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Nov/Dec 2000
Vol. 3, No. 9, pp. 7.

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The global enterprise

Recently, I had the opportunity to be part of a biotechnology trade mission to France. As a joint undertaking of the City of Chicago’s Sister Cities International Program and the French government’s Invest in France Agency, a group of scientists and business entrepreneurs from the U.S. Midwest traveled to Europe to introduce themselves to, and possibly develop business relationships with, a series of pharmaceutical, drug development, and genome sequencing organizations. Except for the pleasantly accented English presentations (and perhaps the flowing bottles of champagne at every meal and reception), I doubt that based on technology, the members of the trade mission could tell whether they were in Essone outside of Paris or Rockville outside of Washington, DC.

At Genoscope, the French National Center for Sequencing, there were banks of DNA sequencers along with LC-mass spectrometers, capillary electrophoresis units, and everywhere, computers and servers connected to huge disk-storage devices. This was a science environment that looked nothing like a traditional lab. However, the environment did look identical to pictures we’ve all seen of similar facilities in the United States, with their seemingly infinite rows of sequencers decoding plant, aquatic vertebrate, or even human genes.

But there are differences between U.S. and European organizations, especially in their financial support. At Genopole, a government biotech incubator facility started in 1998, there are approximately 25 companies whose research is sponsored by French national, regional, and local governments. Companies compete for placement in this facility, and those selected can be guaranteed funding for up to 10 years by the sponsors, a situation not, to my knowledge, found very often in the United States. In addition, venture capital and similar types of private funding are not so much in evidence in Europe.

However, such differences in funding and support cannot obscure the similarities between the U.S. and European approach to DNA investigations. Everywhere you look, enormous resources are being poured into deciphering the puzzle that gives us life. Genetic research has been called the 2000 equivalent of a space race, but there were really only two participants in that 1960s contest, and even today, its results seem somewhat remote from the average citizen. But the genetic race is different. From France to Japan, there are many more players, and the tools, while expensive, are ubiquitous. It really is a global enterprise.

James Ryan

Note. It is of course December, and those of us on the editorial and production staffs of Modern Drug Discovery wish to extend our best wishes to our readers. This past year has been challenging for us, but ever so rewarding. We published nine issues on topics ranging from genomics to scientific employee compensation, along with our monthly selection of departments on business, late-breaking biotechnology news, book reviews, regulations, laboratory procedures, the history of pharmaceutical development, and more. Building on that base, in 2001, we will publish an additional three issues, thereby making us a monthly publication. There will be new features on proteomics, nanotechnology, and the business side of drug discovery. There will be a new MDD logo. And as a service to our readers, the full text of every article in MDD will be available on the MDD Web site (/mdd). But most of all, in 2001 there will be the continued editorial effort to produce interesting and informative articles. MDD is a magazine that covers the developing drug discovery industry in a way that is both challenging to write and interesting to read. We all look forward to writing for you next year.

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