BRUSSELS, Belgium — European biotech may be able to raise more backing for its research if new plans for links between scientists and investors work out.

The first conference of the recently created Biotechnology and Finance Forum will be held May 12-14 in Brussels. The goals are to generate a higher degree of understanding of biotech in the European Union (EU) finance community — and a higher degree of understanding about the finance community among EU biotechnologists.

The Biotech and Finance Forum is a joint initiative of the European Commission and the European Association of Securities Dealers (EASD). The forum and the conference are backed by European Research Commissioner Edith Cresson.

"In Europe, there is still too big a gap between research and technological development and the financial community," she said. "To develop new technologies is one thing; ensuring their dissemination and their use is another. The forum should improve the links between European research and potential investors, and in particular venture capital."

The conference will examine new tools for financing biotechnology; advise entrepreneurs on how they can finance their companies and access capital markets; and offer a clearer insight into venture capital opportunities and the different financial markets in Europe.

EASD's chairman, Didier Duhem, said the sector has a great future.

"Europe now has pan-European financial markets like Nasdaq which allow biotechnology firms to be financed properly," Duhem observed. "The markets have shown that they can raise new funds for companies and provide venture capital investors with the necessary returns, which can in turn be invested in new companies. Nothing now prevents Europe's biotechnology industry from enjoying the same levels of funding as its U.S. counterpart." — Peter O'Donnell