“On a par with Malaysia”
Athens –The 5th International Biotechnology Forum (IGBF5), which is to be held May 8-9 in Athens, boasts appearances by three Nobel Prize winners. Andrew Schally, Richard Roberts and Sir Peter Mansfield will speak at the opening ceremony of the two-day-event, which as the website promises “again brings together the crème de la crème of the BioScientific and BioBusiness world.”
Greece might be at the centre of the European biotechnology world for these two days in May, but for the other 363 days of 2009 it will be anything but – at least not yet, according to Nassos Alevizopoulos, a BioBusiness consultant and Senior Vice President of the US biotech company Regulon Inc.
“Despite some recent signs of activity, Greek biotech is embryonic; say at the level of Malaysia,” says Alevizopoulos. Until 2005, he was the CEO of Bionova, the Greek company that hosts IGBF. Today, there are at least 15 R&D-based biotech companies in Greece, he continued, and to increase international outreach in the looming credit crunch, these companies have recently created HellasBio, a non-profit biotech industry association.
As in Italy, the concept of biotech venture capital (BVC) has just begun to emerge in Greece, but “one HellasBio member leads its market in Europe already, while two other innovative Greek biotechs have also attracted professional European BVC for products that were developed locally,“ Alevizopoulos says. If all goes well, he hopes to see “50 companies in 5-10 years.” To reach this ambitious goal, the Greek business leader aims to exploit his country’s large expatriate bioscientific community in the US and EU, and take advantage of repatriated scientists and executives. Meanwhile, Malaysia is not idle. At the BioEurope Spring conference in Milan, the flashiest booth belonged to South-East Asia – not South-East Europe.