BioWorld International Correspondent

PARIS A government-commissioned report titled “Meeting the biotechnology challenge” advocates the implementation of a five-year action plan for the French biotechnology industry over the 2002-2007 period.

The report was produced by Noëlle Lenoir, a lawyer and former member of the Constitutional Council (the guardian of the French constitution), at the request of the Minister of Economy, Finance and Industry, Laurent Fabius. It calls for greater public research effort in life sciences in general, increased funding for private sector research, the granting of special tax status for start-ups, and financial support for the creation of businesses in the biotechnology sector through devices such as incubators, seed capital funding and an increase in the funds distributed by the French Research Promotion Agency, Anvar.

To coordinate government initiatives in this area, Lenoir recommends the creation of an interministerial commission reporting to the prime minister, or the formulation of a government action plan for the life sciences sector to be supervised by a strategic life sciences council.

The report was welcomed by France Biotech, the industry association, and Objectif 2010, a small businessman’s club devoted to promoting the creation and development of innovative enterprises, which pointed out that many of the measures proposed by Lenoir already had been put forward in the report Objectif 2010 published last July.

Moreover, some of those recommendations now are being implemented. In October, in response to submissions from France Biotech and Objectif 2010, Fabius announced that the government was to provide guarantees of EUR90 million (US$82 million) in 2002 to underwrite loans to biotechnology companies for financing acquisitions and research and development activities. He added that this was expected to result in long-term, guaranteed loans totaling EUR450 million to be advanced this year. Also, he said, a seed capital fund was to be set up for the biotechnology industry, which was to have initial funding of EUR60 million.