"Life sciences, a force of USI"


Institutional Communication Service

3 December 2018

Providing specific knowledge tools to enable young entrepreneurs, potential or already active, to successfully venture into the promising but also very complex world of life science business: this is the aim of "Bio- and Medtech entrepreneurship - From start-up to exit", the volume edited by Heidrun Flaadt Cervini in collaboration with Jörg Dogwiler. An initiative that promotes and enhances the special efforts of USI in this highly innovative field, in the context of the recently established Faculty of Biomedical Sciences. The author explains the meaning and scope of this publication and the its context.

by Giancarlo Dillena (original article in Italian, see attached)


The book is the result of the experience of the "Bio-Business" and "MedTechBusiness" courses: what is it about?

BioBusiness and MedTech Business are two comprehensive, 5-days advanced programs in life science entrepreneurship developed at USI in 2010 and 2014, respectively. The BioBusiness Program focuses on the development of new medicines for still uncurable diseases. The MedTech Business program concentrates on the development of new medical instruments and diagnostics. Both programs target young and future entrepreneurs, which intend to start and finance a bio- or medtech start-up or spin off company.


What are the characteristics of this business compared to other business areas?

Innovation in bio- and medical technologies is distinct from other types of innovation and has been characterized by the WHO. They describe features as a regulatory framework to ensure quality, safety and efficacy; high costs of research and development associated with high risks of failure; input from the public sector (research, funding, infrastructure) and ethical considerations. Thus, each entrepreneur should be aware that the process of innovation in life science is capital intensive, carries a high risk and is highly regulated.


Why did you develop this proposal in a young but also small university like USI, instead of a large and established research centre? What can USI offer, and what are the advantages?

When I first came to Ticino in 2008, I met with Prof. Piero Martinoli, who was President at USI. He spoke about his wish to set up a new Executive Training Platform and offered me a mandate to conclude a global market research identifying needs and niches in the advanced training market. The outcome of the study showed that entrepreneurship programs in the life science sector were missing from the educational paths offered at the European universities. Due to these findings I was given permission to move forward in developing training programs that would fill this gap.


The new USI Faculty of Biomedical Sciences is a reality: to what extent and in what way do the programs you run fit in?

The programs are offered now through a Center of Advanced Studies on Entrepreneurship in BioMedicine (CASE BioMed) which creates the third pillar within this new Faculty at USI. For the first time in Switzerland, medical master students will benefit from an education that covers medical practice (IMed), scientific research (IRB) and biomedical innovation (CASE BioMed). The education in biomedicine at USI will therefore provide added value compared to other Swiss universities -and this competitive advantage will significantly improve the level of education and career prospects of graduates and at the same time foster the creation of biomedical innovations.


In addition to Bio- and Medtech, the other key concept is Entrepreneurship. While you can certainly teach techniques in this field too, to what extent can you stimulate the "entrepreneurial spirit" that is its essential driving force?

On the one side, the structure of the programs ensures that this combination is effectively realized: The programs are composed of life sciences sector-specific (technical) topics which are taught together with entrepreneurial themes. On the other side, the selection process for the students of these programs, which is highly competitive, targets participants that are already working on a concrete business idea or have already incorporated their own company.


In the book there are also many funny cartoons: why did you think to include this humor in a text that deals with such difficult and "serious" issues?

To help the reader to understand the complex aspects of life science entrepreneurship, we developed the cartoons to illustrate the pitfalls and challenges of start-ups in a humorous manner lending the book a lighter perspective. The recognized journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” published an article by J. Shurkin stating that researchers found that the use of cartoons in scientific publications can be very effective, when well done, offering a level of engagement few other media can match.