Bay Area biotech prospects through BayBio Chief’s lenses

baybio clusterInsightful, inforich and überoptimistic interview by David Morrill with Matt Gardner on the Bay Area and the broader Northern California Biotech Cluster. Gardner is the president of BayBio, an independent, non-profit 501(c)(6) trade association serving the life science industry in Northern California. Gardner helped author BayBio: Impact 2007, a new report in which he discussed the progress of the life sciences industry and the challenges that lie ahead.
Short summary:

– Bay Area specialities

In the Bay Area the biotech industry had a head start by expertise already built by earlier IT-driven industries, the Area’s specialities are the entrepreneurial atmosphere, a readiness and a tolerance for risk.

– stem cell research

In stem cell research California is in a leadership position, being able to hopefully realize the promise of the stem cell institute (the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine) but a tremendous amount of work needs to be done at the basic end of the research. And yet, even with that said, there are companies operating today in stem cell sciences that have technologies that may come to fruition much sooner. There are some early signs from a small number of companies that there is strong potential here.

– biotech industry’s present state

The biotech industry is just now arriving and the products are just coming along, early signs of a mature industry can be seen for the very first time. Up until now, generally speaking, you could characterize biotech as a research-focused community. This is just the beginning. Numbers: 30 years of investment in research, 394 products on the market today that are of Northern California origin, and 400 more that are in stage two and stage three (development). It’s going to take three to five years total to determine the fate of the next 400.

– work force crisis

The industry demand is going to significantly outweigh the number of qualified workers available, it’s actually happening. As an industry as a whole in Northern California, we have tried to add 6,000 to 8,000 jobs this year, and there are signs that we may have reached the limit of what is locally being produced by schools and colleges here.

– rank of Bay Area biotech cluster in the U.S.

There is no equal to what Northern California is doing at the moment, and the first measure of that is the number of products. When you see 400 products on the market, and 400 more in Phase II and Phase III, that level of success is unparalleled.