BioWorld International Correspondent

PARIS - A recent visit by Industry Minister Nicole Fontaine provided the Genopole, France's national biotechnology business and science park at Evry, with an opportunity to review its achievements since its creation in July 1998.

During that time it has attracted 23 research laboratories and 42 biotechnology companies, 26 of which were created from scratch. There are now some 1,400 people employed at the site - 900 researchers and laboratory staff and 500 who work for commercial firms.

The site comprises a total of 58,837 square meters of laboratory and commercial space, of which 25,435 square meters is reserved for biotechnology companies. The latter includes a 2,560-square-meter incubator for start-ups, as well as 7,900 square meters of space provided by four company hotels (the Genavenir campus).

In addition to the three research centers around which the Genopole was founded - the National Sequencing Center (known as the Génoscope), the National Genotyping Center and the gene therapy laboratory of the French Muscular Dystrophy Association - other public research establishments have set up laboratories specialized in different aspects of genetics, molecular biology, functional genomics, diseases of genetic origin and bioinformatics. They include the Infobiogen bioinformatics research center and the Génoplante plant genomics project initiated by four public research establishments led by the National Agronomic Research Institute (INRA - Institut National de la Rechereche Agronomique) and three industrial companies. In addition, Strasbourg-based Aventis Pharma has established a genetics research facility and Bayer CropScience AG, of Monheim, Germany, a plant genomics and bioinformatics research center at the site.

The Genopole has set itself the objective of attracting three more research projects each year up to 2005, and expanding the number of companies established at the site to 60 by the end of 2004. As well as providing about €15,000 for the assessment and incubation of each new firm, the Genopole has a €1.2 million seed fund that helps start-ups get over the initial phase of business creation, with funding averaging €45,000.