Biomedical research and innovation as a growth driver for Ticino

Giacomo Pellegatta

16.02.2017 16:13
USI Lugano

In the last years millions were invested in Ticino to launch new study programs and to strengthen research institutes in the biomedical field and to establish a Medtech Technopole in Lugano. Enhancing innovation and strengthening entrepreneurship are two of the main objectives for all the players involved in this transition process.

In January the new Faculty of Biomedical Sciences at USI was presented at the Lugano campus auditorium. The faculty will start the new Master program in 2020 receiving 70 students (from university partners ETH, UniBas and UZH) that will start the USI Bachelor program in September 2017. During the press conference, speakers from various partner institutions discussed the particular “Era” of the biomedical sciences that, after a few years of preparation, is ready to take a more relevant place in Ticino.

Opportunity for innovation and entrepreneurship
Enhancing innovation and benefit for new entrepreneurship initiative is one of the main objective for all the players involved in this transition process. “A contribution to innovation by fostering development in the region and extending the relationships with its pharma industry and with translational research in biomedicine. The role of the Faculty is essentially to add "leaven" to this mix and make it grow, academically”, said USI Rector Boas Erez.

Crucial in this scenario is the highly appreciated Center of Advanced Studies on Entrepreneurship in BioMedicine (CASE BioMed), an autonomous structure within the Faculty of Biomedical Sciences at Università della Svizzera italiana (USI). CASE BioMed offers continuing education in life sciences entrepreneurship and create public private partnerships to bring biomedical research results on the market for the benefit of the society in form of products, services and jobs.

For the first time in Switzerland, USI’s students on this master program in medicine will be able to benefit from an education that covers both, medical practice (master in medicine) or scientific research (IRB/IOR) and the process of biomedical innovation (CASE BioMed). The educational offer in biomedicine at USI will therefore provide added value that may significantly improve the level of education and career prospects of graduates and at the same time foster the creation of biomedical innovation. With the two comprehensive advanced programs, BioBusiness and MedTech Business, CASE BioMed provides young life sciences companies with the theoretical and project-based practical skills needed to develop, fund and market biomedical innovations.

Biomedical sciences in Ticino
Lifesciences, despite is not one of the most developed and traditional economic sector in Ticino, is the one who had the best increase in term of added value (BAK Basel 2014) and had a significant contribute to the growth of GDP in Ticino. In Ticino there are many well-known companies operating worldwide like Adienne Pharma&Biotech, Cerbios Pharma, Helsinn Advanced Synthesis, IBSA Institut Biochimique or Syntetica. BAK Basel identified Life Sciences as one of the four strategic economic sector for the future development of the territory.

Actually the canton take advantage of the presence of three research institutes – Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB) and the Institute of Oncology Research (IOR) both in Bellinzona and the new Institute of Human Medicine (IMU) – and the presence from some medical private structure highly recognized (Cardiocentro Ticino and Clinica Luganese).

A new project built with and for a network
The complexity of the field required a lot of work for develop the collaboration between different institution and achieving a strong public-private partnership.

During last year, a lot of work granted the achievement of significant milestones:

  • In 2014 was approved the creation of the new Faculty of Biomedical Sciences at USI with the cooperation of all the medical structure in Ticino;
  • In 2015/2016 USI established some agreements with ETH, UniBas and UZH;
  • In 2016 the Municipal Council of Bellinzona approved an investment of 12.8 Mio CHF for the new structure of IRB and IOR. The new project (total of investment is about 60 Mio CHF) will provide a building consisting of spaces used for offices, laboratories with attached offices, and meeting rooms for better meet the requirement for future development of the institutes;
  • In 2016, in November, the Municipal Council of Lugano approved the credit of 10 Mio CHF for buying the establishment Mizar, a complex for the future Lugano Med Tech Center (that will be probably fully operative in the end of 2017). The Lugano Med Tech Center will be a new pole for promoting life sciences in Lugano and in Ticino. With 5'400 mq of labs and e 2'300 mq of open space the Mizar will welcome researchers groups, institutional promoters and entrepreneurs. Fondazione AGIRE will manage a full floor for the new Technopole focused on biotech's start-ups.
    The City of Lugano is the main contributor, the Fondazione Cardiocentro contributed with an investment of 5.05 Mio CHF and the Canton Ticino with a bank guarantee of 5 Mio CHF enabled a bank loan from Banca Stato for 33 Mio CHF. The whole investment was ca. 48 Mio CHF
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