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Working in Switzerland: Michael Bieri

A CSL Behring leader in advanced methodologies and innovation talks about his work life and how collaboration took “a big step forward” in 2020.

Michael Bieri at CSL Behring's Bern facility in Switzerland

CSL Behring’s Michael Bieri, Director of Advanced Methodologies & Innovation, recently spoke with UNIVERSUM, a global agency that tracks and ranks employers. CSL Behring, which develops and manufactures treatments for people with rare and serious disease, has a large facility in Bern, Switzerland, where Bieri is also Process Engineering Site Lead. In the interview, he talked about his top project, the role of cooperation during the pandemic and how his role links research and production. In Bern, CSL Behring recently unveiled a $332 million expansion that will enable increased production of immunoglobulin treatments. CSL Behring now ranks among the top 20 employers in Switzerland.

What is your most important project at the moment?

For me personally and for us as a company, there was a truly unique project in 2020: the development of a medicine to treat COVID-19. Firstly, because it was incredibly motivating to work on a medicine that has the potential to help so many people around the world. Secondly, because the whole project was extremely ambitious in terms of time frame and scope. We started development in March and by mid-July we were able to fill the first units, which then went into clinical trials worldwide. The project also has a unique setup: In order to be able to deliver tangible and reliable results quickly, we have joined forces with other companies to form the CoVIg-19 Plasma Alliance – an unprecedented partnership of leading plasma-based companies, including CSL Behring.

How important is collaboration when facing a pandemic?

Collaboration is a basic requirement if you want to speed things up. It was therefore a big step forward for all of us when our management decided to enter into a partnership of this magnitude with other companies. Incidentally, there was also particularly intensive collaboration within our company. Colleagues from development, the different areas of production, packaging, logistics and the legal department worked together very closely and with great commitment. For myself, it was a first that lawyers from the various stakeholders participated directly in the meetings in order to steer the partnership from a legal perspective.

How would you describe your role?

I am the link between research and production, so to speak. In this project, my tasks also included connecting our top management and that of the other plasma manufacturers, as well as prioritizing, triggering or holding back activities – and thus influencing the direction we take. To do this, we all had to communicate very openly, honestly and meaningfully with one another and be especially proactive. Production is now complete, and I am proud that the planning went so well. It probably helped that I am quite good at getting people to communicate and at making connections between things. But apart from that, I simply enjoy bringing different worlds such as research and production together. I like sharing success – that way you get more of it.