A tale of two sites

Around 21,000 Roche employees work in Basel and San Francisco. But what do these two cities have in common (apart from Roche and Genentech!) and how do they differ? Here we find out, and have a chat with the Site Heads in each city.

Differences and similarities

Basel is home to the Roche company headquarters; South San Francisco to Genentech, the US headquarters.

Group and divisional management is based at the Basel & Kaiseraugst site, as are Pharma Research and Early Development, product development, production and marketing. Kaiseraugst is a cornerstone of Roche's global production and logistics network, with a large IT hub currently being built on the site. The Genentech site in California, Roche’s North America hub, is home to Genentech Research and Early Development, production facilities and a full array of business functions. It also serves as the headquarters of Roche Commercial Operations for North America.

What else do the two sites have in common, and how do they differ?

Roche’s headquarters in Basel
Genentech in South San Francisco

Thriving economies

The Basel region has the most dynamic economy in Switzerland. In addition to the financial and logistics sectors, the city is a key centre for life sciences research and industry. Due to Basel’s location on two national borders, many people work here as cross-border commuters from Germany or France.

The San Francisco Bay Area is known as a centre for information technology, bio- and nanotechnology, and the semiconductor and renewable energy industries. Facebook, Google and Apple are just a few of the big-name companies which can be found in the vicinity of Genentech.

Fun facts

Visitors a year
Most popular sports team
Distance to city center
Distance to the next border
Oldest building
Tallest building


Basel is located at the Rhine, with five road bridges connecting greater Basel with lesser Basel on the other side. San Francisco is situated on the bay of the same name on the Pacific coast. Here the Golden Gate Bridge – San Francisco’s most famous landmark – links the north of the city with the southern part of Marin County.


Anyone who rides a bike can confirm that Basel has many hills to negotiate. San Francisco is also famously hilly: anything above 30 meters is called a hill, and there are 42 such elevations.


Both cities are subject to the risk of earthquakes. Due to its proximity to the San Andreas Fault, San Francisco has already experienced a number of major tremors, the most devastating of which famously occurred in 1906. Basel is situated on the Upper Rhine Plain, a very active earthquake zone. In 1356, the city was hit and largely destroyed by the strongest earthquake ever to have occurred north of the Alps.

Both similar and different

Annual hours of sunshine

While the two cities have many things in common, there are many differences too. One of the most obvious is the population; whereas the tri-national metropolitan area of Basel has some 900,000 inhabitants, the San Francisco Bay Area is home to 7.1 million people. There is also the fact that San Francisco enjoys almost double the amount of sunshine every year. But then again, what about the snowmen we can build on a winter’s day in Basel?

Meet the site heads

Carla Boragno is Site Head in South San Francisco and Jürg Erismann in Basel/Kaiseraugst.

What makes Roche and Genentech great places to work?

Carla Boragno: Our mission to discover and develop medicines to meet critical unmet medical needs attracts the best people to work here. What we do makes a difference in people’s lives, and this really motivates our employees.

Jürg Erismann: I’ve been with Roche for 25 years, and I’d recommend the company any time as a fantastic employer. The Roche corporate culture is built round human beings—our employees on the one hand, to whom we offer an environment built on appreciation, and patients on the other, whose wellbeing is the unifying goal of all our efforts.

A site is as complex and diverse as a small city. What are the real challenges at your site?

Carla Boragno: Creating and maintaining a sustainable and healthy work environment that supports our employees to do their best work every day.

Jürg Erismann: The fact that over three billion francs are being invested at Basel and Kaiseraugst is giving us the opportunity to reconfigure the current and future needs of our headquarters, the workplace of 9500 staff members. But this process will take several years, and it is important to ensure that we can continue to offer all employees a working environment that will give them optimum support over the next ten years despite all the construction work. We have to consider the needs of many other stakeholder groups, such as our neighbors or the city of Basel. Roche has been thriving and growing here for around 120 years, and we want to maintain these good relations in the future.

If you had the ability to implement anything you wanted at your site what would it be?

Carla Boragno: Running a high-speed ferry system that could get our employees from multiple points around the bay to our campus without them having to spend a crazy amount of time on the roads.

Jürg Erismann: Traffic and transport are major topics. I’d take up a suggestion made by my predecessor Matthias Baltisberger and fund a monorail link between Basel and Kaiseraugst.