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Biotechnology flourishes in Germany

June 1, 2021
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Why this is important to Wisconsin businesses: With the largest number of biotech companies in Europe, world-class research infrastructure and internationally renowned scientists, Germany has established itself as an international biotechnology hub.

With a population of 84.2 million and a gross domestic product of $3.8 trillion USD in 2020, Germany is the largest economy in Europe and the fourth largest in the world. Exports reached a total value of $1.4 trillion in 2020, while the value of imports was $1.3 billion USD. The third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic hit the economy much harder than in most other European countries, and yet German foreign trade and the closely related industrial economy are proving robust. There was a noticeable increase in incoming orders from abroad. The overall outlook for German foreign trade is therefore positive, especially with the U.S.

Germany has one of the largest consumer markets for health care products in Europe and its biotech industry is thriving, with strength from both long-established companies and startups. Of the 668 small and midsize German biotechnology companies, a total of 55% are involved in medical research and development, according to Bio Deutschland:

  • 25% are developing new drugs, such as cancer immunotherapies and treatments for autoimmune or neurological diseases.
  • 16% are working on diagnostics to screen for diseases such as cancer or for rapid pathogen detection.
  • 14% offer services related to medical research.

These medical biotech companies contribute significantly to the value of the German health care system. About 9% of German biotech companies are working on projects relating to industrial biotechnology—developing, for example, biofuels, enzymes, food supplements or specialty chemicals—and about 6% deal with big data and bioinformatics. The number of smaller companies dedicated to agricultural biotechnology is declining; only 3% are active in this field.

The estimated total value of Germany’s medical biotechnology field was $13 billion USD in 2019. Biotechnology is still a small subsector of the overall health care industry. However, the growth of medical biotech is significantly faster than that of the rest of the industrial health economy. Sales of biopharmaceuticals amounted to $12 trillion USD in 2019, or 28.7% of the total German pharmaceutical market.

Although Germany is one of the world’s leading biotech nations and continues to score well in basic research, the transfer of research results into marketed therapies or environmentally friendly technologies is still lagging behind. In Germany, biotechnology companies with technology platforms and services are much more common than the more capital-intensive pharmaceutical drug developers.  Although Germans are now largely positive about therapeutics from biotechnology and genetic engineering, the use of biotechnology in areas such as personal care, household products or animal feed has been little explored. Thus, as some biotech sectors in Germany are still to be further developed, there are business opportunities for Wisconsin exporters, especially in areas such as industrial biotech, agricultural biotech and bioinformatics.

Wisconsin companies with strength in multiple subsectors of biohealth can not only contribute to the growth of the German market but also explore synergies with German companies.

MEDICA trade show (November 2022, Düsseldorf, https://www.medica.de/), one of the major international trade fairs in the medical sector, offers a good opportunity to meet local players of the German biotechnology industry.

 

 

 

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