Crisis as seen from a relatively stable quasi-academic environment

The credit crunch has pervaded all spheres of the economy and the biotechnology sector is no exception. That is not to say that all of biotechnology is in crisis. In fact, despite the fact that venture capitalists and investors are not willing to provide the much needed funds for start-up companies, there is still a better side to it.

A lot of the research carried out in biotechnology is obtained from governmental and non-profit fundations such as the Wellcome Trust (1) or the BBSRC (2); I will call them development agencies. Funds here are allocated for several years and they are secured before they are given. This means that those lucky scientists working with funds from such sources are likely to be the least affected by the current financial turmoil. However, if the current downhill trend continues, next budgetary allocations will be affected and scientists should expect differences in the way the [little] money [left] is spent. Nevertheless this is not due to happen at least in several years time, at which point (fingers crossed) the current financial crisis might have remitted.

New generation sequencing machines, microarrays and diagnostic kits orders should not decrease from labs funded by development agencies, especially in Europe. While NIH (3) funding has shrunk in real terms, budgets in Europe have continued to increase steadily for research, at least for now. Of course, there have been some exceptions, as in Italy, where the government has not performed according to promised plans of incorporating new faculty to Italian universities, leaving many Italian scientists in trouble. Nevertheless, it seems that at least in Europe as a whole, the commitment from politicians to support research continues.

No industry is safe from the current credit crunch, but in my opinion, the view that the biotechnology sector is in crisis is not completely true and it does not correspond to all industries in this sector. When compared to other sectors of the economy, such as banking or construction, the panorama looks rather sweet.


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