North Bay Life Science Alliance takes message on road

NORTH BAY -- An ambitious and collaborative effort to lure more life sciences companies to the North Bay will take its message on the road next week, hoping to expand on the success of a growing cluster of pharmaceutical and medical-device companies that bring with them high-paying jobs and an educated workforce.

The North Bay Life Science Alliance, which includes top leaders across the biotech industry and economic development officials, will be presented at BIO 2014 in San Diego on June 25. The goal is to present the broader North Bay as a unified region that can accommodate a wide range of life sciences fields, including pharmaceutical research and development in Marin, pharma manufacturing in Solano, medical device manufacturing in Sonoma County and agricultural and animal sciences in Napa, officials said.

The effort also stems from the clear success of established companies, including orphan drug maker BioMarin Pharmaceutical, from which two other influential companies, Ultragenyx and Raptor Pharmaceutical, were born, along with scores of others in Marin.

"Marin County is now home to more life science companies per capita than any other county in California," according to the Alliance’s presentation, drafted by Chris Stewart, chairman and CEO of the alliance and economic development manager for the city of Novato, and Dr. Robert Eyler of the Marin Economic Forum and vice chairman.  

But rather than focus exclusively on Marin, which has seen significant growth in the field, the Alliance said it makes more sense to offer a cohesive region that doesn’t compete with itself for the high-paying jobs.

"We asked ourselves, ‘Is there a way to market the four counties, to market each other, rather than compete with each other?" Dr. Eyler said. "It was better than each county or each city doing it piecemeal and fighting over relatively small initial resources."

The effort is backed by an initial investment of $325,000 from the city of Novato and the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, which will support a three-year, $1.5 million branding and marketing campaign, led by Emmeryville-based Chempetitive Group.

If the effort is successful in drawing more of the industry to the North Bay, the regional economy as a whole will directly benefit, officials said.

"When life sciences flourish, growth comes to a variety of aligned industries," according the report to be presented in San Diego, itself a significant biotech hub.  Planned expansion at the Buck Institute, for example, is forecast to generate $49 million in revenue while supporting 300 construction jobs. And staffing the facilities would employ another 287 people, bringing an estimated $47 million per year into the region.

Three hundred jobs created in the life-sciences sector would mean 503 jobs across all industries, according to economic modeling, while the same 300 jobs would mean $142 million in business, totaling $4 million in state and local revenue.

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