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May 1, 2009 (Vol. 29, No. 9)

Emerging Biotechnology Clusters

Experienced Management and VCs and a Serial Entrepreneurial Culture Provide Critical Keys to Success

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    Researchers at Scotland's University of Glasgow are working to improve the safety and efficacy of gene therapy by studying the biology of viruses.
    (D. Bhella, MRC Virology Unit)

    Boston, San Francisco, San Diego, and Cambridge are on everyone’s list of the top biotech clusters. Medicon Valley, straddling the border of Sweden and Denmark, Switzerland’s BioValley, Seattle, and Paris may be on that list, too, and no wonder. These are areas where biotech thrives. Biotech is so successful at attracting brainpower, related industries, and money to regions that today almost everybody is trying to get into the act.

    Obviously, some regions will fare better than others. Many of these clusters have formed because of local political interest. “Consequently, many of the clusters don’t reach critical mass,” notes Willy DeGreef, secretary general, EuropaBio.

    There are many great research universities throughout the world, and most regions with a nascent biotech industry have at least one. Good ideas and the scientific capital to bring them to fruition, therefore, are plentiful. It’s the business aspects of growing a biotech cluster that are often most difficult, and that can make the difference between success and mediocrity or even failure. As Glen Giovannetti, global biotech leader at Ernst & Young, points out, “The secret sauce for biotech success is experienced venture capital, experienced management, and a serial entrepreneurial culture.”

    GEN talked with a number of biotech industry thought leaders to identify some of the most promising emerging biotech clusters. One point they all made is that it’s nearly impossible to choose the best, and that even the term biotech is hard to define. The term “emerging” had some challenges, too. Nonetheless, here are some of the regions that are capturing their attention.

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