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Biotechnology - 96 new research projects approved

The European Commission has approved funding of ECU 113.6 million for 96 new research projects in the field of biotechnology, including a number of demonstration projects, put forward by Commissioner Edith Cresson. The projects were selected from 391 proposals received in answ...

The European Commission has approved funding of ECU 113.6 million for 96 new research projects in the field of biotechnology, including a number of demonstration projects, put forward by Commissioner Edith Cresson. The projects were selected from 391 proposals received in answer to the third call under the Community's specific RTD programme in the field of Biotechnology (BIOTECH 2), which closed on 18 October 1996. Two areas in particular, "Plant molecular and cellular biology" and "Structural biology", generated a large proportion of the proposals received. A number of interesting projects were also received under the two newly opened areas of the BIOTECH 2 programme: bio-electronics and environmental biotechnology. One of the projects selected is aimed at designing the genetic tools to construct bacteria capable of cleaning up water or soil polluted by PCBs or other nasty chemicals. Another project aims to identify new ways of blocking protein production in bacteria (the way many current antibiotics work), with a view to the development of new antibiotics. Other projects include research into cellular vaccines for cancer and the development of low-cost bio-sensing equipment. The evaluation was carried out by 220 experts, including 30% from industry, distributed among 14 panels according to the scientific area. Following evaluation, 96 projects were short-listed (24.6% of applications), for total funding of ECU 113.6 million, revealing a considerable improvement compared with the proportion of projects selected following the first and second calls (19%). Industrial participation is continuing to rise. Overall industrial participation, that is the proportion of participants among projects selected for EU funding stands at 19% (compared with 16% in the second call), while the proportion of projects involving at least one industrial participant has now reached 77%. This so-called industrial penetration has been rising throughout the BIOTECH 2 programme (up from 65% in the second call). Similarly, SME penetration reached a new peak with 41% of selected projects involving an SME. With regard to demonstration projects, 38 proposals were submitted of which eight were selected for funding. These include using novel methods to grow mammalian cells for the production of biopharmaceuticals, trials for a novel vaccine against malaria and a genomic vaccine for HIV-1, new technologies for structural biology studies, and marker technology for breeding farm animals and plants. Finally, in the area of immunology and trans-disease vaccinology, 15 projects will receive funding including the two demonstration projects mentioned above. Some of these match the priorities identified by the Task Force on Vaccines and Viral Diseases, thus reinforcing the Commission's commitment to this area.