France is tackling its poor research record in the life sciences with a ¤46 million genome programme. Jane Marshall reports
The French government is prioritising research in the life sciences after admitting that its past efforts have been insufficient. The most important area for development will be the genome.
The Programme Genomique has just been unveiled by Pierre Chambon, chairman of the programme's scientific council, and its director, Jacques Demaille.
The programme will pay particular attention to developing research on human and plant genomes, with the aim of creating research areas new to France and encouraging research partnerships between the public and private sectors.
With a budget of ¤46 million (Pounds 30 million) for 1999, the programme will bring together six main initiatives:
Genoscope, the national sequencing centre - a new consortium run by the ministry of education, research and technology, the national council of scientific research and France Innovation Scientifique et Transfert - which conducts genome research and produces high-quality data on genomes from microbes, plants, animals and humans. Genoscope is a participant in the international human genome sequencing programme.
The national genotyping centre, which carries out research, especially related to identifying the morbid genes implicated in hereditary diseases. The centre also makes technology available to help in genetic research programmes.
Infobiogen, a computerised resource centre attached to the University of Evry, near Paris, which offers IT services to researchers and laboratories.
The services of Genopole, also at Evry, which include a high-quality research campus grouping public and private laboratories and firms; new courses in genetics at Evry; and a centre to foster start-up biotechnology companies.
(A national network of related centres will be developed within two years at two sites in Paris and eight in regional cities, including Lille, Strasbourg, Lyon and Bordeaux.)
The post-genome initiative, which will continue research in the medical, pharmaceuticals and agri-business areas. Actions will include setting up industrial partnerships to transfer technology from academic laboratories to private firms in the field of health. It will also provide financial help to the academic community working in strategic areas of genetic research.
Genoplante, a public-private partnership set up in February, which analyses plant genomes, especially of agricultural crops. Other activities include monitoring the environmental effects of genetically modified organisms.
Two new laboratories, one of them private, are being set up at Evry. Private finance will contribute to a budget of ¤213 million over a five-year period.