Bay Area faces biotech competition

A group of biotechnology insiders issued a dire warning Thursday, saying that other states and countries were pillaging Northern California of its talent and potential products due to an environment not in tune with the struggles of a growing industry.

BayBio, a biotechnology industry association, released its 2008 impact report warning legislators not to become “complacent” with the current growth and wealth associated with the booming industry.

The biotech industry — founded in the 1970s and centered in the Bay Area — employs 90,000 people in Northern California and accounts for more than $6 billion in wages, according to BayBio.

But according to the report, the industry faces four key challenges: access to money, recruiting, planned growth and attracting investment.

BayBio President Matt Gardner encouraged lawmakers to create corporate tax incentives for major investments in the state, a tax amnesty for capital gains from life-sciences investments and incentives for local communities to zone biotech regions during planning.

“We’re already missing some opportunities; it’s a question of how longwe let this go on,” Gardner said at a morning conference held at Hotel Nikko.

Dan Welch, the chief executive officer of Brisbane-based biotech company InterMune, said he was concerned about the next 30 years of biotech in Northern California because “other states have better offers.”

“It’s not the companies will leave lock, stock and barrel,” Welch said. “It’s that their growth may take place elsewhere.”

As for recruiting new employees into the Bay Area, Welch said InterMune “doesn’t even try” anymore because of the high cost of living here and the shock to new recruits. “In my experience, we don’t even try and recruit from outside the Bay Area,” Welch said.

San Mateo County Supervisor Jerry Hill took in the presentation and called biotechnology the “bedrock” of San Mateo County’s economy, which is home to industry giants including Genentech and Amgen of South San Francisco.

“We have to continue to incentivize the risk” in order to reap any benefits, Hill said.

San Francisco is poised to absorb some of the industry’s growth with a biotech campus in Mission Bay, as well as planned life science building developments in The City’s Eastern neighborhoods and 2 million square feet of biotech building space planned out at Hunters Point, said Michael Cohen, director of the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development.

“We’re very focused on making sure there’s growth for this industry in San Francisco,” Cohen said.

Biotech industry at a glance

» 90,000 employees in Northern California

» More than $6 billion in wages

» Average wage: $68,000

» 6,000 new jobs in last year

» Average time for Federal Drug Administration approval of a new drug: 14 years

» Average cost for development of a new drug: $800 million

Source: BayBio

dsmith@examiner.com

businessLocalScience & TechnologyScience and Technology

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Police release an image a cracked windshield on a Prius that Cesar Vargas allegedly tried to carjack. Vargas, who was shot by police a short time later, can be seen in videos jumping on the windshield and pushing a Muni passenger who disembarked from a bus. (Courtesy SFPD
SFPD releases videos of deadly police shooting

Cesar Vargas killed after reports of carjacking with knife

New legislation would make sure supportive housing tenants don’t pay more than 30 percent of their income for rent.. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner))
Supportive housing tenants could get more help paying the rent

Supportive housing tenants struggling to pay rent could soon see their payments… Continue reading

Organizers of the San Francisco International Arts Festival had planned to use parts of Fort Mason including the Parade Ground, Eucalyptus Grove and Black Point Battery to host performances by about a dozen Bay Area arts groups. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Arts festival sues city over permit denial

Organizer says outdoor performances should be treated like demonstrations, religious gatherings

An oversight body for San Francisco’s mental health programs may be restructured after questions were raised about its management and lack of effectiveness. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Behavioral health oversight body looks for new start — and staff — after mismanagement

Members of an oversight body for San Francisco’s behavioral health programs said… Continue reading

The City requires the recycling or reuse of debris material removed from a construction project site. <ins>(Emma Chiang/Special to S.F. Examiner)</ins>
<ins></ins>
Permits proposed for haulers of construction debris to achieve zero-waste

San Francisco plans to tighten regulations on the disposal of construction and… Continue reading

Most Read