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Paris conference aimed at giving European health technology a growth boost

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In 2017, the health technology sector raised more than three times as much money in the U.S. as it did in Europe, but a new conference in Paris hopes to alter that ratio.

Launched by France Biotech, the first HealthTech Investor Days conference will take place Monday and Tuesday and is designed to help 100 late-stage companies across biotechnology and other parts of the health industry link up with international investors and drugmakers.

While Europe sports a vast array of large pharmaceutical companies, research institutions, venture capital firms and startups – the announcement cited 3,000 biotech and 27,000 medical technology companies – its own biotech sector remains in a less advanced stage of development than its U.S. counterpart primarily because it got a later start, said Antoine Papiernik, managing partner at Paris-based Sofinnova Partners. “We were toddlers when the U.S. was already a grown-up industry,” he said, noting that Sofinnova was one of the founding investors in Genentech, founded in 1976 and now a subsidiary of Swiss drugmaker Roche. Continuing the toddler metaphor, Papiernik said that where the European biotechnology sector was crawling on all fours 20 years ago, it has now grown past adolescents and into young adulthood. “So maybe we don’t know much about life, but we still have energy,” he said.

Papiernik pointed to the amount of growth that has taken place among European biotech companies as of late as evidence of the sector’s maturity over there. Indeed, several European biotech companies that were already trading on European markets have also begun selling shares on U.S. markets as well. In March, Lille, France-based Genfit, which is developing drugs for nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, began selling shares on the Nasdaq after having sold them for years on the Euronext Paris market. And Copenhagen-based Genmab has also filed to list its shares on the Nasdaq.

Much of that growth stems from a strong European presence in a variety of important modalities, such as cell and gene therapy. “Europe is actually at the forefront, even countries that you would not put first on your list,” Papiernik said, pointing to Italy as one of the world leaders in gene therapy. “I think there’s a lot of innovation in new modalities in Europe.”

Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris, Getty Images

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