BioWorld International Correspondent

BRUSSELS, Belgium - The European biotech industry is looking for support from members of the European Parliament for a new campaign to win favorable treatment for biotech start-up companies in the European Union. Five senior members of parliament pleaded for a pan-European approach to young innovative companies at a meeting with dozens of EU officials and politicians in Brussels on May 3.

European Parliament Vice President Alejo Vidal told co-legislators at the meeting that the "young innovative company" concept - that has so far found concrete expression only in France - could become the "efficient tool the EU urgently needs to boost competitiveness." Whether it can achieve formal status at the EU level depends on "whether we put our minds to it or not." His message was echoed by MEPs from the UK, Denmark, Spain and the Netherlands.

"Investors don't want to waste their cash on high-risk businesses if much of the investment is going to be absorbed by administrative and employment costs," said Philippe Pouletty of France Biotech, who was one of the prime movers in achieving recognition of the concept in France. "We are helping create a system in which the cash can be used to pay for scientists and for opening subsidiaries of growing businesses," he said at the meeting.

Pierre-Noël Lirsac, of the French ministry of economy, one of the other originators of the concept, highlighted the success of the scheme in France, in force since the beginning of 2004. The companies must be small, less than 8 years old, spend at least 15 percent of turnover on research and be independent. Its provision of exemptions on social and employment taxes for promising start-up companies was fostering innovative research, he said.

Johan Vanhemelrijck, the secretary general of Europabio, asked for support of the concept as a way to boost innovative biotech firms. "We are asking the parliament to help create an EU-wide status for the 'young innovative company.' We need an EU definition for it."