May 31, 2012

Comment va la génomique en France ?

France has a new president and a new cabinet. An excellent reason for me to continue a series on genomics in different countries, which has already covered Japan and Germany.

In June 2000, the first draft of the human genome was completed. The contribution of France was 3% of the total. That was little, but still more than the contribution of any other country except the United States and the UK. At the time, all of the sequencing in France was done by its national sequencing centre, the Genoscope near Paris.

According to Balzac, political liberty, the peace of a nation, and science itself are gifts for which fate demands a heavy tax in blood

Since then, genomics has become even less of a national priority, and other countries have overtaken France. In terms of sequencing infrastructure, France lags behind its European peers Germany and the UK. According to Omics Maps, there are 38 sequencing machines in France, compared to Germany's 135 and the UK's 138.

There are some signs that this could change. Last year, French genomics, including the Genoscope sequencing centre, received a funding boost of €60m ($77m) as a part of a €260m package to promote research infrastructure. It is too early to tell whether this has been a one-off, or whether there is a long-term commitment by French policymakers to invest more in genomics. Doing a quick press search, I could not find any indication what the views of France's new minister of Higher Education and Research on genomics are.

How about the private sector? France has biotech giants such as Biomérieux and Eurofins that are also involved in sequencing.  However, the core business of both companies is not genomics. That is unlikely to change: In a recent interview, Eurofins senior vice president Bruno Poddevin expressed the opinion that it will take at least another 10 years until Sanger sequencing is replaced by next generation sequencing (NGS), and that until then, NGS will not be a priority for his company.

Overall, it seems that sequencing is not a priority for either the public or the private sector in France. If you have any comments that confirm or refute this view, please share them below. Please note that I will be travelling until the 19th of June and that I will not be able to reply to your messages until then.

1 comment:

  1. ARRRRG!!!! you make my day when i found your post. You're absolutely right. France is years behind when it comes to genomics.

    One important thing is that French have a stupid bioethics law that is the most restrictive in the world when it comes to get access to genomic information. It has avoided any entrepreneurial initiative in that space.

    It has kept France in the direction of genomics, yes maybe for treatment, genomics for diagnostics and prevention, no, no you are crazy!

    I know what is, I have just moved to San Diego to start our company, Portable Genomics, because the french institutions didn't want us to start this company in France, because of these regulations.

    It goes even beyond the scope of Genomics to embrace personalized and preventive medicine initiatives. A recent report from the french gov asked to wait until the rest of the world makes proof of the utility of genomics based medicine.

    I'm so sad for France.