Clinical Innovation in the DACH Region

3 - 4 Minutes

The DACH region of Europe has become synonymous with clinical innovation.What makes this are...

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The DACH region of Europe has become synonymous with clinical innovation.
What makes this area such a hotbed for pioneering new medical technologies and clinical trials?

The DACH region in Europe comprises Germany (D), Austria (A) and Switzerland (CH). Between them these countries are renowned as the engine of clinical research. Anyone wishing to pursue a career in pharma and biotech would do well to consider joining the DACH research ecosystem.

Why is DACH such a hotbed for clinical research?
The DACH region is home to a concentration of pharma and biotech companies. The headquarters of Bayer, Roche and Novartis are located here, and other large pharmas such as Sanofi are investing in research sites in the area, or in biotech companies that already reside there.

There are several reasons for this high density of pharma and biotech being attracted to, or springing up, in the DACH region. First, these countries are home to some of the highest quality academic research institutions, building the foundations for many of the discoveries that are later commercialized in the region. European countries also have much higher publication rates than the US or China, according to a McKinsey analysis.

Second, there is plenty of public funding available to support this research. DACH countries lead Europe in R&D spending and together filed more than four times the number of patents of individual European countries in 2020, and almost half as many as the US.

Third, nascent biotechs can find support in the form of investment and collaboration from existing regional biotech clusters, as well as a long and successful history of clinical and medical technology development from pharma companies originally founded in the DACH region, such as Merck at Darmstadt, Germany.

The DACH region also provides a gateway to clinical research in Eastern Europe, helping to reach broader and more diverse patient populations for clinical trial recruitment through international collaboration.

Top research and innovation areas in the DACH region
A major area of investment in the DACH region right now is digital health. Some 50+ start-up companies have been founded in the past 12 months focusing on digital health in this region, with particular growth in women’s health and direct-to-consumer technologies.

One of the reasons for this growth is the improving regulatory landscape for digital health technologies, with Germany leading the way with its 2019 Digital Health Care Act. Another is the close proximity of academic research to clinical sites that allow tools to be developed with the patients and healthcare professionals who will use them. Local biotech clusters and plenty of venture capital investment is then available to support swift translation into a commercial product.

Another key area of activity in the DACH region is clinical trials, with Germany in particular punching above its weight in terms of number of clinical trials relative to its population size. Most recent data shows that Germany ranks fourth behind the US, China and Japan in number of clinical trial registrations in 2020, accounting for more than 7% of trials globally.

In addition to the extensive expertise and experience in the drug development and medical technology sectors, the regulatory environment is becoming more favourable for innovation in the clinical sector, with the EU driving initiatives such as the Common European Health Data Space (EHDS) for sharing health data across the single market. With increasing global focus on the potential opportunities for using real-world health data in research, this will help position the DACH region even more firmly as a top destination for clinical innovation.


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