A bid by two Swiss billionaires to turn a mothballed pharma campus into the hub for a huge new biotechnology initiative has taken a major step forward today.
The Campus Biotech project announced that it had bought the 45,000-square-metre Sécheron site in Geneva, formerly occupied by Merck Serono, for an undisclosed amount.
The École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne and the University of Geneva will create a new institute for bio- and neuroengineering on the site, backed with a donation of 100 million Swiss francs (US$103 million) from the Wyss Foundation. Other research groups from the two universities are also expected to join the initiative.
Plans for the site were announced last year, but at that point the purchase of the real estate had not been secured (see ‘Cash injection set to revive Swiss drug site’).
Campus Biotech has been bankrolled by Hansjörg Wyss, the philanthropist who established the Wyss Foundation, and the Bertarelli family, headed by philanthropist Ernesto Bertarelli, whose grandfather founded Serono, a pharmaceutical company sold to Merck KGaA in 2007.
In statement, Ernesto Bertarelli said: “We are absolutely delighted to be moving forward with Campus Biotech. A central element of our plan is the creation of a Wyss Institute focusing on bio- and neuro-engineering. We have been much encouraged by the wide support for our project which we believe will bring immense value to the Geneva Lake region and Switzerland as a whole.”