“Why do we have a Roche Innovation Centre in Copenhagen? The answer is obvious; because that’s where the talent is. We go where there are talented people and solid science. In this case it happened to be Denmark, and it then becomes the basis for increasing our effort in the country – and we are happy to do so.”
The words come from Christoph Franz. He has served on the Board of Directors for Roche since 2011 and been Chairman for the Swiss life science pioneer since 2014. Same year as Roche acquired the Danish biotech company, Santaris Pharma.
Instead of integrating Santaris Pharma’s research in its activities in Basel, Switzerland, Roche transformed the company into one of its now seven global innovation centres and kept the company’s employees in Copenhagen.
Recipe for success: High performance and innovative ideas
“We felt there was high performance and a team with very innovative ideas here, and that was the reason why we decided to keep this unit with scientific entrepreneurship and spirit in Denmark. We value those types of people highly in Roche and that’s why we rebranded Santaris Pharma as Roche Innovation Centre Copenhagen,” Christoph Franz explains.
When a major corporation with a large research organization buys a smaller biotech company, the spirit of the start-up company can easily be lost in the bureaucracy of the larger organization, Christoph Franz believes.
“That spirit is one of the recipes for success, and we want to maintain that; innovation is not something you simply order. Viewed in isolation, an acquisition doesn’t add much value in itself. In buying a company, you can attract the talented individuals who are a part of that company. While it's relatively easy to move equipment and documents, it’s a lot more difficult to move people and their families.”
In the case of Santaris Pharma, Roche acquired a technology originated by Danish professors at the University of Southern Denmark. Santaris Pharma was then founded in 2003 through the merge of two smaller biotech companies. According to the Danish Growth Fund, the company has attracted total venture capital of approximately DKK 600 million (USD 85 million).
Click to read the full original interview with Christoph Franz
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Photograph: Jacques Holst / Copenhagen Media Centre