PARIS - France's biotechnology business and science park, the Ginoptle, which was officially inaugurated in October 1998, reports that 13 companies have so far established operations at the site. The site is also home to six genomics research facilities, while public research establishments are planning to set up a dozen highly specialized laboratories.

Located in the new town of Evry, 35 kilometers south of Paris, what the French like to call their "Genetics Valley" is rapidly becoming a center for research into all aspects of genetics and genomics as well as a campus for the biotech industry. One of the Ginoptle's missions is to help would-be entrepreneurs create new businesses, and to that end it has created what it calls an incubator for biotech start-ups. It consists of a three-story building with 2,600 square meters of floor space that provides shared technical facilities, such as autoclaves, freezers, a cold room, spectrometer and photographic laboratory, as well as common services ranging from a secretariat and a meeting room to cleaning, laundry and waste management.

Demand for space in the incubator was far greater than expected, since it is already filled by the five companies it currently accommodates, and it is planned to start construction of a second next year. With 40 outstanding applications from both budding entrepreneurs and existing companies, the Ginoptle is well on the way to achieving the objective set by its director, Pierre Tambourin, at the outset, which was to have 50 to 60 biotech companies located at the site within three years. Almost all the companies currently established at the Ginoptle are French owned; the one exception is the local subsidiary of the Canadian company, Visible Genetics.

As far as research facilities are concerned, the most recent to have been created at the Ginoptle are the plant genomics laboratory of Ginoplante, an association of public research establishments and private companies established in February (see BioWorld International, March 3, 1999, p. 9) and the Prostate Pathologies Research Center (CeRePP - Centre de Recherche sur les Pathologies Prostatiques), a laboratory devoted to the genetics and pathology of prostatic tumors set up by the University of Paris.

Before them, a bioinformatics research center, Infobiogen, came to join the three big centers that were the foundation stones of the Ginoptle: Ginithon, the gene therapy laboratory of the French Muscular Dystrophy Association (AFM - Association Frangaise contre les Myopathies); the National Sequencing Center, known as the Ginoscope; and the National Genotyping Center. Now, public research establishments such as the National Scientific Research Center (Centre National de Recherche Scientifique) and the National Institute for Health and Medical Research (Institut National de la Santi et de la Recherche Midicale) are setting up laboratories at Evry specialized in different aspects of genetics, molecular biology, functional genomics, diseases of genetic origin and bioinformatics.

Among the general utilities being developed at the site of the Ginoptle are a high-throughput (45 megabytes) local area computer network that will interconnect the main research facilities, as well as an international conference center, including a 700-seat auditorium, scheduled for completion in the third quarter of 2000.