France biotech companies enjoyed a good year in 2010 in terms of raising funds and making progress in product pipelines.

That is the key finding from a survey carried out by France Biotech (the French association of life science companies), based on the responses of over 263 companies. The poll notes that the French government is encouraging the sector with generous tax credits, while research efforts (especially in oncology and infectious diseases) mean that two-thirds of the companies stated that they have at least one therapeutic product in development or on the market.

 'Remarkable' fundraising

Last year was "remarkable" in terms of fundraising, the survey notes. Following a 65% drop in 2009, the total amount of venture capital raised by life sciences companies increased 56% in 2010 to 148 million euros.

Also, the French state innovation agency Oseo invested 42 million euros in 344 projects, while companies are benefitting from the 139 million euro InnoBio fund created in late 2009, which has made six investments. However, it is not all wine and roses.

2010 saw 12 companies go out of business and the survey noted that 33% of all firms encountered financial difficulties: 20% had cash flow problems, 27% needed to raise funds and 7% made staff redundant.

France Biotech chairman Andre Choulika said the study shows that the life science industry in France "has never been as lively - partly as a result of support from the French government". However he is concerned about the negative impact of some of the reforms set out in the 2011 Budget Bill - in particular, the progressive eradication of the Young Innovative Company (YIC) fiscal status.

This move "will threaten the survival of many of our companies", Mr Choulika said, "and France Biotech will continue to lobby the government to back-track on these recent legislative changes".