Speech to International pharmaceutical research laboratories
(seul le discours parlé fait foi)
Friday 10 June 2011
This year again, for the third consecutive year, the President of the French Republic has
conferred upon us the enormous honour of inviting us to attend this day of meetings and
exchanges, an event, which although very recent, has nonetheless become highly significant
in the world of medical research.
It is highly significant since it brings together the most widely recognised talents and
innovative players in the health sector, a decisive research field earmarked by the President of
the French Republic since 2007 as a central priority for our country.
Moreover, this event is also highly significant since it attests to a development that will
remain part of the reversible legacy of this presidency. I refer of course to the public-private
partnerships that now unite actors in both academic and industrial research, of which your
presence here today, ladies and gentlemen, constitutes a wonderful symbol.
As Minister, I would like to express to you my great joy and pride in being able to participate
alongside you in this day devoted to infectious diseases, and to outline for you on this
occasion the major reforms that since 2007 have transformed the landscape of French medical
Of the many challenges facing researchers and doctors throughout the world, the fight against
infectious diseases is without doubt one of the most urgent. Claiming as they do 17 million
deaths each year, these diseases are the second leading cause of mortality worldwide.
Whether viral, bacterial or parasitic, they strike different countries to differing degrees
according to geographical location and level of development. However, let there be no
mistake: in an increasingly open world, these diseases eventually affect each and every
society and are of concern to us all.
It is clear that the emergence or re-emergence of infectious diseases will be of fundamental
importance in biomedical research throughout the 21st century. We must make preparation in
anticipation of the requirements of the medicine of the future and join forces against
epidemics waiting to strike.
In this domain, France possesses a rare privilege in the form of a tradition of scientific
excellence that has continued uninterrupted from Louis Pasteur through to recent Nobel Prize
winners Luc Montagnier and Françoise Barré-Sinoussi.
France has been the theatre of major discoveries such as rabies vaccine, hepatitis B vaccine
and discovery of AIDS virus. Today, 12% of public research effort in the medical domain
continues to be directed towards the combat against infectious diseases, with France
occupying second place worldwide in terms of publications on AIDS virus and hepatitis.
To this tradition of excellence, the President of the Republic and the French government
wished to lend further support through massive investment in medical research and
therapeutic innovation over the last four years, with a single ambition: to provide our
researchers with the means of rivalling the best laboratories in other countries and to ensure
for France a leading place worldwide in the arena of therapeutic innovation.
At the same time as this unprecedented financial effort, France has initiated sweeping change
to break down barriers in its own scientific landscape as part of a determined bid to unite its
forces for research around the major healthcare challenges.
It is in this spirit that we have created a theme-based alliance for the life sciences and health
care, the AVIESAN alliance, whose president, André Syrota, I am extremely happy to
welcome here today, and who, from the outset, has continued to infuse the greatest dynamism
into this exemplary initiative in the research field.
This entity brings together the most prestigious names in French research: INSERM, the
CNRS, the Institut Pasteur, IRD, INRA, CIRAD, the CEA, and naturally, the universities.
Together, they can now devise programmes through joint resources and scientific projects,
relying on fruitful collaboration projects and bringing to bear their complementary nature.
However, I also hasten to add that this alliance of talents would have been incomplete had it
not extended to the world of industry and private research.
For, as you know, French medical research enjoys a second advantage, a second privilege,
namely the existence of a remarkably dynamic pharmaceutical industry that devotes almost
15% of its revenue to R&D expenditure, and which has made our country the leading
European producer and the world's third most important producer of medicines.
As everyone is well aware, a natural continuum exists from the most fundamental research
through to the most innovative medical applications. Medical progress and therapeutic
innovation issue from the alliance of all of our research efforts, public and private,
fundamental and applied.
Public-private partnerships, and what we call in France, "la recherche partenariale" or
partnership-based research, are thus the cornerstone of our future progress. It is in this spirit
that we have maintained and indeed strengthened our Research Tax Credit, without doubt one
of the most encouraging fiscal instruments in existence anywhere in the world for the
promotion of private research, and which today is being imitated by a number of our
Research Tax Credit reforms now mean that expenditure subcontracted to a public laboratory
in France counts double, as do salaries paid to young doctors recruited by companies. In both
cases, 60% of the research expenditure of companies is now borne by the French state!
The results are clear for all to see: thanks to the Research Tax Credit reform, spending within
public laboratories rose by almost 50% between 2007 and 2009 while spending on
recruitment of young doctors more than tripled. For this reason, along with Economy,
Industry and Finance Minister, Christine Lagarde, I have consistently defended this measure,
which today is bearing fruit.
However, encouraging partnership-based research also means simplifying the contractual
relations between companies and public research laboratories.
It was to this end that we created the AVISEAN alliance of which I spoke a moment ago.
These companies can now work with a reference body that simplifies all administrative
procedures regarding their dealings with research bodies.
I would add that AVIESAN has created Covalliance, a single platform formed to coordinate
value creation structures for all its members, and which allows a single "mandate holder" for
intellectual property to be designated.
Similarly, within higher teaching and research centres, we have encouraged the creation of a
single counter for companies. Thus, France is currently setting up a number of technology
transfer acceleration companies, or SATT, which will take the form of subsidiaries shared
between several establishments and will provide an interface between public laboratories and
the world of industry.
It may clearly be seen that the previous institutional complexity of France's scientific
landscape no longer presents an obstacle for companies: whether they be from France or from
other countries, we are determined that nothing should stand in the way of the partnerships of
such companies with our own public laboratories.
Again, the results are there for all to see: of the 220 or so public-private laboratories that
currently exist in France, just over half have been created in the last six years!
In order to strengthen our scientific potential and accelerate the spread of this partnership-
based culture throughout the French economy, the President of the Republic made a historic
decision nearly 2 years ago, namely the investment of 22 billion euros in research, innovation
and higher learning, by means of a major public funding programme: Investments for the
Of these 22 billion euros, a large part will go to biomedical research and funding of the most
ambitious scientific projects, but also to those projects most open to the industrial sector.
Two programs are specifically devoted to medical research:
- First, the health-biotechnology programme, which provides funding of 1.55 billion euros for
cutting-edge technological platforms, investigational apparatus that will revolutionise research
and value creation in the life sciences, as well as the constitution of large patient cohorts.
- Second, hospital-university institutes, which will pioneer our medical research by bringing
together healthcare, training and research under a single roof, thus accelerating the
introduction of new treatments, while favouring the emergence of new research themes.
However, in addition to these two specific programmes, biomedical research benefits from all
calls for projects under the Investments for the Future program, as witnessed by the
Equipment of Excellence and the Laboratories of Excellence projects, or again, the
technological research institutes, which under the public-private partnership agreement will
receive funding of 2 billion euros.
At the end of the initial phase of calls for projects, 74 projects have been selected in the
biology and healthcare field, with total funding of 1 billion euros.
As the representatives of French research present here today can amply attest, the
mobilisation of French researchers in the life sciences is exceptional, and theirs are among the
most remarkable of scientific goals. For my part, I would like to add that our establishments
have fully met the collaborative and partnership-based requirement called for by Investments
for the future, and which is one of the key criteria used by international juries in their
selection of candidate projects.
Infectious diseases occupy a prominent position in all of the selected projects. Without listing
them all here, I would like to touch on some of the most promising projects.
I am thinking in particular of the POLMIT Hospital-University Institute in Marseille, which
will bring together certain of the most knowledgeable researchers in France in the field of
tropical viruses in particular, and will allow global management of patients affected, from
diagnosis through to therapy.
Speeding up the transition from scientific discovery to hospital application is also one of the
stated objectives of the three laboratories of excellence, the Vaccine Research Institute,
HEPSYS and LERMIT, which will be working on innovative vaccines and new medicines of
central concern in the medical world.
Along the same lines, I must also mention the LyonBioTech Technological Research Institute,
which brings together academic and industrial expertise to provide skills, services and
technologies of the very highest order for the global, integrated and personalised treatment of
Very many other projects will develop new tools and innovative technologies allowing the
validation of new anti-viral strategies and new therapeutic markers, as well as the
identification of new viruses. Here I am thinking in particular of the FlowCyTech, ImaginEx
BioMed and F-Crin projects, as well as the FRISBI and HIDDEN projects.
Combating infectious diseases also involves investigation of the genetic and environmental
factors responsible for the differences in reaction between individuals and organisms with
regard to a single infection. Such is the scope of the IBEID project and of the Milieu-Intérieur
project leaded by the Pasteur Institute, which will involve extremely wide-ranging
investigation of data on emerging infectious diseases.
The list is long, and as you will agree, ladies and gentlemen, it is made up of extremely
interesting projects. In all, more than 340 million euros have thus been invested in infectious
diseases research on completion of the first phase of the Investments for the Future program.
Over the next 10 years, this represents a 65% increase in annual funding of research in this
We are thus clearly entering a new golden age of French research, which is rising to meet the
medical challenges of tomorrow: the challenge of combating infectious diseases, of course,
but also those of rare diseases, cancer and obesity.
The inventiveness, enthusiasm and scientific talent that have greeted this Investments for the
Future program constitute the best guarantee of its success.
To the representatives of the world's leading pharmaceutical companies assembled here today,
I would like to make the following invitation: to work ever more closely with our research
teams, to extend with them this dynamic spirit of partnership now prevailing in France, and to
invent together the most innovative and encouraging responses to the major challenges that lie
ahead for our different societies.
I thank you for your attention