Biotech continues to boom in San Francisco

San Francisco’s burgeoning biotechnology industry is making steady growth, according to city officials.

The City now has 33 biotechnology companies — up from three in 2004 — according to Jesse Blout, executive director of the Mayor’s Office of Workforce and Economic Development.

At Mission Bay, The City is working to create a biotechnology hub, and donated 43 acres of land to the University of California, San Francisco, to create a new research campus.

South of the Mission Bay Channel, at the literal center of the development, is a 2.7 million-square-foot UC San Francisco research campus.

The campus — which includes student housing, research space and a community center — is located on 43 acres of land donated by The City in an effort to create a center that would draw private companies to the area. Separately, UCSF has also purchased adjacent lots to build an 865,000-square-foot hospital.

“There was just not much happening for years, and then in the last 18 months we’ve had two buildings built and opened and there’s a robust pipeline,” San Francisco Redevelopment Agency official Kelley Kahn said.

The biotechnology industry has mushroomed since 1992, with U.S. health care biotech revenues increasing from $8 billion in 1992 to $50.7 billion in 2005, according to the Biotechnology Industry Organization.

Biotechnology attracted more than $20 billion in financing in 2005, according to the Washington, D.C.-based organization.

California has the largest share of biotechnology companies in the United States, according to BIO — 374 out of 1,415.

In hopes of increasing its share of the biotechnology pie, The City passed legislation in 2004 that gives biotech companies an exemption from San Francisco’s 1.5 percent payroll tax.

To date, only four of the 33 biotechnology companies in San Francisco have taken advantage of the payroll tax credit — adding up to $157,106 in tax revenue The City has foregone for the 111 employees at those companies.

Jeff Joseph, vice president of communications for BIO, said that while the credit does make a strong statement, it might not be enough to persuade companies to come to The City.

“It’s not enough to really sway decisions that have to do with hundreds of thousands or millions [of dollars] in terms of plans, property and equipment,” Joseph wrote in an e-mail. “There are better incentives elsewhere.”

beslinger@examiner.com


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