North Bay groups collaborating on building biotech sector

[caption id="attachment_57323" align="alignnone" width="450"] The Buck Institute for Research on Aging in Novato is key to the cluster of North Bay biotech and life sciences companies that has developed in the past decade.[/caption]

NOVATO -- Biomedical business have been proliferating in Marin County -- Novato, in particular -- for the past decade, significantly boosting the local economy, and growth is something business boosters from around the North Bay are actively trying to replicate, according to a new report.[poll id="111"]

By extension, the greater North Bay -- Sonoma, Solano and Napa counties -- stands to benefit from Marin's recent success in maintaining a cluster of biotech that brings with it a highly educated workforce and high wage earners, according to a 48-page report "Life Sciences Industry Characteristics, Economic Impacts and Possibilities" by the Marin Economic Forum for the city of Novato.

Drawing on what's happening in Marin, economic development agencies and life sciences officials across the North Bay are collaborating to draw more biotechnology companies to the region, spurred by recent efforts from the city of Novato and the study by the Marin Economic Forum that found Marin County's economy has benefited significantly from the industry. That has led to the formation of the North Bay Bio/Life Science Alliance, according to the report.

The newly formed alliance recently received $325,000 in contributions from The Buck Institute and city of Novato, and that will support a three-year, $1.5 million branding, marketing and recruitment campaign, the report said. Chicago-based marketing firm Chempetitive was selected to lead the campaign, which is set to begin by the end of this quarter and produce a draft branding plan by June.200-plus Marin life sciences companiesLife sciences employmentYearBay AreaMarinNapaSolanoSonoma2001112,6517272571,46211,0252002105,7557961641368,7482003101,0218364521,6287,072200495,3068691771,8366,789200593,1919223062,0075,397200692,6671,0203142,0764,925200777,7259771732,2884,3162008102,2301,0772362,1884,659200995,5451,1572872,1514,196201095,3051,3433122,3133,797201196,6381,4563341,9844,1732012110,8091,5901312,9224,0542013*110,3371,7031312,9264,047

Source: California Employment Development Department. *Data through the first quarter of 2013.

That sector in Marin has grown to 1,700 employees and wages of about $248 million in 2012, according to the report. Home to more than 200 life sciences businesses, the 255,000-resident county has more such companies per capita than any other California county, the study found.

The study was presented by the city of Novato, The Buck Institute and  Novato Chamber of Commerce to about 120 economic development, business and biotech leaders on Feb. 27. The report found that the cluster of life science companies has steadily increased since 2001, when there were just 727 positions, driven largely by expansions of The Buck Institute and BioMarin Pharmaceutical Inc., easily the county's biggest biotech employer, which had $500 million in 2012 product revenue.

The bulk of biotech employees are in San Rafael and Novato, with 700 and 900, respectively, according to the study. BioMarin is based in San Rafael but has a large production plant in Novato. BioMarin spinoffs Raptor Pharmaceutical and Ultragenyx Pharmaceutical as well as The Buck Institute are all in Novato.

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