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R&D cuts threaten Canadian biotechs, study says

* Revenue of Canadian biotechs rose 9 pct last year

* Number of publicly traded biotechs fell 11 percent (In U.S. dollars)

TORONTO, April 29 (Reuters) - Canada’s biotechnology companies posted a rise in revenue last year, but a report on Thursday expressed concern about the industry’s future due to a drop in research and development spending and a shrinking number of publicly traded companies.

The Ernst & Young report showed that the revenues of the publicly traded biotech companies rose 9 percent to $2.16 billion in 2009 from $1.98 billion the previous year.

However, R&D spending slipped 44 percent to $354 million from $626 million as the companies cut costs as they struggled to find new sources of funding.

More than half of the Canadian public companies currently have less than one year’s worth of cash, the report said.

“This extensive cost-cutting is a double-edged sword,” said Paul Karamanoukian, Ernst & Young’s Canadian life sciences practice leader.

“In the short term, the reductions have helped the industry weather the storm, but as (R&D is) the driver of future growth for this sector, the decline in R&D could have long-term repercussions for the industry.”

The report said the number of Canadian public biotech companies dropped 11 percent to 64.

“It remains to be seen if the industry can fully bounce back from the setbacks of the past few years, and attract capital in 2010, which is going to be a pivotal year for Canadian biotech,” Karamanoukian said. ($1=$1.00 Canadian) (Reporting by Scott Anderson; editing by Peter Galloway)

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