Some of you reading this will be right at the beginning of your journey into the biotech industry. Others may be looking to top up your knowledge in a postgrad course, or carry out your own research as part of a PhD.
Choosing a city in which to base yourself and a university and program that will challenge you is tough. If you’re reading this article, I will assume that you would like to take your interest in biotech further. To help you decide where to study, I’ve put together a list of the top universities in the field.
University is often just the beginning of your biotechnology career. Lectures and labs will keep you busy but it is worth keeping one eye on the future and a career for when you finish. I’ve included some information about the biotech ecosystem surrounding the universities, which might offer graduate programs and jobs in the sector.
Before getting started, something to bear in mind is that not all courses will be taught in English, so you may have to learn a new language depending on where you want to go – particularly in countries like France, Spain, and Italy.
Making good use of our international team, I’ve come up with a list of some of Europe’s best universities for studying biotech, which might be just what you need to help make that all-important decision.
In the UK, it is hard to look past the ‘Golden Triangle’ of Cambridge, Oxford, and London. These cities are home to some of the best universities in the world, which have opened their own accelerators to help support the technology being developed in their labs.
The Universities of Cambridge and Oxford are steeped in a rich history of scientific discovery, notably the discovery of DNA’s helical structure by James Watson and Francis Crick in Cambridge. Both cities are also bulging with exciting biotech companies, including Bicycle Therapeutics in Cambridge and Adaptimmune in Oxford.
London dwarfs the two university towns and is home to a number of universities offering biotech courses. Imperial College London, which focuses on science, technology, and medicine, stands out, with researchers recently produced biomaterials that mimic our organs. University College London is another big name, and its spin-out Autolus is engineering T cell immunotherapies.
I studied a BSc in Biology and MSc in ‘Genes, Drugs, and Stem Cells’ at Imperial and recommend the university for its wide array of research, great facilities, and bonus features like Hackspace, which gives students the resources to turn their ideas into reality.
There are plenty more universities across the country carrying out exciting biotech research, including Birmingham, Warwick, and Edinburgh, which I read about regularly.
If you fancy finishing off a biotech-filled day with a Guinness, head to Ireland – a country that is home to impressive biotechs and a leading synbio startup accelerator, RebelBio.
Dublin’s Trinity College offers a range of courses in the bioscience field to both undergraduates and postgraduates. One course that catches my eye is the MSc in Translational Oncology, which not only teaches students about the causes of cancer but also includes classes in clinical development and health economics.
The ‘Grande Ecole’ system narrows down our search for the top places to study biotech in France. To enter one, a student must survive two rigorous years of ‘classe preparatoire’.
Sup’Biotech in Paris stands out – and not just because our founders went there – as the course covers science and engineering, management, industrial know-how, and biotech markets. Our Managing Director Joachim told me: “It was the right mix of science and other topics such as marketing and management. From the first day, we were immersed in the biotech industry, which is very rare in other schools.”
Students can also gain work experience around the world. Our CEO Philip spent time in Boston: “[Sup’Biotech is] closely connected with the industry and has an international focus. I did 18 months of internships over my 5 years of studying there… These experiences taught me a lot.” Sounds good right?! That’s without considering the bulging biotech ecosystem in the city, which is home to companies like Enterome.
Other top schools include ESBS Strasbourg, which focuses on your more typical biotechnology, and AgroParisTech, which researches sustainable ways to feed the growing global population. ENTSBB in Bordeaux and Polytech Marseille are also worth looking at!
Belgium is home to some big names in the biotech industry, including newly-acquired Ablynx and Eduardo Bravo’s company TiGenix. However, the country is well known for chocolate, waffles, chips, and beer so you may have to watch your waistline if you study there!
KU Leuven and the Université Catholique de Louvain are two of the country’s best universities and, luckily for you, they both offer great courses for people looking to work in the biotech industry. In particular, KU Leuven has biotechnology programs for undergrads and postgrads.
Although it eventually failed, the approval of Glybera, Europe’s first gene therapy, put the Netherlands on the biotech map. With that sort of pedigree, the country is bound to have some good places to study the subject.
The University of Groningen offers a course called Life Science and Technology, which combines the fields of biology, pharmacy, physics, and chemistry. By the end of it, you’ll understand how whole organs are generated from cells and what you’d need to design an artificial heart valve.
Studying in Germany has its advantages: great street food, cheap beer… and perhaps low tuition fees, great resources, and good career prospects are important too.
RWTH Aachen has an internationally recognized biotechnology department and it is one of the best universities in Germany to offer biotechnology courses to both undergraduates and postgraduates. The spa town is home to anesthetics biotech PAION, which was co-founded Mariola Soehngen, one of our top female entrepreneurs.
Or why not join us in Berlin, Germany’s lively capital, where TU Berlin offers ‘hands-on’ courses that include internships. This gives its graduates the perfect opportunity to build up some experience and get involved with the city’s thriving biotech scene, possibly with a company like Mologen.
Heading South to Munich, you’ll find some of Germany’s top universities, as well as one of the country’s best companies, MorphoSys. The city’s Ludwig-Maximilians Universität provides both Bachelor’s and Master’s courses in Biology, which will provide the perfect base for a career in the biotech industry. TU Munich offers a range of biotech programs, even in Brewing and Beverage Technology.
Finally, if a PhD is what you’re looking, the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics (MPI-CBG) in Dresden is a great option. Alessandro, our BD Manager, studied and worked at the institute and told me: “I had a great experience there – Biotech Dresden and the MPI-CBG definitely do a lot for their students.”
Does the thought of studying biotech during the week and skiing down Austria’s beautiful mountain ranges on the weekend appeal to you?
Well, the University of Vienna offers undergraduate and postgraduate courses in Biology and Biological Chemistry, respectively. Possibly the biggest draw for me would be studying in the same city as an exciting company like Themis, which is developing vaccines to prevent outbreaks of tropical diseases like chikungunya fever and Zika.
If you take a look at any world university standings, you will see ETH Zurich and the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne flying the flag for Switzerland.
Switzerland’s largest city, Zurich, is home to some of the country’s most impressive biotechs, including Numab. These companies get first pick of the students educated at ETH Zurich, which offers Bachelor’s and Master’s courses in Biology.
Geneva is Switzerland’s largest French-speaking city and home to the likes of Addex Therapeutics. École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, which is found not far from Geneva on Lac Leman, offer courses in biotechnology, jointly founded Campus Biotech, and has a good reputation for producing spin-outs.
Food, fashion, Ferraris… Italy is famous for a lot of things but could it also be where you make your first steps into the biotech industry?
The country’s up-and-coming biotech hub, Milan, could be the perfect place to do just that. It boasts companies like Genenta, as well as the prestigious San Raffaele Institute, which recently collaborated with GSK on an ADA-SCID trial, is based in the city, offering exciting research opportunities. Fortunately, the University of Milan offers a biotechnology degree course.
It is also worth considering the University of Modena, which offers Master’s courses in industrial and medical biotechnology. A big plus point for this institution is its locality to the city’s new Regenerative Medicine Institute, which was involved in the treatment of the ‘butterfly child’ who lost 80% of his skin due to a genetic disease called epidermolysis bullosa.
If you fancy escaping the cold and wet, as well as studying a bit of biotech, Spain may well be just the place for you.
Barcelona is Spain’s hottest biotech hub, where you’ll find companies like Oryzon. The Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona offers Bachelor’s and Master’s courses in biotechnology and students can get support from researchers involved in exciting projects like the development a microfluidic chip that recreates the blood-retina blood.
The country’s capital is also an attractive prospect – despite the lack of a beach – with the Politecnica de Madrid running undergraduate and postgraduate courses. A big bonus of studying in Madrid will be gaining access to a number of research centers, including the CNB, the CNIO, and the CNIC.
Denmark, Norway, and Sweden are home to some top universities, carrying out fantastic research. With Hadean Ventures raising €100M for life sciences companies in the region, the countries’ sectors are likely to get even better.
It’s hard to start anywhere else other than the Karolinska Institute, the home of the Nobel Prize. The Stockholm-based university offers undergraduate and postgraduate courses in biomedicine and the city is the perfect place to land a biotechnology job with leading companies like Wilson Therapeutics. Sweden is also home to Lund University, which offers a Master’s course in biotechnology.
Copenhagen is home to some impressive biotechs, including the latest member of the blockbuster club Genmab. If you dream of working for a top biotech like this, put yourself on its doorstep by studying at the University of Copenhagen, which offers postgraduate courses in English.
In Norway, the universities of Oslo and Trondheim both have good reputations in the biotech industry and offer Master’s courses in English. If forced to choose between the two, I’d plump for Oslo because of the top biotechs like Targovax that are based in the city.
I hope that this list of impressive universities can help you to find the perfect place for you to study biotech. If you have any other suggestions, perhaps in a country that has not been covered, please comment below!
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