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How Moderna is growing in Switzerland

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How Moderna is growing in Switzerland

22 May 2023

The number one rule in real estate is “Location, Location, Location.” The global biotech company Moderna found its location in the Basel Area where it collaborates with the contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) Lonza to produce its mRNA vaccines from Switzerland.

The new European headquarters in Basel has grown from one person, Nicolas Chornet, operating from borrowed accommodation to around 140 people in offices in the heart of the city. The team takes care of production processes, quality control, supply chains, finances and medical affairs, serving mainly Europe, Africa and the Middle East.


10 year collaboration agreement between Moderna and Lonza

Moderna is a pharmaceutical and biotechnology company founded in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 2010. It uses pioneering mRNA science to create a new generation of transformative medicines for patients. mRNA medicines fight diseases differently than traditional medicines by prompting the immune system to create the tools to treat or prevent disease.

Moderna has become almost a household name through its rapid development of a vaccine for COVID-19. This was one of the reasons why the company zeroed in on the Basel Area as its location of choice when establishing its European base.

In May 2020, Moderna and Basel-based CDMO Lonza announced a 10-year strategic collaboration to enable the manufacturing of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, and future products, at Lonza’s production plant in Visp, Switzerland.

According to Nicolas Chornet it made sound strategic sense for the partners to be closely located to one another.


Was this the main reason for choosing the Basel Area?

We partnered very early in our manufacturing with Lonza. Basel made sense for Moderna because of its hub of biotech and pharmaceutical companies. It was easier for us to settle in this environment and to recruit a pool of highly specialised people. Also, the multicultural aspect of Basel was very interesting for our company too.

Nicolas ChornetSenior Vice President International Manufacturing Europe

Mr Chornet also cited the Basel Area’s strategically important position in the heart of Europe, with first-class road rail and air transport infrastructure, a wealth of local science and technology talent, world-class universities, the support of agencies like Basel Area Business & Innovation, and a stable political and economic environment.

The Basel Area is very well connected. We have manufacturing infrastructure and CDMO’s in different locations in Europe such as Spain and Italy, and as far afield as South Korea. The logistics are easy. The Basel airport is close and very efficient and Zurich airport is well-connected by train. I think Basel is a very efficient, very well-organized city, with a high level of expertise in our field. It certainly helps when you have a strong academic base, especially one that’s geared towards our industry. We interact with strong experts in Switzerland at all levels, whether government or private. We factored these experiences into our decision to come to Switzerland.

Did you receive much help from the authorities and support agencies?

Yes, from the very beginning. When we started looking into Switzerland, we contacted the local authorities, and they got in touch with us very quickly. They helped us to take the first steps, from finding offices to reviewing the important moves to make such as registering, recruiting, or hiring.

The earlier you connect with Basel Area Business & Innovation, the better. They were extremely supportive in helping us navigate through the landscape once we arrived here. It made things easy and fast for us. I would highly recommend any company thinking of establishing here to connect with Basel Area Business & Innovation – they’re equipped for this.


Looking forward, what comes next?

Now we’re looking towards stabilizing after the COVID wave. We are progressing-through new therapies quite quickly. We are looking forward to our pan-respiratory vaccine and to the different other respiratory vaccines. We’re preparing the organization towards this development and plan to recruit more talent. We must adjust to how we continue developing as a company here in Basel.


Quotes from interview transcript, collected by the agency KDM, in collaboration with Luke Mircea-Willats, International Communications and Media at Moderna (July 2022).

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