Northern France, a Pharma Hot Spot?

By Michele Vaccarello, Digital Managing Editor

Only 1 hour from Paris and 2 hours from London, the north of France and particularly Lille is quickly emerging as a pharmaceutical and biotechnology hotspot. With research and education driving the region’s healthcare growth, northern France has become the second French region, after Paris for total inward investment since 1993 and France’s third ranking finance and research center.

Northern France holds 4 million inhabitants, 250 hospitals and clinics, 750 specialized pharma, biotech, and IT companies and over 2000 researchers such as the Pasteur Institute of Lille, Biology Institute of Lille, ISERM, The CNRS and Lille-Nord Pas de Calais Genopole. The Eurasante Business Park located in Lille represents a strong alliance between bio and pharma industries, research, healthcare and training in biohealth and nutrition. The park is home to 75 companies such as UCB Pharma, Schering, Astra Zeneca, GSK, Merck Lipha, Bifinove and Cellial technologies, over 12,000 health professionals and 1 bioincubator covering 2000 m(2).

With nearly 155,000 students including more than 15,000 in the life sciences and health, seven universities and 23 engineering schools that train 10% of the country’s engineers, the Nord-Pas De Calais Region represents the 2nd largest academic area in France. Many pharma and biotech companies can draw from the experienced pool of graduates that Northern France offers to the industry.

One pharmaceutical giant in particular has invested heavily in Northern France due to a high-quality workforce and proximity to Brussels. GlaxoSmithKline is in the process of building a new vaccine plant in Saint-Amand-les-Eaux, located close to Valenciennes, for the production of the active ingredient for the Cervarix vaccine as well as GSK’s new meningitis and influenza vaccine. The facility is scheduled to be fully operational in 2011 with a workforce of nearly 750.

“From the start, France offered significant advantages: a market that optimizes our pharmaceutical products; recognition of intellectual property rights; finally, the tax initiative concerning tax credit based on investment, which was launched in 2006, and which was perceived by pharmaceutical groups as a very positive signal from the French administration,” said Christophe Weber, CEO of GSK France.

The Saint-Amand-les-Eaux development project is the biggest investment in the French pharmaceutical industry in over ten years. Over 500 million euros has been invested in the vaccine production facility and the investment should create 300 new jobs in the region by next year.

The new facility will house a freeze drying plant, liquid filling plant, packaging plant, and quality control laboratories. Saint Amand will partner with local universities and schools to create a team of highly skilled engineers during the production of the site.

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