlook

As of September 2022, there were 5,951 drugs in active development in Europe, with European biopharma having a 28% share of the total global pipeline.

There have also been a number of positive developments emerging in European biopharma companies.

For example, Finland-based Faron Pharmaceuticals announced further dose escalation data from its phase 1/2 study, looking at the safety and efficacy of a monotherapy in ten different cancers.

Lytix Biopharma, based in Norway, has received regulatory approval to start its ATLAS-IT-05 melanoma study in three European countries, which will broaden the impact of their research into the area.

These significant developments are just a couple of examples of the way in which European biopharmas are innovating.

But which top European biopharma clusters should life sciences businesses and professionals be keeping an eye on?

  • Switzerland

Ranking number one in the Global Talent Competitiveness Index 2022 (which it has done for several years in a row), Switzerland has a strong talent base, particularly for biopharma.

Switzerland was also noted by McKinsey as one of the biotech centres in Europe that has seen the fastest growth, alongside France and the United Kingdom, accounting for 63% of the biotechs founded between 2018 and 2020.

The region is also home to a number of innovative biopharma companies looking to grow their capacity, such as SGS, which recently expanded its laboratory capacity for biologic structural characterisation.

One of the biggest names in the industry, CRISPR Therapeutics, has a market cap of €5.3bn, and is located in Switzerland.

CRISPR Therapeutics’ treatments are based on the gene-editing tool CRISPR-Cas9, though more recently, their partnership with Vertex Pharmaceuticals (for exa-cel, a gene-edited stem cell therapy for sickle cell disease and beta-thalassemia) has generated significant interest.

This treatment, if approved, will be the first gene editing therapy based on the Nobel-winning CRISPR technology, competing with bluebird bio’s rival gene therapy, lovo-cel (in sickle cell disease) and Zynteglo (in beta-thalassemia). 

For businesses and professionals alike, Switzerland is undoubtedly a hotspot for exciting developments in the biopharma space as we move through 2023!

  • Germany

An undisputed biotech and pharma powerhouse, Germany has long been a location of interest to biopharma businesses and professionals alike.

Germany’s biopharma startups in particular have been making strides, from the likes of BioNTech, a biopharma pioneering the development of individualised therapies for cancer and other diseases, to Atriva Therapeutics, a company aiming to develop antiviral therapies against different respiratory viral infections.

In 2020, sales of biopharmaceuticals increased by 14% from 2019 in Germany, amounting to €14.6bn, accounting for 30.8% of the total pharmaceuticals market.

2020 also saw the number of companies active in medical biotechnology increase their hiring efforts, with an expansion of 5.4%, totalling a new record workforce of 44,600.

This is great news for biopharma professionals, given that Germany is the world’s leading medical biotech nation behind the US, owing to the presence of established and startup companies alike.

  • The Netherlands

Another familiar name on many top life science cluster lists, the Netherlands has world-class research institutions, a highly skilled workforce, and a top healthcare ecosystem that contribute to its status as a top biopharma location.

Many diverse businesses focusing on cancer therapeutics and immunotherapy techniques have set up sites/facilities in the Netherlands, from Janssen and Genmab to Lonza and MSD.

The Netherlands also has a dynamic ecosystem for companies and research institutions, with all areas working closely to provide solutions in biopharma value chains.

For those looking for a career in biopharma in the Netherlands, there are over 420 biopharmaceutical companies, in addition to more than 2,500 other life sciences companies in the country.

Biotech companies are also likely to see the Netherlands as an ideal biopharma location due to the region being home to the European Medicines Agency (EMA), and for professionals, the area has an amazing business infrastructure and a dynamic workforce.

  • France

French pharma companies lead France’s reputation as a biopharma leader, such as Sanofi, with €2.376bn in turnover, and Servier, with €2.284bn turnover.

These companies make up the backbone of France’s biopharma industry, though there is still further room to expand when compared to other top regions.

France also has the distinction of being heavily export-oriented, accounting for 3.1% of global pharmaceutical production.

After the pandemic, the French government put €7.5bn into an ambitious project (the Healthcare Innovation 2030 plan) with a central focus to turn France into the European leader in health innovation by 2030. 

The plan to achieve this includes creating biotech innovation hotspots, streamlining the organisation of clinical trials, and simplifying the market access system for new treatments.

Beyond this, France is also home to leading research institutions, such as Institut Curie and CNRS, and offers strong support via leading venture capital firms, such as Jeito Capital.

Europe’s biopharma picture is positive

Though this list is far from exhaustive, there are a number of locations in Europe for biopharma businesses and professionals to thrive in.

43 of the top 100 life science universities were located in Europe (as of 2020), and Europe also has twice the output of the United States and three times that of China, with a high number of citations for its publications.

European countries are also continuing to innovate at a steady pace, with France, Germany and the UK standing out as top biotech centres.

As Europe continues to attract companies and professionals alike, these positive trends will undoubtedly continue and adapt to suit the fast-paced and ever-changing nature of the industry.

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