FRANCE: Backing for bio-software

The French government has received the go-ahead to grant nearly EUR50 million to the nation's BioIntelligence research and development programme. The green light came from the European Commission which has a potential veto over such large grants to ensure they comply with fair competition rules for the European Union.

Although French companies and academics will get a helping hand, the fact that the initiative will substantially improve biotechnical research contributed to Brussels' favourable decision.

The French government will contribute EUR46.3 million to the five-year programme which will be coordinated by leading software innovation company Dassault Systèmes. It will involve small and medium enterprises specialised in bioinformatics, life science industries, and public research institutes.

BioIntelligence will promote the use of systemic modelling and simulation tools to exploit biomedical databases, an innovative approach based on the 3D PLM (product lifecycle management) method in which Dassault Systèmes is a leader worldwide.

Authorising the funding, the commission said BioIntelligence would address a current market failure within Europe, and was set to create positive effects in all bioinformatic and public health sectors. Dassault Systèmes will receive the biggest share of the EUR46.3 public support, a total of EUR14.5 million including EUR6.4 million in repayable advances.

Also benefiting from the grant are Sophia BioSystems (EUR12.9 million of which EUR7 million will be repayable advances), a number of partners specialising in information technology and life sciences, including Inria (France's computer science research and control institute), Inserm (the national health and medical research institute) and Genopole, France's leading science and business park dedicated to biotechnology and biotherapy.

The commission added that BioIntelligence will remove several technological obstacles and allow the partners to devise a way of representing biological knowledge that is compatible with the BioPLM approach and develop tools for systemic modelling and simulation of biological data.

Other bioinformatic software developers will also benefit from free access to the open integrated BioPLM software platform which the programme will create, it says.

The grant to the BioIntelligence programme comes under the French Agence de l'Innovation Industrielle aid scheme. It has an annual budget of EUR1 billion and selects, finances and assesses major strategic programmes which, under a lead company, bring together large industrial companies, SMEs and research laboratories to create a new high technology product or service within five to 10 years.