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Around the Regions: Sep 4, 2009

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Orange County, Calif., Drug Makers Shed a Combined 10 Percent of their Jobs in Past Year

Orange County’s largest drug makers reduced employment during the past 12 months, the Orange County Business Journal reported, citing updated data from its weekly lists.

The 12 drug makers appearing on this year’s list, ranked by local employee count, told the newspaper their OC employment fell 10 percent to 3,635 workers, down 411 positions from a year ago. A year earlier, the top 12 drug makers in the county posted an 8-percent job gain to 3,704 workers.

The decline was driven by declines at top-ranked Allergan, an Irvine, Calif.-based company whose workers make up about 56 percent of the list’s total worker count; and No. 3 Valeant Pharmaceuticals International of Aliso Viejo, Calif.

Allergan remained on top despite losing about 370 local workers in the past 12 months, according to the list. In February, the company said it was laying off 460 workers, including 100 in OC, leaving it with its current 2,032 local workers. Valeant, which is now based in Aliso Viejo, Calif., retained its number-three ranking on the list despite posting a 40-percent job drop, to 190 local workers — part of a restructuring program initiated by CEO J. Michael Pearson.

Without the drops recorded by both companies, the remaining 10 companies would have seen a 6 percent increase in employees, to 1,413.

Between Allergan and Valeant was Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, which was ranked number two with 838 local workers.

The list is due to see more employees in coming years, the Business Journal reported, citing Seattle-based Dendreon's recent lease of 184,000 square feet of existing space at the Pacific Gateway Business Park, in Seal Beach, Calif. for a manufacturing facility [BRN, Aug. 14]. Also, Abraxis BioScience of Los Angeles is spinning off personalized medicine company Abraxis Health, which is set to base 200 employees in a Costa Mesa, Calif., building formerly housing Valeant Pharmaceuticals International.


Suffolk County (NY) Executive: OSI Loss 'No Reason' to Give Up on Biotech; Faults 'Doom and Gloom'

Suffolk County (NY) Executive Steve Levy chided news outlets and others for what he termed their "doom and gloom" portrayal of economic development on Long Island following the decision by Melville, NY-based OSI Pharmaceuticals to consolidate operations from there and three other sites to a 37-acre campus in Greenburgh, NY, the daily newspaper Newsday reported.

OSI will vacate its 60,000-square-foot headquarters, as well as the 63,500-square-foot building it leases within the Broad Hollow Bioscience Park at Farmingdale (NY) State College, part of the State University of New York system, starting in the fourth quarter, when it begins shifting its total 200 Long Island employees to the Ardsley Park Science and Technology Center, a 43-acre, 400,000-square-foot campus on Route 9A (Saw Mill River Road), which has been mostly vacant since the departure in 2005 of Purdue Pharma.

By 2010, OSI will combine those employees with 145 oncology staffers now located in Boulder, Colo., and 20 employees now based in Cedar Knolls, NJ. The pharma company also plans to recruit employees for its

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new Greenburgh campus, promising to boost payroll there to 600 people by 2012, in return for $4.8 million in tax breaks from the state and Westchester County [BRN, Aug. 21].

Addressing the Long Island Regional Planning Council meeting on Tuesday, Levy said the portrayal had the potential to become a "self-fulfilling prophecy," where the Island would be more known for losing business than attracting it. According to the newspaper, Levy said that OSI's departure was "no reason" to give up on biotechnology, given the presence on Long Island of such life-sci research anchors as Stony Brook University, part of the State University of New York system; Brookhaven National Laboratory; and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

Levy said local leaders needed to address development hurdles such as high taxes and high emergy costs, as well as help "shape an identity on Long Island" that could attract business — just as the region's leaders did decades ago, when the island was a mecca for defense and aerospace businesses such as Grumman, now Northrop Grumman, the newspaper reported.

While saying "I don't want to belittle" the loss of OSI's 200 jobs, Levy cited several other companies that have brought jobs to Suffolk County in recent years — including Canon USA, which is on course to expanding its regional workforce to 2,000 jobs; Leviton Manufacturing, which has 400 jobs; Air Techniques, another 400 jobs; and Honeywell Security Group, 330 jobs.


Gov. Bev Perdue Heads North Carolina Trade Mission to China, Japan, with Life-Sci Among Target Industries

North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue and state Secretary of Commerce Keith Crisco will lead a state delegation next month on a two-week trip to China and Japan intended to attract companies in the life science and other sectors to the Tar Heel State, the Triangle Business Journal reported.

In China, the Research Triangle Park-based Hamner Institutes for Health Sciences and the North Carolina Center for International Understanding will participate in business seminars focused on the life sciences sector, the newspaper reported.

“Japan and China share our keen interest in the fast-growing pharmaceutical, biotechnology, energy and automotive sectors, and we will hold at least 20 meetings with current and prospective clients in those sectors, as well as three business-recruitment seminars,” Crisco told the newspaper, adding: “This trip is about bringing jobs and investment to North Carolina."

Crisco and the governor will be accompanied by Don Hobart, deputy chief of staff and senior adviser for business and economic affairs; and three staffers from the state commerce department: Jean Davis, director of international trade; Steve Brantley, Asia economic developer; and David Rhoades, the department's marketing director. North Carolina’s Asia trade/investment representatives in Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Shanghai will help coordinate the trip and client meetings, the Business Journal reported.

Representatives of several businesses, nonprofits and local and regional economic development agencies across North Carolina will travel with, or join the group for events in various cities, at no cost to the state.

According to the Business Journal, the state expects to spend about $82,000 in taxpayer money to cover travel expenses, hold seminars, entertain clients and fulfill duties associated with staging the annual joint meeting of the 33rd Japan-US Southeast Association and the Southeast-Japan Association, which will be held in Tokyo this year and was held last year in Raleigh.

An additional $90,000 in expenses will be covered by economic development allies of the state. North Carolina officials told the newspaper they were trying to lure more private investment in the trip, given the state's tight budget this fiscal year.

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China ranks behind only Canada on the list of countries that carry out the most trade with North Carolina. The country imported $1.9 billion worth of North Carolina goods in 2008 – a 250 percent increase in three years. A dozen Chinese companies have North Carolina operations, which employ 2,500 people in the state.


Montana Department of Commerce Sets Aside $2.5M for Private Nonprofit Research Institutions

Montana's Department of Commerce has announced it has made available $2.5 million in Biomedical Research Grants for state-based, private, non-profit research institutions involved in biomedical research that the agency deems as having the potential to "significantly and positively" impact:

• The health of Montana citizens and/or Montana livestock,
• The economic benefit to Montana and its citizens "relative to increased employment by the applicant, or continuation of existing operations of the applicant, as well as to expanded research infrastructure and equipment," according to the state's grant criteria.
• Opportunities for collaborative research and education for Montanans.

The department has set an Oct. 16 deadline for institutions to submit applications for the grant funds to Bio-Medical Research Application, Attn: Andy Poole, Business Resources Division,
Montana Department of Commerce, PO Box 200505, Helena, MT 59620-0505.

A grant application is available here. The grants can be used to expand, renovate, and purchase equipment for biomedical research and to expand infrastructure that will enhance the scientific collaborations between independent non-profit researchers and researchers in the Montana University System, according to the department.

The state commerce department also said it will consider recent purchases of fixed assets directly related to the proposal, and will consider matching funds to be obtained over the following 12 months.

The state legislature agreed earlier this year to spend state money for the grant awards as part of House Bill 2. Grant applicants must match the funding they receive with other grants, loans, and/or investments for proposal related costs and activities.


Indianapolis Firm Wins $350K Grant Toward Technology Designed to Ease Cancer Treatments

General BioTechnology has won a $350,000 grant from the Indiana Economic Development Corp., in addition to more than $1 million in federal Small Business Innovation Research funding, to further develop and test its Advanced CryoTechnology Cell Washing Device. The device is designed to alleviate negative side effects during stem cell transplants for cancer patients.

General BioTechnology's device, which is similar in size to a microwave oven, pumps bone marrow stem cells through a specially designed tube. The fiber filled tube gradually filters the dimethyl sulfoxide preservative from the bone marrow transplant while still maintaining the cell's efficacy. The company plans to begin a pilot safety study of the technology in the first quarter of 2010 with Indiana University, before a larger clinical trial later in the year continuing with the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Wash., and Indiana University, IEDC said in a statement.

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Erik Woods, president and chief executive officer of General BioTechnology, said in the statement he anticipates commercializing the device to the bone marrow stem cell transplant markets in late 2010 before fully launching the product to blood centers throughout North America in 2011. Indianapolis-based Medivative Technologies will manufacture the cell washing technology.

General BioTechnology is one of more than 120 companies that the IEDC has assisted in securing funding from the federal government's Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer program.


Quebec's Ag-Bio Centre Wins $260K from Canada Economic Development Toward Helping Startups

The Lévis, Quebec-based Ag-Bio Centre will receive C$260,000 ($239,302) from the Business and Regional Growth program of Canada Economic Development to support pre-startup, startup, and expansion activity by biotechnology firms in the agri-food, health, nutrition and environmental sectors.

The incubator will use the funding to support 11 new startups, which are expected by 2013 to create 75 jobs and boost their sales on domestic and international markets. The funding is also expected to generate an additional $970,000 from the center, which will use part of the money to retain two staff jobs and create a third.


Israeli Job Portal: Requests for Life-Sci Workers on the Upswing

Demand for biotechnology workers by Israeli life-sci employers in August was unchanged compared with the year-ago month — but down 6 percent from July, when it rose from 155 to 165 positions, the Israeli jobs portal Alljobs has reported.

The biotech figure outshines employer demand trends recorded by Alljobs for the third quarter of 2009 versus the second; a year-to-year comparison was unavailable. According to the portal, requests for workers across all industries fell 6 percent in August compared with July, to 35,824 positions offered. A year-to-year comparison was unavailable. But demand increases during June (8 percent) and July (19 percent) resulted in an overall positive fourth quarter, Alljobs reported.

"Reality on the ground suggests cautious optimism about recovery from the crisis that began exactly one year ago," Alljobs CEO Revital Handler said in a statement.


The Scan

NFTs for Genome Sharing

Nature News writes that non-fungible tokens could be a way for people to profit from sharing genomic data.

Wastewater Warning System

Time magazine writes that cities and college campuses are monitoring sewage for SARS-CoV-2, an approach officials hope lasts beyond COVID-19.

Networks to Boost Surveillance

Scientific American writes that new organizations and networks aim to improve the ability of developing countries to conduct SARS-CoV-2 genomic surveillance.

Genome Biology Papers on Gastric Cancer Epimutations, BUTTERFLY, GUNC Tool

In Genome Biology this week: recurrent epigenetic mutations in gastric cancer, correction tool for unique molecular identifier-based assays, and more.