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Archive for the ‘Biotech’ Category

Training program refueling biotech sector

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Beth Winegarner
Examiner Staff Writer
July 15, 2007

A labor shortage in San Mateo County’s biotechnology sector is slowly being addressed, thanks to a Bay Area program training out-of-work manufacturing employees to perform medical manufacturing tasks.

The three-year, $2 million pilot program concluded in June and trained 240 workers for biotech jobs. It has been so successful that a new $1 million grant from the California Employment Development Department will expand the program in the East Bay, according to Patty Castro, assistant director for the Alameda County Workforce Investment Board.

But the training concept was born on the Peninsula, created by biotech giant Genentech, the San Mateo County Workforce Investment Board and Skyline College, according to Supervisor Mark Church. Roughly 170 of the new workers were trained at Skyline.

“There is a work-force shortage in biotech, particularly in those entry-level positions,” Church said. “There’s no question that biotech is the driving force behind our economy, and if we’re going to sustain that industry, we need to fill that shortage.”

Since 2004, the fastest-growing jobs have been in biotechnology — on every level, from medical scientists and engineers to workers who deal with medical samples and operate the machines, according to the state Employment Development Department. Biotech jobs are expected to grow anywhere from 45 to 88 percent by 2014. But the labor pool hasn’t kept up, Church said.

At the same time, the post-2001 tourism slump left hundreds of airline employees without work, according to Castro.

“They looked like good candidates for biotech, because they knew how to work in restricted environments and to record everything they do,” Castro said. Now, the program is open to all qualified ex-manufacturing workers.

Students undergo a six-month, intensive-training program during which they learn basic biology, biomanufacturing, chemistry and gain an introduction to the field, according to Tricia Cosaro, a spokeswoman for Genentech.

Almost all of the trainees have been placed in biotech jobs — and most are making more money than they were before.

“Our goal was to have them making $35,000 a year, but most are making $42,000 or $43,000 at the entry level,” Castro said.

One such student was working in a chicken-processing plant before getting a job as a baggage handler at SFO. But then she was laid off — and got accepted to the Skyline program, according to William Watson, director of the training program at Skyline College.

“She’s now working at a nice job in a great company, and she put her son through an Ivy League university,” Watson said.

As the training program expands in the East Bay, local officials hope to bring it to College of San Mateo and Cañada College as well, Church said.

This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Examiner.

Written by Beth Winegarner

July 15, 2007 at 10:25 PM

Biopharmaceutical firm to move jobs to Peninsula

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Beth Winegarner
Examiner Staff Writer
July 12, 2006

PDL BioPharma, a biopharmaceutical company that develops therapies for life-threatening illnesses, will move its corporate headquarters from Fremont into 450,000 square feet of space in Redwood City in mid-2007.

PDL BioPharma has signed a 15-year lease at Pacific Shores, a 10-tower corporate campus on Seaport Boulevard in Redwood City. Themove will make them one of the largest biotech companies on the Peninsula, which hosts major players such as Amgen, Genentech and Elan.

The company is bringing approximately 500 employees when they move, according to spokeswoman Ami Knoefler. Many of those employees work on the Peninsula or in San Francisco, and the move is designed to put them closer to home while providing PDL BioPharma the room to expand and develop more products.

“The new site is centrally located in the Bay Area, which means it’s well-positioned for us to attract new talent,” Knoefler said.

The move is expected to create jobs both immediately and as the company expands, Knoefler said, though she could not say how many new positions would be generated.

The company hopes to add three new products to its lineup of treatments for autoimmune diseases, cancer and cardiovascular disease by 2010.

Redwood City’s financial team is still analyzing the financial boon PDL BioPharm will bring to the city, according to Economic Development Director Pat Webb.

“It’s always an economic benefit to fill vacant space with people who are working. This will add many new employees and hopefully they will choose to spend some of their money in the city,” Webb said.

It’s also good news for the Pacific Shores campus, which includes 10 towers but has struggled to find tenants. PDL is leasing two of the site’s 10 towers, including a 165,000-square-foot tower that has stood vacant since the site was built in 2000, and another 280,000-square-foot tower formerly occupied by Openwave, according to Brad Van Linge, broker for Cornish & Carey, which handles the site’s leases.

Other tenants include Openwave, Dreamworks PDI, Symantec and MyCFO, Van Linge said.

PDL BioPharm’s transfer to the Peninsula further cements the region as a hotbed of biotech activity.

“What’s bringingpeople to the area is the brain trust,” said Geraldine O’Connell, press secretary for Assemblyman Gene Mullin, D-San Francisco, who chairs the California Assembly’s Select Committee on Biotechnology. “There’s a spirit and commitment to progress here.”

Peninsula biotech

PDL BioPharma

Employees: 1,000

Locations: Redwood City (coming in 2007), New Jersey, Minnesota and France

Products: Therapies for hepatorenal syndrome, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular disorders and cancer

Amgen

Employees: 18,000+

Locations: South San Francisco, Fremont, Thousand Oaks, six other states and 30 other countries

Products: Protein-based treatments for anemia, blood cancers, thyroid and kidney disease and autoimmune-based arthritis

Genentech

Employees: 10,000

Locations: South San Francisco, Vacaville, Oceanside, Spain

Products: Chemotherapy treatments; therapies for psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis and asthma; and products that accelerate tissue growth

Elan

Employees: 2,000

Locations: South San Francisco, Georgia, New York, Pennsylvania, U.K., Ireland, Bermuda and Japan

Products: Drugs that reduce plaque buildup in the brain

Source: Company Web sites

This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Examiner.

Written by Beth Winegarner

July 12, 2006 at 10:23 PM