Biotech setback for UK
Sunday 17 May 1998
With the help of state and private enterprise, German biotech firms burgeoned by 70 per cent in the past year. Sebastian Meier-Ewart, founder of Genome Pharmaceutical in Munich, typifies the new wave of German entrants. "I don't know if German companies will supersede Britain, but I think they will catch up fairly quickly," he predicted.
For over a decade Britain has led Europe in new bioscience companies, which develop high-tech drugs or medical devices.The UK industry now has 248 companies: about three dozen are quoted. There is only one public German company - Qiagen - but at least 10 others may list soon, and analysts believe the shares will find a ready market.
The German growth comes as the UK sector suffers growing pains, with shares slumping 40 per cent in a year. Last month, three UK executives were sacked: Andrew Millar, British Biotech director of clinical research; David Horrobin, chief executive of Scotia Holdings and Arthur Holden, chief of Celsis International.
Investors fear a "brain drain" of British scientists. One solution may be British public-private partnerships of the kind that has propelled the growth of the German sector.
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