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EMBL/EMBO Joint Conference 2000

Friedrich von Bohlen, Lion Bioscience AG, Heidelberg, Germany

Biography

Friedrich von Bohlen received a degree in biochemistry from the University of Zürich, and completed his doctoral thesis at the Institute of Neurobiology at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zürich.

After several years as project manager at different companies (Fresenius AG, FAG Kugelfischer KGaA, WASAG Chemie AG), in March 1997 he co-founded LION Bioscience AG (Heidelberg, Germany), a successful biotechnology company specializing in bioinformatics and genome analysis for the life science industry.

He has received several recognitions including the Innovation Prize of the SPD (1997), McKinsey/Sparkasse/Stern1s Startup Prize (1998), and was named Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst and Young, SAP, Manager Magazin in 1999. He is a Member of the Board of VCI (Verband der Chemischen Industrie), Baden Württemberg, DIB (Deutsche Industrievereinigung Biotechnologie), Deutschland, and Tripos, Inc., St. Louis, MO.

Abstract

Business with biotech: Europe vs USA – Reality vs wishful thinking

The European Biotech industry is still significantly lagging behind the US industry despite the fact that science in Europe isn't worse than in the US. What are the reasons, and can one expect that this may change in the near future? First of all one has to benchmark certain industry parameters to verify this statement. This can easily be done by looking over the last three years at revenues, profits/losses, number, size, capitalization and growth of companies in the USA vs. Europe. From these numbers it becomes clear that Europe - in the best case - didn't fall back more than the about 5 years it used to be behind the USA. But it's not only industry benchmarks that demonstrate the distance: It is also the importance Biotech plays in the awareness of the systems and the consequence how Biotech gets promoted. It is the fact that the 'New Thinkers' come from the USA, people who set the standard in today's opinion leading discussions about the role, importance and depth the industry will play for our future life and society. It is the culture of the 'New Economy' that is also reflected in the 'New Science' one can find in the USA but not in large parts of Europe. Here it is important to understand the message: 'New' is the driving attribute, a synonym for a modern, novel, pragmatic culture and attitude of individuals.

Again, it is the USA that shows us and teaches us how that goes. It is the pragmatic approach to form alliances limited in time between science, small corporations, big companies and different sources of money that allow us to taylor the right vehicle to address and answer the right question quickly and efficiently. Europe has difficulties in allowing and supporting such 'opportunistic' approaches. It is simple to count the number of patents e.g. on gene/functions in the USA and in Europe and to understand what this will mean for the wealth of future societies. Overall there are many reasons why it is fair to say that the USA are strongly driving the industry and will do this very likely also for the next several decades. It is not the intention of the speaker to judge this, but it is the intention to trigger a discussion and an awareness process in Europe to ask ourselves: what can we do, what will we do, what happens if we do it or do not do it?