The slow start of the vaccination campaign highlights the lack of capacity of our drug industry to cope with the pandemic.

Nicolas Barré takes stock of a current economic issue.

The slow start of the vaccination campaign masks a major issue that is less talked about: the capacity of our drug industry to cope with the pandemic.

It is indeed a crucial industrial policy issue for Europe.

We know there will be other pandemics.

It is the IPCC biodiversity experts who say "Future pandemics will appear more often, will spread more quickly ... and will kill more people than Covid-19".

In short, it couldn't be better to say how much of a priority the life sciences industry should be.

The Covid epidemic has revealed how much we lack production capacity on our soil.

What is missing is a proactive American or Chinese industrial strategy.

In these two cases, there was a very strong impetus from the State, with significant financial resources combined with conditions imposed on manufacturers: to produce locally.

The United Kingdom, on its own scale, did a bit of the same thing by associating an industrialist, AstraZenecca, which had no particular expertise in vaccines but who knew how to produce drugs in large quantities, and the University of Oxford to develop an adenovirus vaccine.

It was typically an industrial policy choice on the part of the British government.

Why ?

Because this adenovirus technology, which is not exceptional, is quick to develop and quick to mass produce.

In other words, it was a good bet to ensure that we could quickly have a vaccine designed and produced in Europe.

And that we are not dependent solely on deliveries from third countries.

Clearly, Europe must have a strong drug industry on its soil.

An example: in France we only produce 5% of the biological drugs that we need - these are drugs resulting from biotechnology, which is booming, in particular to fight against cancer.

Why so little?

It is not a question of technology!

It's just that we lack industrial sites to produce them.

Ten years ago, we were the leading manufacturer of medicines in Europe, all types of medicines combined.

Today we are the 4th.

But more broadly, all of Europe produces less and imports more.

This dependence results from the absence of an industrial policy, whereas the United States, China or to a lesser extent Russia are much more proactive.

If the Covid crisis allows our life sciences industry to take off, it will have been beneficial.