Reports and warnings follow and look: Europe is struggling to take off its biotechnology industry. After 20 years of existence, this very demanding activity of top researchers, and capital invested in the long term always not reduced delay on the Americans. A worrisome finding, at the time when the sector of bio-drugs, these molecules from crossing between biotechnology and pharmacy, are beginning to weigh on the market of health.
Presentation at the forum BioVision from the investigation of the European association for Bioindustries (EuropaBio) threw a cold in a community that seems to be discouraged by the accumulation of financial, administrative, ethical, and social barriers in its expansion. "To succeed in biotechnology it is better to settle in Maryland, California, in the Massachusetts or in Britain or Ireland", indicates an industrialist.
In the eyes of all, the recent decision to IDM to merge with the American company Epimmune is the confirmation of this chronic weakness. IDM (Immuno-Designed Molecules) is one of the most prominent in the promising market of cell therapies and therapeutic vaccines against certain cancers. After a stock market failure in Paris, the firm chose to cross the Atlantic to ensure its growth. "The lack of funding is the main pitfall encountered by European start-ups", indicates the investigation of EuropaBio.
The financial market fudges
In fact, it is when a company reaches three or four years of existence that hardens the route. At this critical moment of the development, biotech companies entered a phase claiming significant investments to launch clinical trials. This phase requires commonly the budgets of several hundreds of millions of euros. And it is at this time that the financial market appearing.
The comparison between Europe and the United States by EuropaBio confirms this weakness. The United States have certainly the advantage of anticipation and the existence of some locomotives, as Amgen, Genentech, Gilead or Genzyme, who derive the sector towards the top. "American companies benefit from financial resources three or four times more important than their European counterparts," notes John Hodgson of Critical I, the firm that conducted the survey on behalf of EuropaBio.
By and large, the United States and Europe have the same number of biotech companies: 1.830 transatlantic and 1.975 on the Continent. But digital equality stop there. First employ more 172.000 71.000 research persons, so that the total European is less than 94.000 employees including 35,000 in the search. R & D of American firms spending amounts to 16.38 billion EUR 6 billion euros in Europe. A similar gap is found in turnover: about 41 billion euros in the United States, against approximately 18 billion euros on the Continent.
The France is located in the European third with 225 companies identified against 455 to the United Kingdom and 525 in Germany (see chart). Behind this trio, several "small countries" draw their PIN of the game: Holland (119 companies), Sweden (108), Denmark (100) and Switzerland (97). The Swiss, spurred by their three national champions (Novartis, Roche, and Serono) deserve a mention in this list. They are better than the France, both in terms of turnover (EUR 2.15 billion, against EUR 1.9 billion) in budget invested in research (EUR 639 million against EUR 608 million).
"Restore a tripartite dialogue."
In this context, several European companies have announced the transfer of their research activities to more hospitable heaven. This is the case of vaccines Acambis English specialist, who left Cambridge near London to Cambridge near Boston. A few American firms in difficulty were also deserted Europe to re-cross the Atlantic (OSI Pharmaceuticals).
How to restore the blast to a machine down fuel, while the scientific skills of the biotech to the Continent are recognized by all "It should be a coherent policy to stimulate investment," said tirelessly Johan Vanhemelrijck, Secretary General of the European association. Recently, the Director General of the world forum of science of the living BioVision, Eric Poincelet, for its part called a renewal of the dialogue between the company and the industry, in order to avoid a new remake of the computer disaster of the 1970s, whose development has overall escaped with companies of the old Continent. "The France world ex-leader of software preferred with the law computer and freedoms of the 1970s the role of universal conscience." This was a good feeling with a problem that it was appropriate to circumvent. But it departed for a tour! Anti-GMO, anti-cellules strains... It is time to restore a tripartite dialogue between science, society and industry.