Biotechnology in France
The biotech sector in France faces something of a paradox. On the one hand, the French research landscape has been in a state of upheaval for some years. New advancement programs and funding structures have been established and new clusters have formed. On the other hand, there is still a striking shortage of money and the medium-sized sector is barely finding the money to advance the development of their active substances. On a legal level, only research on human embryonic stem cells has so far come under authoritative direction. A genetic engineering law is still pending and is likely to be passed in 2006 whereas the ‘Pacte pour la Recherche’ (research pact) came into effect in april this year.
The most recent key figures presented in the current industry report by France Biotech, the French biotechnology business association, show a difficult situation in France: in 2005, investment decreased fifty percent in comparison with the previous year, despite a better-stocked company pipeline. Now hopes are resting on the three Biotech enterprises which dared the leap on to the stock exchange floor in 2005: Ipsen, BioAlliance and ExonHit. These moves come some time after the previous stock exchange entry by NicOx in 1999. As regards the areas of which French biotech companies or research institutes are active they are concentrated particularly on the fields of health and nutrition. Supported by millions of euros in funding programs, it’s in these areas that the industry expects its first products.
On the political agenda, 2006 should still provide some surprises. For stem cell research, obligatory guidelines for researchers working with human embryonic stem cells were published February 2006, while a decision for green genetic engineering is still pending. The Ministry of Research presented a first draft in February 2006, but the question of a liability fund for farmers who cultivate genetically changed plants has been a subject of much debate. Likewise debated was the research pact, intended to strengthen French research in the context of international competition, but in april it came into effect. First forerunners for the restructuring and reorientation were the creation of a project-based funding structure, the establishment of centers of excellence and the fortification of industrial research in 2005.