Biocom delegation travels to southeastern France for biotech
12:05 P.M.APRIL 29, 2015
(Editor's note: Biocom, the San Diego-based life science trade group, has long cultivated ties with biotech in other nations. Biocom CEO Joe Panetta describes the group's latest mission, a return trip to France.)
Two years ago I reported to U-T San Diego readers on the first trip by Biocom, French BioBeach and our members to Nice and Marseilles to explore partnership opportunities between life science clusters in the two regions of southern California and the Cotes d'Azur/Provence. That visit was eye-opening for all of us who participated, as we gained a great appreciation for the entrepreneurial environment and the long history of life science company formation and success, as well as the standout experience here is the conduct of clinical trials for oncology products.
The relationship was furthered last year as representatives of both regions including Biocom, French BioBeach, and what is now known as the Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur South Bioalliance
signed a formal partnership agreement during the BIO 2014 convention in San Diego.
We returned to Nice and Marseilles in the spirit of our formal partnership this week with some past participants from San Diego, including Biocom Board Member and lead patent counsel at WSGR, Jeffrey Guise, Mike Honeysett of Acea and me, as well as new delegates such as the CEOs of Flow Paradigm, OncioMed, Abreos Biosciences (with one of his scientists) and CVAC Systems – a very inquisitive and engaged group who have asked probing questions of our hosts here while thus far expressing enthusiasm about what we have seen on the first part of our trip in Nice.
Here's an update on the state of life science in this region in 2015 to provide a bit of perspective and comparison with southern California.
The industry here is represented by 400 companies employing 10,000 people. Leading companies here include Beckman Coulter, Galderma, Sanofi-Aventis and Nicox. It is France's second largest center for clinical trials with 30,000 doctors and 39,000 hospital beds. It is a center of convergence of biotechnology, aquatic technologies, IT and wireless communications and tourism, and it has 6 universities including the largest in France in Marseilles (if this all sounds familiar it is because it is a mirror image of San Diego).
Two years ago I reported that what struck me most about this region is its advanced experience in the field of clinical medicine. This was reinforced yesterday on our visits to the Centre Antoine Lacassagne, a regional cancer center that is close to completing a synchro-cyclotron proton therapy device that is the first of its kind in Europe, and to the national Alzheimer's pilot Institut Claude Pompidou for a presentation of some leading research projects of non-drug therapies to enhance cognitive function in patients through the use of IT-based solutions.
The device at Lacassagne is one-fourth the weight of previous devices and uses 1/8 the electricity with a new dose administration technology called PBS – pencil beam scanning which is intensity- modulated to provide much higher "conformation" to tumor shape than past devices.
We followed up with presentations by lead scientific researchers at the Institute of Biology Valrose within the University of Nice Sophia Antipolis, an international research center that addresses fundamental topics in developmental biology with links to associated diseases such as cancer, diabetes and obesity and utilizing various scientific approaches such as genetics, cell signaling and integrative physiology carried out on a wide range of model organisms.
The impressive presentations on human adipose stem cells and obesity, on generation of functional beta cells from alternative pancreatic cell subtypes, on a flow cytometry iBV platform and on experimental histology in development and disease drew comments and questions by our group regarding the competitive nature of the work with what is being done in San Diego.
Our long day ended with all of our companies making quick pitch presentations to an invited group of Nice life science company representatives at the Team Cote d'Azur office.
Today (Tuesday) began with a legal presentation on doing business in France by the FIDAL law group ( the most popular question being whether it is actually possible to terminate an employee in France) followed by a day of visits to some of Nice's leading life science companies.
Two that were of particular relevance to our San Diego group were Integra Life which is a device company based in New Jersey and producing brain catherization and mapping products here, and TxCell which is developing T cell immunotherapies for severe chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases such as Crohn's Disease. The latter drew questions from the entire group because the technology was an area of familiarity to many of our participants but even more so because all agreed that the research rivaled what they had seen in immunotherapy product development in San Diego.
Another long day ended with our transfer to Marseilles and a late-evening reception hosted by the Eurbiomed-Provence Promotion Team. We'll spend the next two days here in Marseilles further examining the many potential opportunities for our southern California companies.
SOURCE: UT SAN DIEGO