European Life Sciences Funding Sporting a Sunny Outlook -- MEDICA - World Forum for Medicine

Knowledge based competitive economy is the major milestone that Europe is striving for in the holistic sense. Current fragmentation of bioresearch funding calls for emphasis on both fundamental and applied research in order to make Europe internationally competent on the international scale. The main reason being fundamental research breeds innovation and serves as a precursor to any technology before acquiring commercial importance.

Genetic blue prints have offered a new perspective to the realm of molecular disease prognosis since the past few years. Post genome sequencing has yielded a deluge of gene data explosion and attention has been redirected to identifying protein signatures as disease morphologies can be deciphered at the protein level. The paradigm shift in the technology is being carried out to determine the feasibility for newer therapies facilitating the detailed investigation at the cellular level for the different multi-factorial diseases.

Having realized the broader significance of these emerging technologies at both public and private sector level, a welcoming climate with better financial incentives and proper regulation of intellectual property may help these crucial strategic technology motors to further bioresearch to the next dimension. With the awareness of improving the knowledge repository in the area of biological sciences, the major countries like Germany, UK , France and Spain have already warmed up to the concept of raising the funding volume in the rapidly growing areas of genomics and proteomics.


The prime challenge hindering the augmentation of basic life science research is the need to strengthen the scientific base through effective research innovation in life sciences and biotechnology. Although research expenditure has been on a steady increase year-on-year, Frost & Sullivan reckons that a good harmony between political and societal dialogues is essential for ensuring that medical research acquires the top priority. Participation of scientists from the newly formed member states should be encouraged to further the knowledge repository and improve competence in technology advancements on a holistic scale.

The other dynamic challenge gripping the scientific clan of Europe and the funding institutions is the mystery behind the magic bullet. Systems biology is the way life sciences looks ahead as it is high time where the plethora of available technologies are harnessed into the meaningful therapies and bolster the growing concept of Personalized medicine. The main attention that funding bodies are equally concerned as the researchers is the ability to manage biological data ably with reliable software support and supported by consistent statistical validation to enter the diagnostics world without much hassles. Furthermore, our research indicates that the Framework programmes designed by the European Commission should complement the other EU policies for public health to achieve an optimal critical mass.

Funding landscape from the major countries that invest in life sciences

Countries such as Germany and United Kingdom have been heavily allocating funds through the public sector research. Research Councils and academies are the main channels for routing the research financial schemes from the Office of Science and Technology (OST) in the United Kingdom. The life sciences sector receives to around 32 per cent share in the overall science budget indicating well that government aided initiatives are being designed to make United Kingdom the most influential region for life sciences in the years to come . Feedback indicates that research costs versus revenues will serve as a good indicator for UK to maintain financial stability. Key alliances are encouraged between universities and research institutes to nurture the growing trend of technology transfer initiatives.

On the other hand, the Federal and Lander Governments share the funding volume for both academic and non-university research in Germany. The public sector funding has been scaling on a positive note with the support for the ongoing trend in translational research particularly in the fields of disease-oriented genomics and proteomics. The Federal Ministry for Education and research (BMBF) is another major funding body that prioritizes projects that may leverage more opportunities to enhance employment and growth. Since the inception of the National Genomics research Network, there has been a gearshift from the sequencing to the technology application for clinical applications. The strive to augment the funding volume for projects is continuing to build the vision towards individualized therapies to counter specific disease needs. BMBF extends its funding capabilities towards newer technologies like proteomics which have gained the technology spotlight over the last couple of years.

France has been significantly allocating money for life sciences since the biotech upbeat began in the mid 90s. Although the budgetary volumes can be found comparable to the United Kingdom, the major difference lies in the funding mechanism. French government has enhanced its funding capacity with a substantial budgetary rise of around 3 percent from last year. There have been multifaceted efforts towards cancer research from 2004 and some priority areas like functional genomics and clinical research have been identified for targeting new therapies. Government has also been allotting substantial amount of money to galvanize industry R&D apart from the private channel support.

Charity funding is another key concept that has been prevalent in the UK and the French government is slowly warming up to adopting the same in the near term. Although the perception may be a motivating one in France, but to be able to create the verve for charitable giving towards research foundations needs time for boosting their assets. The Wellcome Trust has been unparalleled in their support for biomedical research over the past five years with their ambitious projects like technology transfer initiatives. There are other charity institutions working towards enhancing a strong knowledge base.

To summarize, life sciences research initiatives should be streamlined towards strengthening cooperative efforts between national and regional funding bodies. Efforts are being drawn to build a pan European organization, European Research Council which will give a synergistic outlook through nurturing rapport of the European Commission with the other funding institutions. Giving importance to fundamental research is indispensable as basic research breeds innovation leading to the inference that by employing good infrastructure economic gains in biomedical research can be anticipated thus ensuring constant growth.

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Katja Feick
Corporate Communications
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