Basel has become the economic centre for northwestern Switzerland, specialising in research and development, technology, and manufacturing. That's why the growth rate of the economy in the Basel area has ranked number one in Switzerland for the last ten years.
The prosperity of Basel is steeped in a remarkable history, from its founding in prehistoric times by the Celts, to the subsequent Roman settlement at Augusta Raurica in 44 BC. The town still exists today and, being only 20 km east of Basel, makes a good day trip for a dose of history.
At the dawn of the Renaissance, Pope Pius II founded the University of Basel--Switzerland's oldest university--in 1460. The University of Basel has always been a major draw to the area, as a training ground for inspired thinkers like Paracelsus (1493-1541), whose pioneering ideas led to modern pharmaceutical medicine--a mainstay of Basel today.
Tadeus Reichstein also taught at and was the director of the Pharmaceutical Institute in the University of Basel. In 1950 he won the Nobel Prize for hormone studies that culminated in the isolation of cortisone, and it was he who discovered that cortisone was therapeutic in treating rheumatoid arthritis. He also succeeded in synthesizing Vitamin C.
Today, the very building that saw such prolific work from Paracelsus and Reichstein houses the Pharmacy Museum, which contains the world's largest collections on the history of pharmacy.
Other Nobel Prize winners have also contributed to the university's history of excellence. Microbiologist and 1978 Nobel Prize winner Werner Arber discovered the tools that made it possible to recombine the blueprints imprinted on genes. His discovery ensured that the University of Basel was among the first research institutes to work with genetic engineering.
The Basel Pharmaceutical Industry was very quick in taking up new technologies. No less than three Nobel Prizes were awarded to people connected with the Institute for Immunology--Niels Jerne, Georges Kohler and Susumu Tonegawa--which Roche founded in 1969.
The early and successful investment in basic research and new technologies is the basis for innovative drugs and much of Basel's current economic success. And work at the University of Basel paved the way.
Life science cluster
The Basel area is Europe's leading centre for pharmaceuticals, chemical and modern biotechnology, commonly referred to as BioValley for its synergies with similar industries in southern Germany's Baden region and southern France's Alsace region.
In the BioValley there are approximately 300 life sciences companies...