PARIS ¿ The government has agreed to implement two of the three measures for stimulating the French biotechnology industry proposed jointly by France Biotech, the industry association, and Objectif 2010, an entrepreneurs¿ club, as part of their ¿Biotech 2002 Plan.¿

Finance Minister Laurent Fabius said the government had agreed to provide guarantees of EUR90 million (US$82 million) in fiscal 2002 to underwrite loans to biotechnology companies for financing acquisitions and research and development activities. This is expected to result in long-term guaranteed loans totaling EUR450 million being advanced next year.

In addition, the government will create a seed capital fund for the biotechnology industry, which initially will have EUR60 million to distribute to start-ups in the sector.

These proposals fall short of what France Biotech and Objectif 2010 were seeking, which was direct loans to a total value of EUR600 million to be made available to the industry next year and a seed capital fund of EUR100 million.

Nevertheless, they were welcomed by the president of France Biotech, Philippe Pouletty, chairman of DrugAbuse Sciences Inc., of Paris and Los Altos, Calif., who observed that ¿the government has clearly taken note of the needs and the fantastic potential of the biotechnology and health care industry. We are very pleased with the Biotech 2002 Plan. Provided it is expanded in future years, it could enable the French industry to move up to first place in Europe between now and 2006.¿

According to France Biotech, the leverage effect of the government¿s measures will be to generate several hundred million dollars of private sector investment in the biotechnology industry next year. And it added that, if the government¿s measures are stepped up in the coming years, those investments could total several billion dollars by 2006.