May 31, 2021 Ecosystem

Italian health technologies: the 100 Italian Life Science Stories

The report 100 Italian Life Sciences Stories published by Fondazione Symbola and Enel, in collaboration with Farmindustria, tells 100 stories of companies, researchers, scientists, universities, startups and healthcare facilities that work every day to ensure people’s health and provide the best tools for treating and improving patients’ quality of life.

Through the narration of one hundred stories of innovation, the report explores a system of health technologies that counts up to 1.8 million workers, a production value of € 225 billion in 2018, an added value of € 100 billion and that reaches 10% of GDP.

Italy, with over 66,500 employees and a production value of € 32.2 billion in 2018 (which reached € 34 billion in 2019), is the second-largest producing country for the pharmaceutical industry in Europe after Germany (€ 32.9 billion), France (€ 23.2 billion), the United Kingdom and Spain. In the last ten years, the industry has recorded the highest export increase among the European countries (+168% compared to +86% for the EU average).

The Italian pharmaceutical industry is a highly articulated sector composed of multinationals, but also large and small national capital companies, with a strong specialisation in the development of drugs (increasingly innovative, particularly biotechnological), vaccines, plasma-derived products and in contract and development manufacturing.

Mirandola, in the province of Modena, is the most important biomedical district in Europe and the third in the world, after Minneapolis and Los Angeles in the United States of America.

Moreover, the first linear proton accelerator for the treatment of neoplasms, the first gene therapy approved in Europe, the first stem cell-based therapy in the world, and the first genomic approach for the development of a meningococcal vaccine are all Italian.

The report describes Italy’s innovations and excellence in various fields.

In the field of regenerative medicine and prosthetics, the study of plant structures is enabling our researchers to develop biocompatible substitutes obtained by 3D printing, or silk prostheses for the regeneration of nerves, tendons, ligaments and blood vessels.

There are also technologies for prevention, such as Next Generation Sequencing, which can quickly sequence DNA and detect predispositions to diseases, diagnose rare diseases, as well as diagnostic systems, combined with computing power and artificial intelligence, which can suggest to each person how to improve their training and diet.

There is also the biomedical sector, where technology meets design: bracelets capable of monitoring oxygenation in the blood, optical devices that turn our mobile phones into ophthalmoscopes capable of screening the retina by taking a selfie, portable electrocardiographs, etc.

In addition, Italy can count on advances in robotics and bioengineering made, thanks, for example, to innovative robot-assisted microsurgery procedures that guide the surgeon in the most complex operations, such as those on the brain or spine.

Biotechnologies are important for the treatment and cure of diseases, especially in the field of oncology or neurological and degenerative diseases. Rare diseases and advanced therapies are among the areas of excellence in Italy, both in terms of academic research and the number of scientific publications in the field of rare diseases, and in the production of so-called orphan drugs, mainly for oncology and dermatology.

Large investments are also directed towards infectious diseases and the development of vaccines. The research shows that Italy ranks fourth in the world for the number of scientific publications on Covid-19, preceded by the United States, China and the United Kingdom. In addition, numerous biotechnological innovations are used in the fight against the virus, such as gene sequencing of the virus for diagnostics, the development of vaccines in the search for an effective cure through antiviral drugs, and the testing of monoclonal antibodies.


The 100 Italian Life Sciences Stories report is available (in Italian) at the following link: