The COVID-19 pandemic and innovation in the Life Science space in the DACH region

07 May 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic and innovation in the Life Science space in the DACH region

The current crisis has altered the landscape of the life sciences industry in the DACH region, not only for the moment.

Pharmaceutical and diagnostic companies have experienced an increased demand. But also consumer healthcare products have shown increased consumption in the last couple of weeks. On the other hand, many medtech companies have seen reduced demand due to the postponement of non-essential and non-urgent procedures. How long-lasting the trends will be remains to be confirmed. The one trend that everybody hopes remains is the increased rate of innovation the whole industry is experiencing.

Rapid response to fight the coronavirus show the highly innovative nature of DACH based companies

In terms of rapid innovation, German and European companies are in no way inferior to US companies. According to a recent survey of the biotechnology industry association BIO Deutschland, over fifty companies based in Germany, Austria and Switzerland are engaged in combating the corona pandemic through their work in the fields of diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines, as well as through the production of disinfectants and other equipment.

In diagnostics, Bosch subsidiary Bosch Healthcare Solutions, together with the Northern Irish medical technology company Randox, has developed a rapid test that delivers results in less than three hours, SARS-CoV-2 being detected on the basis of the viral genome.

Roche in particular caused a sensation offering a fully automated coronavirus test that enables millions of diagnoses to be made every month and displays the results after just three and a half hours.

At the presentation in March, Group CEO Severin Schwan spoke of a "quantum leap". In addition, the Roche offer also has a very practical advantage as the test does not have to be performed manually. It runs fully automatically on existing diagnostic equipment. The FDA granted Roche emergency marketing authorisation.

German companies among frontrunners in diagnosis and treatment

QIAGEN, a biotech company based near Düsseldorf, Germany, has launched a rapid test consisting of an analyser and associated cartridges similar to those offered by Abbott. The test is very simple to use by taking a smear from the nasal cavity. The result is available within an hour. But also a start-up like the Berlin based PharmACT has developed a test that can detect an infection within 20 minutes and determine whether the person affected has an acute or a previous infection. The test costs less than 40 Euros and is available in pharmacies (to note: only available to healthcare personnel).

In the global race of developing vaccines to protect against Covid-19, German flagship companies CureVac and BioNTech are among the frontrunners. In collaboration with Pfizer, BioNTech has mobilised collective resources with extraordinary speed in the face of this worldwide challenge. As part of a global program, BioNTech has gained speedy approval from the authorities to start the first clinical trial of a COVID-19 vaccine candidate in Germany just days ago.

Where the German biotech industry generally lags far behind international competitors, the search for a coronavirus vaccine has suddenly turned the spotlight on German biotech and has inspired high hopes and additional funding thereby creating a huge window of opportunity for the whole sector.