Building trusted alliances across borders in times of limited resources

In the 1980s, approximately 80% of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) for products consumed in the European Union were produced within its borders. Today, this proportion has dwindled to less than 20%, with over 45% of APIs by volume coming from China.(1) Unprecedented recent shortages in generic drugs and fine chemicals are putting lives at risk, and it is clear that a comprehensive Europe-wide strategy is needed, encompassing diversified procurement networks, mandatory stockpiles, and collaborative partnerships. Only by working across borders and deploying biotechnological and technological solutions will Europe be able to achieve secure supply chains, and Swiss organizations could play a pivotal role in supporting and facilitating connections.

The end of plenty? Over the past two decades, China has been responsible for half of the growth of the world chemical market, and in 2017 it accounted for nearly 40 percent of global chemical industry revenue.(2) Limited availability of generics, chemicals, chips, plastic, metals, wood and other products at certain times in recent years has had significant repercussions around the world. For example, at times, up to 600 drugs such as propofol (muscle relaxant for intubation), fentanyl (painkiller) or synthocinone (induction of labor) were almost impossible to obtain in Switzerland and, in the case of synthocinone, veterinary products were reformulated for human use.(3)

Population growth, diminishing access to arable land, finite natural resources and political unrest paint a picture of a world grappling with escalating scarcity of supply. The imperative transition from reliance on oil to a sustainable economy, which will require substantial investment, is likely to exacerbate current problems. Nevertheless, amid these challenges, there exist innovative biotechnological and other technological solutions—some readily deployable and others in conceptual stages—that hold the potential to address these pressing issues.

Defossilization will bring new challenges to the chemical industry. Globally, our collective oil consumption stands at approximately 90 million barrels daily. To put this into perspective, Switzerland alone imported a staggering 22,000 tons of crude oil and its derivatives each day during 2021. Defossilization in the energy sector may be a financial feat, but the necessary methods, technologies and solutions such as photovoltaics, wind, geothermal energy and possibly also new nuclear reactor concepts are already available.

90% of chemicals, from high volume primary chemicals to fine chemicals, are made from oil and gas, and the chemical industry is responsible for 14% of global oil and 8% of natural gas consumption worldwide, with the remainder coming from coal and biomass. Moreover, the use of fossil sources for chemistry is increasing in relative and absolute terms, and by 2050, oil demand related to the consumption of plastics could exceed that of road passenger transport. Replacing oil, gas or coal as a raw material for all these products will be a major challenge as the chemical industry has only three options: 

  • improved efficiency and recycling

  • biobased raw materials

  • arbon capture and utilization

Chemistry stands at the beginning of countless value chains, forming the bedrock of many industries through its diverse array of products. Within this realm, biotechnology emerges as a pivotal force, poised to facilitate the deliberate revitalization of chemical processes by enhancing efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

It will be imperative to accelerate the integration of biotechnological solutions and adopt a mindset that encourages thinking chemically while acting biocatalytically. With the organic chemical toolbox at its limit as E-Factors reach unacceptable levels (Table 1) and increasing structural, chiral, and functional complexity, novel synthetic approaches are needed to address these challenges.

  1. Bulk chemicals………………………..> 0,1

  2. kgFine Chemicals…………………… 5 to 50 kg

  3. Pharmaceuticals………………25 to 100 kg

  4. Oligonucleotides……………………<1000 kg

  5. Peptides……………….……………...<1000 kg Oligosaccharides………………….<1000 kg

Table 1: Waste generated per kg of product produced in the chemical industry (E-Factor)

Malthusian crunch and the need to cooperate. There is also a need to strike a balance between the exponential growth of information and the linear growth of useful information. This requires fostering creativity beyond the confines of laboratories and factories, inventiveness in how we collaborate, and the exploration of novel approaches to form and sustain collaborative groups. The Swiss Biotech Report 2022 highlighted blockchain as a radically innovative option with the potential to contribute significantly to the sustained success of the biotech sector. The proposition of a groundbreaking Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO), whereby transactions and program rules are securely recorded on a blockchain, has the potential to greatly facilitate essential collaborations.

Reliable Swiss partners beyond borders.  Switzerland’s leading position as an innovator carries a responsibility to actively engage in service and collaboration with the global community (see also scienceindustries “Swiss life sciences industry and global value networks”). Furthermore, the Swiss chemical and pharmaceutical sector consistently ranks within the top three on the "Global Industry Competitiveness Index”. Despite the lesser-known status of Swiss biotech companies operating beyond the biopharmaceutical sphere, here is a curated selection of potential partners worth considering: 

Inofea (, Insite ( and Lock and Key Biosciences ( are partners for innovative enzyme solutions, enzyme immobilization or expression of toxic or difficult to express enzymes and proteins. 

Rheiazyme (, enzymatic recycling with a focus on polyamide-elastane (PA/EA) blends and a circular YARN-TO-YARN® ecosystem. Redbiotec ( provides a microorganism-based platform designed for the high-yield expression of proteins and small molecules. Bacthera ( is a Chr Hansen-Lonza joint venture for live biotherapeutic bacterial products, particularly fastidious strict anaerobes. 

Arxada (, the former Lonza Special Ingredients division, has an over 30 years’ experience in industrial biotechnology with a large state of the art fermentation site in Kouřim (CZ). Sandoz ( is a global leader in off-patent medicines with the last remaining integrated antibiotics production chain in the western hemisphere. Clariant ( developed a process (sunliquid®) for converting straw to advanced biofuels. 

Cell Culture Technologies (, the Swiss Biotech Center ( and Scinora ( all have competence in serum-free defined media and in cultivation and cryopreservation techniques. These competences are required for cell-based meat, seafood or dairy products. 

Cultivated Biosciences ( elaborated a yeast based dairy cream replacement. Geneva based Planetary ( has a manufacturing platform for fermentation-based microbial and fungal novel food products.  For more than two decades ABAC ( has employed the process of baker's yeast fermentation combined with plant-based raw materials to manufacture a diverse range of products serving nutritional, cosmetic, enological, and animal feed applications.  Since the early 1970s

Bioengineering ( has created fermentation system for laboratory, piloting and manufacturing purposes. Infors ( and Kbiotech ( provide cutting-edge bioprocess equipment and bioprocess software tailored for fermentation and cellular applications,  Neocarbons ( specializes in the development of LED photobioreactor systems designed for efficient phototrophic manufacturing.  With a rich history spanning three decades. Securecell ( has excelled in the continuous advancement of bioprocessing solutions, software, and monitoring devices. First contactsIt is worth noting that numerous Swiss universities are actively engaged in the biotechnology field.

Organizations such as Biotechnet Switzerland (, the non-profit competence hub Swiss Biotech Center ( and the Swiss Industrial Biocatalysis Consortium (SIBC) (, play a pivotal role in supporting and facilitating connections. They can offer resources and facilities for those taking their initial steps towards product development. For any inquiries related to biotechnology, the Swiss Biotech Association ( is a valuable point of contact that you should consider reaching out to. Last but not least Expertinova AG is a trusted partner since 2018  supporting you to turn scientific innovation into successful processes and products. 


  2. Insights/Chinas chemical industry New strategies for a new era/Chinas-chemical-industry.pdf

  3. Hecht et al., Catalyst (2020) 10, 1420; doi:10.3390/catal10121420