Biomedical research and innovation as a growth driver for Ticino

Giacomo Pellegatta

16.02.2017 16:13
USI Lugano

In the past years, millions were invested in Ticino to launch new study programs 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 a new Master program in 2020 in collaboration with partner universities including ETH Zurich, University of Basel and the University of Zurich. 70 students from the partner universities will be admitted to the USI Bachelor program which will start in September 2017.

During the press conference, speakers from various partner institutions put a strong emphasis on the “Era” of the biomedical sciences and confirmed that after a few years of preparation, they are ready to contribute to the development of life sciences sector in the region of Ticino.

Opportunity for innovation and entrepreneurship
Enhancing innovation and benefit for new entrepreneurship initiative is one of the main objectives 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 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 that it is not one of the most developed and traditional economic sectors in Ticino, it showed an increase in terms of added value (BAK Basel 2014) and had a significant contribution to the growth of GDP in Ticino. In Ticino, there are many well-known companies operating worldwide auch as 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 sectors for the future development of the territory.

Indeed, the canton take advantage of the presence of the 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 of the medical private structure that are highly recognized (Cardiocentro Ticino and Clinica Luganese).

A new project built with and for a network
The complexity of the field requires a considerable amount of time to develop collaborations between different institutions and to achieve a strong public-private partnership. Nonetheless, significant milestones were achieved during the course of last year:

  • In 2014 the creation of the new Faculty of Biomedical Sciences at USI with the cooperation of all the medical structure in Ticino was approved.
  • In 2015/2016 USI established partnerships with 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 office space, laboratories with attached offices, and meeting rooms. This infrastructure will contribute to the development of the institutes.
  • In November 2016, the Municipal Council of Lugano approved the credit of 10 Million swiss Francs to purchase Mizar, a complex for the future Lugano Med Tech Center (scheduled to start operating at the end of 2017). The Lugano Med Tech Center will be a new pool for promoting life sciences in Lugano and Ticino at large. With 5'400 mq of labs and a 2'300 smq of open space, the Mizar will welcome researcher 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 with an investment of 5.05 Million, the Canton of Ticino with a bank loan of 5 Million Swiss Francs and Banca Stato with another loan of 33 million Swiss francs, aim to accelerate the development Fondazione Cardiocentro.

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