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Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotechnology firm Genzyme(Nasdaq:GENZ) is considering participation in a tender to manage a biotech incubator, part of a new incubator project initiated by the Chief Scientist at the Ministry of Industry and Trade. Zeev Zelig, the general manager of Genzyme Israel, confirmed this yesterday.

Zelig added that the plan is in its initial stages, and that he intends to meet with Israeli organizations that expressed their intent to set up a consortium to compete for one of the incubators. "For us to invest in an incubator, it would have a technology or a product aimed at treatment of rare genetic diseases, which is our main focus of interest," he said. The results of his meetings will be brought to the next meeting of Genzyme's European R&D investment committee for a decision.

Genzyme was founded in 1981 and is considered one of the leading five biotechnology firms in the world. It is valued at $11 billion, and in 2001 its sales volume totaled $1 billion. The company invested $220 million in R&D in 2001.

Genzyme's operation in Israel began in 1995, and in the last two weeks the company increased its efforts to locate possible candidates for partnership or acquisition. Zelig has so far met with representatives of six companies, startups and companies already traded on U.S. markets. Another thirty companies approached Genzyme offering the company to either co-operate with them or acquire them altogether.

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Yesterday it was reported that Johnson & Johnson may also participate in the tender, in a consortium it will set up with Teva Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq:TEVA). Potential candidates are greatly interested in the RAD-Ramot incubator, owned by the government, the Tel Aviv University and the Zissapel brothers, owners of the RAD group.

According to the terms of the tender set by the Chief Scientist, no international pharmacology firm in a consortium will be allowed to maintain a 20% stake in the consortium, or 10% more than any other company in the consortium, so as to avoid conflicts of interests.

The biotechnology incubators will be operated by the winners in the tender, and will enjoy a longer period of government support than other hi-tech incubators.