Why is the renowned Biotech in Europe Forum also known as the “Sachs conference” being held in Basel?
After thirteen years in Munich and Zurich the renowned “Biotech in Europe Forum” relocated to Basel a few years ago. Leonard Sachs, the founder of the forum, explains the background behind this move in this personal interview.
What has been your motivation to bring the “Sachs conference” to Basel four years ago?
L. Sachs: After thirteen years in Munich and Zurich we wanted to relocate our leading forum to the major European industry hub for life sciences and make use of the flexible facilities at the Congress Center Basel. We have sought to support the Swiss biotech community and realized that the greatest growth is in the Basel area. By holding the event in Basel, we can provide an international platform to the local biotech community.
What has been the greatest challenge during a congress organization?
L. Sachs: To start with, there is the whole “logistics” to deal with when organizing a large scale congress. There is the whole preparatory work focusing on design of the conference layout and building the necessary facilities. The scheduling has to be carefully coordinated and choreographed. Hospitality wise we have to meet the high expectations in terms of food and refreshments. The public WIFI needs to be reliable.
Apart from these “nuts and bolts” issues, the main challenge is to each year come up with a program that inspires, challenges and connects the industry. Markets are constantly evolving which means that finding the key topics and speakers is like pursuing “moving targets”. Nevertheless, we always strive to succeed in getting both interesting and controversial speakers that are shaping the future.
We see ourselves as a bridge between the industries in the US and Europe. Compared to the US, assets in Europe are more reasonably priced and at the same time there is less capital available. Therefore, there is a real demand on both sides to come together.
What changes have you noticed in Basel’s life sciences industry over the last few years?
L. Sachs: The headline story of last year has been the highly successful sale of Actelion and spin-off of Idorsia. Also, because of the changing local employment at Novartis and Roche there is a pool of available and experienced business development managers and scientists. They are succeeding to draw capital and launch new ventures. Targimmune is a good example of a start-up backed by local and US capital. There are also great examples of new ventures like Piqur Therapeutics based on the world class science from local academic institutions. I am really impressed what Roivant is doing here. Baselaunch is another great development. I think there is a really good bottom-up approach evolving in the Basel area.
What do you particularly appreciate about Basel as a congress location and as a city?
L. Sachs: Apart from being the life sciences hub it is also a very multinational city. The Congress Center Basel offers very professional facilities. Les Trois Rois, a beautiful historic hotel, where we host our main conference reception is always very much enjoyed by the delegates.
Where do you see Sachs Associates in 10 years?
L. Sachs: Expanding beyond the healthcare industry in Europe and the US and looking at opportunities in the emerging markets.
Sachs Associates Ltd. is a UK Company focused on producing a limited number of high profile and transactional investor conferences which cover the life sciences and emerging markets. Sachs Associates has been in business over twenty years and for many of these partnered with Dow Jones and Bloomberg on these events in Europe and the USA. Past speakers have included the current Israeli Prime Minister, a former Russian Prime Minister and a former US Secretary of the Treasury.
Leonard Sachs, the CEO is a British citizen, educated at the LSE and City University Business School. He has wide interests and enjoys networking and travel.