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Apr 1, 2009 (Vol. 29, No. 7)

Gov’t Actions Buoy European Start-Ups

From Financing to Tax Credits and IP Protection, Countries Seek to Nurture Local Bioindustries

  • The Rhein-Neckar biocluster (BioRN) in Germany recently won the country’s “Top Cluster” contest. According to Christian Sidona, Ph.D., BioRN’s managing director, the presence of major players like Roche, Merck, Abbott, and BASF has much to do with the region’s success. “Innovation is the key to economic development and creation of new jobs both in this region and in Germany as a whole,” added Jürgen Schwiezer, Ph.D., CEO of the diagnostics division at Roche.

    Most innovation is seen as coming from the smaller companies, however many of these large firms are also innovating. For example, BASF is parlaying its expertise in white and green biotech to develop a metanomics platform. “We use this to screen thousands of plants and analyze their metabolic profile,” explained Hans Kast, Ph.D., president and CEO BASF Plant Science. “We offer this technology to companies working on drug development and diagnostics—it is a nice example of synergy between the different colors of biotech.”

    Rhein Neckar plays second fiddle to the well-established Munich cluster in terms of numbers of patents and size of VC investment, according to Dr. Sidona. “Our core competencies are in cell-based and molecular medicine,” he added. There are currently 60 start-ups in the region, and it is hoped that 4,000 new jobs will be created in the next ten years.

    According to BioRN, Germany offers many perks to the biotech industry, such as low-cost clinical trials and 830,000 liters of manufacturing capacity. The government has several new strategies under way for funding biotech at both the institutional and project level with systems biology and tissue engineering being key interest areas. In addition, the country is working toward building a national framework in regenerative medicine with centers of excellence in Dresden, Berlin, Hannover, and Leipzig that will form the Regenerative Medicine Institute. The aim is to establish Germany as a location for translation and to help companies unsure of how to classify or launch regenerative medicine products. 

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