• VANESSA VILLARD RECEIVED THE AWARD “SCIENCES AND TECHNOLOGIES”

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    For the 5th consecutive year, the organism “Objectif Languedoc-Roussillon” has honored outstanding women from Languedoc-Roussillon, in partnership with the economic and financial newspaper “La Tribune”.

    Once again this year, the Jury rewarded 9 exceptional ladies within 9 categories including the Prize “Coup de Coeur” from the editorial committee of “Objectif Languedoc-Roussillon”.

    This prestigious event took place on Thursday 11 June 2015 at the Domaine de Verchant near Montpellier and gathered almost 300 political and economical leaders.

    Read more on the Tribune Women’s Awards website >

     

    SOURCE: http://www.amylgen.fr/?amyl_event=test-amyl-events-third

  • Amazon, Google race to get your DNA into the cloud

    A logo is pictured at Google's European Engineering Center in ZurichAmazon.com Inc is in a race against Google Inc to store data on human DNA, seeking both bragging rights in helping scientists make new medical discoveries and market share in a business that may be worth $1 billion a year by 2018.

    Academic institutions and healthcare companies are picking sides between their cloud computing offerings - Google Genomics or Amazon Web Services – spurring the two to one-up each other as they win high-profile genomics business, according to interviews with researchers, industry consultants and analysts.    

        That growth is being propelled by, among other forces, the push for personalized medicine, which aims to base treatments on a patient's DNA profile. Making that a reality will require enormous quantities of data to reveal how particular genetic profiles respond to different treatments.

        Already, universities and drug manufacturers are embarking on projects to sequence the genomes of hundreds of thousands of people.

    The human genome is the full complement of DNA, or genetic material, a copy of which is found in nearly every cell of the body.

        Clients view Google and Amazon as doing a better job storing genomics data than they can do using their own computers, keeping it secure, controlling costs and allowing it to be easily shared.

        The cloud companies are going beyond storage to offer analytical functions that let scientists make sense of DNA data. Microsoft Corp and International Business Machines are also competing for a slice of the market. The "cloud" refers to data or software that physically resides in a server and is accessible via the internet, which allows users to access it without downloading it to their own computer.

        Now an estimated $100 million to $300 million business globally, the cloud genomics market is expected to grow to $1 billion by 2018, said research analyst Daniel Ives of investment bank FBR Capital. By that time, the entire cloud market should have $50 billion to $75 billion in annual revenue, up from about $30 billion now.

        "The cloud is the entire future of this field," Craig Venter, who led a private effort to sequence the human genome in the 1990s, said in an interview. His new company, San Diego-based Human Longevity Inc, recently tried to import genomic data from servers at the J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Maryland.

        The transmission was so slow, scientists had to resort to sending disks and thumb drives by FedEx and human messengers, or "sneakernet," he said. The company now uses Amazon Web Services.

        So does a collaboration between Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc and Pennsylvania-based Geisinger Health Systems to sequence 250,000 genomes. Raw DNA data is uploaded to Amazon's cloud, where software from privately-held DNAnexus assembles the millions of chunks into the full, 3-billion-letter long genome.

        DNAnexus's algorithms then determine where an individual genome differs from the "reference" human genome, the company’s chief scientist Dr. David Shaywitz said, in hopes of identifying new drug targets.

        HOSTING FOR FREE

        Showing how important Google and Amazon view this business, and how they hope to use existing customers to lure future ones, each is hosting well-known genomics datasets for free.

        Neither company discloses the amount of genomics data it holds, but based on interviews with analysts and genomic scientists, as well as the companies' own announcements of what customers they’ve won, Amazon Web Services may be bigger.

        Data from the "1000 Genomes Project," an international public-private effort that identified genetic variations found in at least 1 percent of humans, reside at both Amazon and Google "without charge," said Kathy Cravedi of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), one of the project's sponsors.

        Other paying clients with a more specific focus are picking sides.

        Google, for instance, won a project from the Autism Speaks foundation to collect and analyze the genomes of 10,000 affected children and their parents for clues to the genetic basis of autism.

    Another customer is Tute Genomics, whose database of 8.5 billion human DNA variants can be searched for how frequently any given variant appears, what traits it's associated with and how people with a certain variant respond to particular drugs.

        Amazon is hosting the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation’s project to collect complete-genome sequences and other data from 1,000 patients to identify new drug targets. It also won the Alzheimer's Disease Sequencing Project, which has similar aims.

        Amazon charges about $4 to $5 a month to store one full human genome, and Googleabout $3 to $5 a month. The companies also charge for data transfers or computing time, as when scientists run analytical software on stored data.

        Amazon's database-analysis tool, Redshift, costs 25 cents an hour or $1,000 per terabyte per year, the company said. A terabyte is 1 trillion bytes, or 1,000 gigabytes, about enough to hold 300 hours of high-quality video.

        GENETIC GOLD

        Another part of the cloud services' pitch to would-be customers is that their analytic tools can fish out genetic gold – a drug target, say, or a DNA variant that strongly predicts disease risk – from a sea of data. Any discoveries made through such searches belong to the owners of the data.

        "On the local university server it might take months to run a computationally-intense" analysis, said Alzheimer’s project leader Dr. Gerard Schellenberg of the University of Pennsylvania. "On Amazon, it's, 'how fast do you need it done?', and they do it."

        Another selling point is security. Universities are "generally pretty porous," said Ryan Permeh, chief scientist at cybersecurity company Cylance Inc, of Irvine, California, and the security of federal government computers is "not at the top of the class."   

        While academic and pharmaceutical research projects are the biggest customers for genomics cloud services, they will be overtaken by clinical applications in the next 10 years, said Google Genomics director of engineering David Glazer.

        Individual doctors will regularly access a cloud service to understand how a patient's genetic profile affects his risk of various diseases or his likely response to medication.

        "We are at that transition point now," Glazer said.

        Matt Wood, general manager for Data Science at Amazon Web Services, sees cloud demand in genomics now as "a perfect storm," as the amount of data being created, the need for collaboration and the move of genomics into clinical care accelerate.

        Experts on DNA and data say without access to the cloud, modern genomics would grind to a halt.

        Bioinformatics expert Dr. Atul Butte of the University of California, San Francisco, said that now, when researchers at different universities are jointly working on NIH and other genomic data, they don't have to figure out how to make their computers talk to each other. In March, NIH cleared the way for major research on the cloud when it began allowing scientists to upload important genomic data.

     

    SOURCE: http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/06/05/us-health-genomics-cloud-insight-idUSKBN0OL0BG20150605

  • France announces ‘tech ticket’ for foreign start-ups

    money-plantIn a bid to attract start-ups to France, 50-handpicked entrepreneurs will be invited to bootstrap their businesses in Paris.

    The French government has unveiled a programme called ‘Tech Ticket’, which aims to encourage foreign start-ups to set up operations in the French capital. The package includes tens of thousands of euros in funding and assistance in finding business premises.

    The scheme, which has a €5 million budget for the first year, will offer €12,000 grants per person for six months, renewable once, and a place for entrepreneurs in one of nine incubators, where they will get help with fundraising strategies and practice in pitching to investors. Other frills include a “help desk” on red tape and cheaper flights on Air France.

    In return, start-ups must employ at least one French citizen. Last year unemployment in France hit record levels. 

    Some 50-handpicked entrepreneurs are expected to benefit from the first round, which begins next year. If the scheme is popular, it will be extended to other cities, the government says.

    The initiative is part of a broader business creation strategy. Late last year, the government announced a €225 million fund to invest in start-up accelerators across the country.

    Separately, French authorities are providing cash to bootstrap the Paris-based incubator Halle Freyssinet, which has designs on becoming the biggest in the world, with 1,000 start-ups.

    Details on www.frenchtechticket.com

    SOURCE: http://www.sciencebusiness.net/news/77042/France-announces-%E2%80%98tech-ticket%E2%80%99-for-foreign-start-ups

  • Cellectis could be in line for a $1.6B Pfizer buyout

    andrechoulikaRumor has it the CAR-T specialists at Cellectis ($CLLS) are considering a potential sale, and partner Pfizer ($PFE), already riding its checkbook into the world of immuno-oncology, could be a suitor.

    The Financial Times is citing two people close to the situation who say the French biotech is in the early stages of negotiations. And one of the paper's sources says Pfizer has stepped forward with an offer that would value Cellectis at as much as €1.5 billion ($1.6 billion).

    Cellectis, which jumped to the Nasdaq in a $228 million IPO in March, is at work on a pipeline of so-called CAR-T therapies, which work by souping up T cells to better detect malignancies, thereby training the immune system to attack previously unseen cancers.

    Last year, Pfizer signed an expansive deal with the company to get its hands on some CAR-T assets, paying $80 million up front and clearing the way for more than a dozen joint projects. Cellectis is due as much as $185 million in milestone payments for each successful CAR-T candidate, valuing the deal at as much as $2.8 billion. Pfizer also bought a 10% stake in the biotech.

    Whether Pfizer would now want to take the plunge and buy Cellectis outright remains to be seen, but the U.S. pharma giant does have a penchant for spending big when it has ground to make up. Pfizer had long lagged its rivals in immuno-oncology when, last year, it handed Merck KGaA $850 million up front to collaborate on a promising checkpoint inhibitor. And Pfizer will pay its partner as much as $2 billion more under a rich deal designed to close the gap with Merck ($MRK), Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY), AstraZeneca ($AZN) and others.

    As for Cellectis, in contrast to CAR-T leaders Novartis ($NVS), Juno Therapeutics ($JUNO) and Kite Pharma ($KITE), the biotech makes its treatments using off-the-shelf T cells harvested from third-party patients, a method the company believes will lead to safer therapeutics. The majority of players in the field craft their CAR-T therapies by taking a patient's own T cells, re-engineering them and re-infusing them.

    Following its IPO, Cellectis said it planned to spend its proceeds getting four preclinical CAR-T candidates through Phase I trials, earmarking $26 million for manufacturing and $26 million more for work outside of oncology. The company's lead candidate, a Servier-partnered treatment for leukemia, is slated to enter the clinic this year.

    SOURCE: http://www.fiercebiotech.com/story/buzz-cellectis-could-be-line-16b-pfizer-buyout/2015-05-28?utm_campaign=SocialMedia

  • Cancer breakthroughs trigger big pharma interest in drugs and deals

    chemical-structureThe new generation of drugs hailed as a once-in-a-generation advance in treatment for cancer patients is also viewed as good news for the pharmaceutical industry – just when analysts had started to voice concerns that the pipeline of blockbuster treatments in development was starting to run dry.

    Immunotherapy treatments, which use the body’s immune system to attack cancerous cells, could be as revolutionary as the arrival of chemotherapy was in the 1940s – and big pharma companies have been scrambling to get into a market that experts think could eventually be worth up to £26bn a year in sales.

    “It is a really significant breakthrough” said Colin White, lead analyst for oncology at the research group Datamonitor Healthcare. “It is being seen as the third major breakthrough in cancer treatments: the first being chemotherapy, the second being targeted treatments and the third being immunotherapy.”

    Scientists at the American Society for Clinical Oncology’s annual meeting in Chicago last weekend announced “spectacular” results from one clinical trial of patients with skin cancer. More than half the patients with advanced melanoma, many considered to have little time left, saw tumours shrink or brought under control using a combination of drugs – ipilimumab, known under the brand name Yervoy, and the as-yet unlicensed nivolumab, branded as Opdivo.

    Since the start of 2014, there have been at least 44 corporate deals in the immuno-oncology market, according to Datamonitor, which tracks such transactions. One of the biggest was Pfizer’s $2.9bn collaboration with the French biotech company Cellectis.

    On the rebound from its failed bid to buy AstraZeneca, Pfizer acquired a 10% stake in Cellectis and bought exclusive rights to develop immunotherapy drugs to fight 15 cancer targets. The American drugs multinational is rumoured to be interested in buying Cellectis outright, although both sides have so far declined to comment.

    Another deal that got analysts excited was Bristol-Myers Squibb handing over $1.25bn to buy California-based Flexus in February – a company that was less than 18 months old and has no drugs being trialled. But Bristol-Myers Squibb already has a headstart in the immunotherapy race: its Yervoy and Opdivo brands are the two drugs that caused such a storm in Chicago last weekend.

    Apart from Bristol-Myers, Merck is the only other company to have had an immunotherapy drug approved for the treatment of skin cancer. But Pfizer, Roche and a host of smaller biotech firms are racing to develop the therapies, which may work on a much broader range of cancers than previously thought.

    When the UK drugs multinational AstraZeneca was fighting off the unwanted £63bn takeover attempt by Pfizer last year it warned that the cost-cutting likely to follow a takeover could delay the development of key drugs and cost lives. One of the key treatments Astra pointed to was in its immuno-oncology portfolio – ahuman monoclonal antibody known as MEDI4736.

    One of the City’s top pharmaceuticals analysts described MEDI4736 as “the great white hope” of cancer treatments, while AstraZeneca’s head drug developer, Briggs Morrison, said it could “redefine cancer treatment” and rake in annual sales of £3.9bn.

    Last year, Roche entered into a $1bn agreement with NewLink Genetics, the Iowa-based maker of the experimental Ebola vaccine, to develop immunotherapy treatments. The companies are developing an inhibitor (NLG919) designed to disrupt the mechanism by which tumours evade the patient’s immune system. NewLink has already tested similar products in patients with breast and prostate cancer.

    In another sign of the booming market, companies are increasingly keen to keep their top scientific experts. Last week Bristol-Myers Squibb started legal proceedings against one of its key immunotherapy experts for allegedly violating confidentiality agreements. David Berman, a vice-president at BMS who has spent the last decade working on immunotherapy drugs, including Yervoy and Opdivo, has quit to join AstraZeneca and BMS has asked a Delaware court to stop Berman from joining AstraZeneca for a year and prevent him from ever using confidential information gained at BMS.

    But the biggest question for healthcare executives interested in buying these treatments comes back to cost.

    “These drugs cost too much,” Leonard Saltz, chief of gastrointestinal oncology at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, told delegates in Chicago in a widely discussed presentation reported by the Wall Street Journal.

    He is concerned about the cost of the melanoma treatment developed by BMS. The combination of Yervoy and Opdivo would help patients live for almost a year without their disease getting worse, something “truly remarkable for a disease that five years ago we thought was virtually untreatable”, he said. But the drugs would cost $295,000 a patient – an “unsustainable” sum, he said.

    “Cancer-drug prices are not related to the value of the drug … Prices are based on what has come before and what the seller believes the market will bear.”

    SOURCE: http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/jun/01/cancer-breakthroughs-trigger-big-pharma-interest-drugs-deals

     

  • Provence determined to woo California

    paca-groupe-petit« Provence determined to woo California »

    After a 2-day visit to the region from a delegation of American health and biotechnology companies from southern California, it is now time to take stock and follow up on professional exchanges between San Diego and Provence. Provence Promotion and a group of economic players know their game partners well. These field missions are organized yearly together with the California-based French Bio Beach association, with official support from the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur Regional Council since 2013 under the joint banner “South Bio Alliance”. A wrap-up and outlooks following the 2015 edition… 

    Market opportunities, technological and scientific partnerships and the opening of European subsidiaries – these were the needs that the American companies expressed during their field visit. The delegation, which included entities ranging from SMEs to major groups, followed a tightly packed but well planned program during their 2-day visit from April 29 to 30, and were rapidly able to get an idea of the Aix-Marseilles region’s potential in terms of medical research and innovation in their fields of interest: cancer, obesity, cytometry… 

    Their first important stop was at Luminy in Marseilles, which houses the immunology center and various landmark companies in the health sector. Innate Pharma, which has just signed a contract with the British AstraZeneca for cancer treatment through immunotherapy, or HalioDx that is currently carrying out a survey among 3,000 patients in 25 European centers to test diagnostic kits for immune-oncology, caught their interest, as did the presentation of MI-mAbs, a preindustrial demonstrator in which Sanofi has confirmed its commitment alongside various local stakeholders to accelerate the development of new immunotherapy antibodies (€19 million investment). 

    The delegation continued their discovery of research and innovations in Marseilles at La Timone Hospital (AP-HM) in the development and Clinical Research and Innovation departments. With the building of the largest infection center in Europe (€70 million investment), La Timone will increase its international status. On the subject of development, Satt Sud-Est presented its programs to further the transfer of academic-research innovations towards international markets. 

    At the Institut Paoli Calmette (IPC), a center of excellence in cancer research, the delegation was received by Dr Jean-Frédéric Saunière, coordinator of translational research teams, who reminded them that the institute focuses consistently on new technologies and has a spin-off incubator for the development of new cancer drugs and therapies. 

    Other topics like legislation, labor law and research tax credit were broached in order to demonstrate the amount of flexibility that there is to carry out projects with the help of benefits and support. Fighting preconceived notions and changing the perception that Americans have of France are also part of Provence Promotion’s missions as an economic development agency. 

    Biocom, one of the most important life-sciences associations in the world that represents more than 650 biotechnology companies as well as pharmaceutical product and medical and diagnostic equipment manufacturers throughout South California, participated for the second time. Having joined forces in 2014 with Eurobiomed, the competitiveness cluster in the south of France, they are continuing and will reinforce joint projects in the scope of their cooperation. 

    Thanks to the good understanding and affinity between the two regions, there is also the possibility of getting sport-related projects off the ground. 

    Note that American companies are the first to come and invest in Provence. In 2014, they represented 20% of all companies located in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. In 2014, they represented 20% of all the foreign companies set up in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. In the scope of its prospecting missions, Provence Promotion prepares an upcoming visit to the United States in order to participate in the Bio-international Convention taking place in Philadelphia this year.

    SOURCE: http://www.investinprovence.com/en_US/mailing/26/184/

     

  • 2015 Jun, Featured Member of the month: Amylgen

    latribune_2015-805x1024 Vanessa Villard, CEO and co-founder manages all operational and financial aspects of AmylgenWatch Vanessa’s video at the “prix national du jeune entrepreneur”. She received her PhD in Neurosciences from the University of Montpellier 2. The topic of thesis was « the determination of the antiamnesic and neuroprotective effect of Anavex compounds in a non transgenic model of Alzheimer’s disease ». See Vanessa’s publications
    In parallel to running her company, she is studying for an Executive MBA at Sup de Co Montpellier Business School. Finally, yesterday Vanessa received the  award 'sciences and technologies''
     
    amylgen
    Amylgen is a privately owned contract research organization (CRO) offering a unique combination of validated in vivo models and a full range of behavioral, biochemical and morphological testing allowing fast and predictive screening of the effects of drugs and nutraceuticals on brain health.
     
    Amylgen is at your service to provide quick POC for your product as a food supplement for brain health and helps you to substantiate the efficacy of your product by preclinical studies in rodent models. Amylgen brings you preclinical scientific data for your product on:
    - Brain aging preservation
    - Memory enhancement
    - Antidepressant /anti anxiety effect
    - Protection against Alzheimer’s disease
     
    Amylgen has access to regulatory and clinical partners to aid in the preparation of health claims for EFSA or FDA and the commercialization of your product.
    Visit them on the web at amylgen.fr
  • Biocom in France: Part Deux

    Franco-American biotech ties flourish

    By Joe Panetta11:55 A.M.MAY 4, 2015

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    San Diego delegation and PACA partners outside the offices of Innate Pharma. — Biocom

    (Editor's note: This is Part 2 of Biocom CEO Joe Panetta's return trip to southeastern France with a delegation from Biocom and French BioBeach, to strengthen the partnership between the region and Southern California. You can read Part 1 of the trip to Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, or PACA, here)

    For two days since arriving here in Marseille to continue our Biocom and French BioBeach delegation trip, we have been awed by the growth of this life science cluster within the second largest city in France. We have visited clinical research hospitals and life science parks, an incubator and biotech companies including one that has been quite successful, as well as met with regional political and business leaders and potential partners.

    It has been a whirlwind two days in which our hosts and Biocom partners - Eurobiomed and the South Bio Alliance – have gone to extraordinary lengths to extend their hospitality and a unique perspective on all that this region can offer in the life sciences arena.

    We began yesterday with a visit to the Luminy campus of Marseille Immunopol, the subcluster for immunology in Marseille. It has unique positioning for immunology as a key technology here and has created an alliance that brings together all of its stakeholders within a collaborative ecosystem for innovation in immunology. The Immunopole includes hospitals, research institutes, academic labs and biotech companies.

    Marseille has a 40-year history of discovery and development in immunology beginning with Beckman Coulter Innotec which led to 60 spin-offs and other start-ups such as Innate Pharma, now a very successful company that we visited within the Immunopole. Innate has raised $185 million and has completed $1.8 billion in deals since 2006 including its most recent with AstraZeneca worth $250 million in initial payment with milestones worth up to $1.3 billion.

    A second company that we talked to was HalioDx, a spin-off of Qiagen Marseille that has a unique biomarker portfolio for use potentially by large pharma in developing companion diagnostics.

    Also within the Luminy Park is the Association Grand Luminy, the sole biotech incubator in the south of France which has operated since 1985. It has 2 missions: to sustain the local economy and to create and grow companies. Since 2009 Grand Luminy has also run a Biotech Nursery to host start ups from the incubator within a structure that includes support services, an entrepreneurship manager, strategic partnership development, patenting, communications management and corporate identity.

    To obtain a better understanding of the ability of the Marseille cluster to conduct clinical trials we visited AP-HM, the 3rd largest university hospital in France built on the concept of combining a high-technology hospital with research training. The hospital is now running more than 300 clinical trials.

    The day ended with expert presentations on human resources management, drug regulation in France and company financing at the 400-year old Palais de la Bourse, which is now home to our hosts for the afternoon and evening, the International Chamber of commerce of Marseille.

    The leaders of the Regional Council, Stephane Richard of French BioBeach and I exchanged greetings and addressed guests representing life science companies, the media and business leaders followed by a networking event held to welcome our delegation. While the event lasted well into the evening we knew that we could not end the day in this great city without once again sampling the remarkable bouillabaisse that is so expertly prepared within a few great establishments here, and at 10 PM in the evening we descended upon Le Rhul Restaurant. By midnight we were satiated and exhausted, and returned to our hotel.

    Today's schedule began even earlier in the morning with a visit to the IPC Paoli Calmettes cancer treatment center. It is one of a group of cancer treatment and research centers created by the great French President Charles de Gaulle after World War II, of which there are 20 in France.

    IPC Paoli is unique in that it includes a new unit called IPC Drug Discovery which works primarily in technologies that can detect blood levels of antibodies in an attempt to better identify weaknesses of cancer cells and DNA repair mechanisms. It also has a strong epigenetics group and a group working on metastasis. The unit is trying to find partners in pharma and biotech to conduct Phase I trials and to establish start up companies.

    Investment funding is available in Marseille as we learned in a presentation on PACA Investissmente, which sponsors a capital investment fund of 19.45 million Euro,managed by Thurenne Capital. Since its first investment in 2011, it has made investments in 38 companies and created 32 partnerships in the PACA region. To apply for funding a company must be early stage and incorporated in the region.

    This trip would not have been complete without a visit to NeuroService, a contract research firm located outside Marseille in Aix-en-Provence. The company has ties to San Diego as the region's first Biocom member firm here, and does 60 percent of its business in the US. NeuroService specializes in pharmacological assays based on electrophysiological recordings of acute brain and spinal cord slices, and cultured neurons to support early phases of CNS and pain R&D programs.

    Our second long day in the region ended with an informative tour of Aix-en-Provence city center and a farewell dinner with our most cordial hosts. It has been a truly incredible visit here from the standpoint of experiencing just how similar this area is to San Diego in its life science collaboration, diversity and innovation.

    A two-year gap in visiting our partners here perhaps provided a better perspective on their progress, but we talked over dinner about the opportunity to work together more closely in the future as the bridge we are building attracts more traffic.

    SOURCE: UT SAN DIEGO

  • French biotech: A return visit

    Biocom delegation travels to southeastern France for biotech

    By Joe Panetta12:05 P.M.

    Officials of San Diego's Biocom and Eurobiomed, an agency in southeastern Francce, sign an agreement to help biotech companies do business in each other's regions. From left, Magda Marquet, founder of Althea Technologies and chair of Biocom; Jacquie Berthe, president of Eurobiomed and a scientific director of Sanofi-Aventis; and Joe Panetta, president and CEO of Biocom.

    (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

  • Top 10 European Biopharma Clusters

    Source: GEN

    Top 10 European Biopharma ClustersGenetic Engineering & Biotechnology News Logo

    Europe Is Home to Numerous Regional Communities.

    Find Out How They Rank on This GEN List

    Top 10 European Biopharma Clusters

    European countries compete vigorously not just in soccer but also in their efforts for attract and build up life science clusters. [© aberenyi/Fotolia]

    • The FDA’s approval March 6 of the first biosimilar drug for U.S. use helped shine a spotlight on European biotechnology, and not just because the biosimilar in question—Zarxio™, a variation of Amgen’s Neupogen (filgrastem)—will be marketed by the Sandoz unit of Swiss-based Novartis. As of March 10, Europe has 19 biosimilars authorized for patient use since 2006 (including Zarxio, which was approved as Zarzio in 2009).

      Yet there’s much more to biotechnology in Europe than biosimilars. The continent, like the U.S., is home to numerous regional communities or “clusters” of biotechs, pharmaceutical employers, universities, and independent research institutions. As GEN remarked last year, Europe’s biotech leaders enjoy more than one strong region, while smaller nations market their entire country as a hub for life sciences activities. Thus, unlike the U.S., European clusters cannot practically be ranked solely by region.

      And as in the U.S., there’s no central clearinghouse for statistical information using a single standard. So a list of European clusters is likely to include numerous larger bioclusters, though a few smaller clusters are notable enough to deserve mention: Norway’s Oslo Cancer Cluster, for example, is home to 66 biotech, pharma, and life sciences employers. That number is expected to increase once the cluster’s Innovation Park opens on August 24. The park will integrate the Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator, Ullern High School, The Norwegian Cancer Registry, the Pathology unit, and bioinformatics unit at Oslo University Hospital and several biopharma businesses, from startups to bigger companies.

    • #10—Ireland

      What Ireland appears to lack in patents (14th with six) and EU research funding (13th with 86 grants), the country more than makes up for in venture capital (seventh at $103.232 million in 2013) and number of companies (seventh with 120). “Close to 50,000” are employed in biopharma (IDA Ireland). Yet when it comes to biotech in Ireland, perhaps the best known number is 12.5%—one of the lowest corporate tax rates in the Western world, and no small reason why the Emerald Isle has proven attractive to biopharmas from the U.S. and continental Europe. Under criticism from the U.S. and other nations, Ireland agreed to phase out by 2020 the “Double Irish” practice that has long allowed multinational companies to cut their tax bills legally. Yet Ireland continues to attract jobs from biopharmas based in and outside the country; last month Horizon Pharma opened its new Dublin HQ, with plans to add 60 jobs over three years, while Bristol-Myers Squibb in November said it would build a new biologics manufacturing facility in Cruiserath, County Dublin, designed to support up to 400 manufacturing jobs.

    • #9 – Sweden

      Sweden’s strengths include its number of pure biotechs (136 of some 1,500 companies) and EU research funding (211 grants). More than 30,000 employees work in the industry (SwedenBIO). But the country dips to ninth in 2014 patents (30) and places only 13th in venture capital ($16.230 million in 2013). That’s not to say Swedish companies aren’t finding money; Göteborg-based Cortendo last month completed a $26 million private placement, growing to $37 million the amount of financing raised by the developer of treatments for orphan endocrine disorders since October. And Stockholm-based NeuroVive raised its presence in Asia by establishing a subsidiary that collected $3.255 million from Taiwanese investors, ahead of a planned initial public offering in Taiwan. Sweden’s life-sci strengths remain its heritage of pharmas such as Astra (now AstraZeneca) and Pharmacia (acquired by Pfizer)—and a present-day research base that includes the Karolinska Institute as well as Lund, Uppsala, and Göteborg Universities. Karolinska and Lund joined a home-grown company, Newron Sweden, last month in reporting that a growth factor applied to the brains of a 12 patients resulted in increased signaling of dopamine—a discovery that researchers hope can someday aid in the development of a treatment for Parkinson's disease.

    • #8—Denmark

      Denmark places fifth in venture capital ($135.492 million in 2013), sixth in patents (67), and 10th in both EU research funding (151 grants) and number of core biotechs (88). The industry employs 40,000, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Yet the country’s drug developers have been generating no small share of attention; Kvistgaard-based Bavarian Nordic earlier this month licensed its Phase III Prostvac® prostate cancer vaccine to Bristol-Myers Squibb for up to $975 million. Prostvac is indicated for asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC).  And on March 7, Novo Nordisk presented positive Phase IIIa data at The Endocrine Society's 97th Annual Meeting for its Saxenda® (liraglutide [rDNA origin] injection) treatment, which won FDA approval in December. A rich history in agriculture spawned a research industry that has grown into a full-fledged biopharma cluster, anchored in part by the more than 100 companies within the Medicon Valley consisting of Greater Copenhagen and Sweden’s Scania region.

    • #7— Belgium

      Belgium is perhaps Europe’s most consistent biotech sector, placing seventh in EU research funding (228 grants), 2014 patents (45), and number of companies (more than 140), but faring worse in venture capital (ninth at $61.294 million). More than 30,000 people worked in the industry as of 2013 (Embassy and Consulates of Belgium in the U.S.). Biopharmas are concentrated in a few regions—from Leuven, Mechelen, and Walloon Brabant (South East of Brussels), to Ghent, where home-grown ActoGeniX agreed last month to be acquired by Intrexon for $60 million, in a deal that will combine the companies’ technologies to create new oral biologic drugs. Expansion works both ways with Belgian biotechs. Earlier this month, Cardio3 BioSciences based in Mont-Saint-Guibert, Walloon Brabant, selected as the site of its first U.S. facility Rochester, MN—home to the Mayo Clinic, which holds a 3% stake in the Cardio3 BioSciences, and licenses its intellectual property to the company.

    • #6—Italy

      Italy fared best in core biotechs (fourth with 264 of a total 422 biotechs) and EU research funding (fifth with 322 grants), but lagged somewhat on 2014 patents (eighth with 31) and lagged especially on venture capital (a mere 12th with $25.808 million in 2013). The industry had 6,626 R&D employees in 2013, trade group Assobiotec Federchimica and the Italian Trade Agency with Farmindustria reported last year. The country has built a new generation of biotechs by leveraging its heritage chemical and pharmaceutical businesses, especially near Milan. But least one U.S. biotech has taken notice of Italy’s research: Biogen Idec agreed in January to develop gene therapies for hemophilia A and B with the San Raffaele-Telethon Institute for Gene Therapy (TIGET), a joint venture of Italy’s Fondazione Telethon and Ospedale San Raffaele.

    • #5—Switzerland

      Switzerland’s combination of corporate R&D, university research, and a strong financial sector helps explain its numbers: The country finished third in 2014 patents (94) and venture capital ($172.591 million in 2013), but placed sixth in core biotechs (146) and ninth in EU research funding (165 grants). Swiss Biotech counted 14,131 employees in 2013. The numbers also reflect the presence of a new generation of biotechs emerging from the lengthy shadows of heritage pharma giants Novartis and Roche, both of which are still headquartered within the Swiss Confederation. For example, the €30 million ($33 million) biotech startup support program launched by Merck Serono when it closed its Geneva R&D hub has its first success, with Prexton Therapeutics last month closing on an €8.7 million ($9.4 million) Series A financing round toward developing new small molecules targeting the metabotropic Glutamate Receptor 4 (mGluR4) through Phase I trials. Sunstone Capital and Ysios Capital co-led the round, with MS Ventures participating.

    • #4—The Netherlands

      The Netherlands ranked highest in EU research funding (fourth with 328 grants), and was middle-of-the-list in both 2014 patents (76) and number of core biotechs (114), dipping only slightly in venture capital (sixth with $148.396 million in 2013). The country’s biotech sector employed nearly 35,000 in 2013 (Commission on Genetic Modification or COGEM), and remains among the more diverse in Europe, with tools giant Qiagen, contract research organization Quintiles, and Royal DSM, a drug developer that expanded into contract manufacturing and development (through its DPx joint venture with JLL Partners). Yet a Dutch biotech, Lead Pharma, garnered attention last month by launching a partnership with Sanofi to develop and commercialize small molecule therapies for a broad range of autoimmune disorders by targeting the nuclear receptors known as retinoic acid receptor-related orphan receptor gamma (RORγt).

    • #3—France

      France has made some impressive strides in biotech the past few years, climbing to second in both 2014 patents (124) and venture capital ($188.721 million in 2013), and to third in both EU research funding (438) and core biotechs (224 according to EY; 255 according to France Biotech). Industry employment last year stood at 110,006 (European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations or EFPIA) Yet in December, France Biotech cited several obstacles to investment in the smallest startups—from “excessive paperwork and administrative tasks when dealing with multiples layers of academic institutions” to delays in review of applications for the CIR or Research Tax Credit, to the need for more understanding of industry needs by regulators. The most closely watched drug developer is heritage pharma Sanofi, whose new CEO Olivier Brandicourt, M.D., comes from France—unlike predecessor Christopher Viehbacher, whose move from Paris to Boston and pursuit of job cuts in the Republic contributed to his ouster by the board. Dr. Brandicourt will begin work on April 2. The Ile de France region that includes Paris remains the center of France’s life sciences activity, followed by Rhône-Alpes.

    • #2—United Kingdom

      The U.K.’s world-renowned universities and their biotech spinouts keep the kingdom first in EU research funding (516 grants) and in venture capital ($446.801 million in 2013), while finishing second in number of core biotechs (309 by EY, among 4,980 companies identified by the government in 2013) and fourth in 2014 patents (87). A total 175,761 people worked in the industry as of 2013 (UK government), though the figure includes 76,723 “medical technology” staffers in a category broad enough to include in vitro diagnostics and wound care. Like Germany, the U.K. benefits from two powerhouse clusters—the triangle formed by London, Cambridge, and Oxford and sometimes known as “East of England;” and Edinburgh, Scotland, institutions and companies focused on stem cell research (capitalizing on since-lifted restrictions in the U.S.) and industrial biotech. The U.K. also benefits from ambitious public-private efforts; in July 2014, the government joined Illumina and The Wellcome Trust in committing £311 million ($470 million) to map 100,000 human genomes by 2017–and thus catapult the kingdom to global leadership in genetic research into cancer and rare diseases.

    • #1—Germany

      Germany leads Europe in biopharma activity by 2014 patents (267) and number of “core” biotechs dedicated exclusively to the industry (428), while placing second to the U.K. in public funding, thanks to the presence of two dynamic regional clusters, North-Rhine Westphalia (NRW) and Bavaria. VC activity lags behind other Euro-giants (fourth at $169.365 million in 2013), in large part because of Germany’s unfavorable tax environment for investments. Industry employment was reported last year at 110,006 (EFPIA). About half of Germany’s companies are in the country’s two strongest clusters: North-Rhine Westphalia (more than 400, including 87 core biotechs and another 15 “additionally biotech active” companies, mostly global giants such as Bayer) and Bavaria (333 companies, including 160 to 170 core biotechs).