A little more than a decade ago you would have been hard pressed to find any biotech companies in Eastern Europe. The economic and intellectual isolation that had come with decades of Soviet rule were anathema to biotechnology, which thrives in a hot house environment that includes science, venture investors and wide-ranging global commercial enterprises under one roof.
But a lot can happen in 10 years. Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic have all helped foster fledgling life sciences industries. And the Czech Republic has proved a standout with its industry support and a talented group of English-speaking researchers who typically work for far less than their colleagues in Boston, London or L.A.
It takes more than a lot of low-cost talent to make a biotech industry, though, and Czech officials have been ambitious in coming up with new measures aimed at sparking a biotech revolution. There are tax breaks for investors, research subsidies and help with training.
Brno, which is home to a large number of the country's 60 or so developers, has mapped out a half billion dollar plan to create a new biotech park at Masaryk University and is building a clinical research center to lure international projects its way. Three years ago Brno partnered with the Mayo Clinic in an effort to help the country earn an international reputation as a world-class research hub. And the International Clinical Research Centre is being built to compete with the top research hubs anywhere on planet earth.
"There aren't many centers in the world that offer the combination of basic science to preclinical research to development of drugs, devices and technologies," Dr. Tomas Kara, the center's chief, recently told Reuters.