Biotechnology in France

Annemette JENSEN - 04/04/14

Even though biotechnologies may be a relatively recent business activity, France has succeeded in developing real know-how which is gaining international recognition.

When it comes to biotechnologies, the French are cutting edge. According to LEEM, the federation of French medical companies, France numbers 388 biotechs in the health field today. Biotech France, another French association for biotech companies, indicates that a third of these companies have been in existence for over 10 years. Yet the number of start-ups in this field is exponential. To get an idea, 50 companies were started in 2012. Proof that there is a real entrepreneurial effervescence when it comes to research in France.

French biotechs are mainly small and medium sized companies. Only 4% of them have over 100 employees. On average, they employ 22 people. As to the type of activity, most of the French companies specialized in human sciences with therapeutic products are concentrated on cancer treatments, but “the French have developed a full-fledged know-how on cardio-vascular devices, infectious diseases, dermatology, blood diseases and for surgery,” explains Yves Germani, Ubifrance’s manager for the health sector in North America.

French enterprises don’t just do research; they discover!
Altogether, the French biotech industry generated 261 million Euros in turnover in 2011, compared with 186 million in 2010. As for companies on the stock market, they generate 369 million Euros in turnover. Concerning the pipeline, France is 4th, behind the UK, Germany, Switzerland and Israel. Quite a solid ranking, but which could nevertheless be improved.

When their results are examined in detail, we see that French companies create more products in the pre-clinic phase, which is completely logical. Between the start of development on a new medicine and its release on the market up to 10 years may go by. Unfortunately, the consequence of this is that a number of products fall by the wayside. To be noted, however, is one undeniable fact: since 2008, French companies have sold more and more products. To put it another way, as Yves Germani points out, French companies don’t just do research; they discover!”

An increase of 63% in investment
Even more impressive than all the rest, French biotech companies tend to have smaller R&D budgets than their European and international competitors. Fortunately, the culture of venture capital is developing very quickly in this sector. To give the general picture, the funds raised by French biotechs have increased by 63,1% from 2009 to 2012, reaching 178 million Euros. Since the year 2000, they have managed to raise a total of 2.920 billion Euros.

Today, French companies are naturally turning towards international opportunities to find new partners and new financial leverage. The proof is that small and medium-sized companies as Affilogic, MedinCell, Interactive Biosoftware, Imabiotech or even O4CP are now reaching out with confidence to mature markets like the United States, Canada and Western Europe.

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