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Scientific innovation is global and distributed across regions where there is a combination of government funding and academic centres of excellence. However, scientific translation into biotech companies is concentrated in regions with professional investors and with access to public markets that have high trading volume, such as the NASDAQ stock exchange in the USA. Europe continues to be a leader in life science innovation, but its biotech industry remains approximately a quarter of the size of the USA in terms of both the number of companies and the value of venture financing. Here, we analyse venture deal data and publicly available data on the NASDAQ to identify specific challenges for biotech development in Europe. We then discuss the differences in the economic dynamics between the USA and Europe and highlight strategies on how to bridge the gap.