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BIO BITS: News and Notes from the 2007 BIO International Convention

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Genentech Looks to Develop More Space at Headquarters Campus
 
Genentech has approached the city of South San Francisco, Calif., Planning Commission seeking approvals to develop yet another portion of its campus, just a month after winning approvals for a 165,000-square-foot office building and a 51,000-square-foot day-care center [BioRegion News, 04/30/07].
 
The drug discoverer has submitted plans to build an approximately 165,000-square-foot building that combines R&D, manufacturing, and lab space with offices.
 
“We don't yet know what specific group will occupy the office space,” said Colleen Wilson, Genentech’s director of community and patient programs. “We expect construction to begin before the end of 2007.”
 
The new proposal is the drug discoverer’s latest effort to carry out the expansion of its facilities detailed in a master plan approved in March by the City Council. Genentech began to carry out that master plan immediately, pursuing plans for the day-care center and office building.
 
Genentech is South San Francisco’s largest employer with more than 8,000 employees, and plans to expand that workforce by another 6,000 should all the projects in its master plan come about.
 
Genentech was one of 95 biotech companies doing business in South San Francisco the last time the city commissioned a study of the industry in 2001, by California Healthcare Institute and PricewaterhouseCoopers. An update of that study is in the works and set to be released in late June, said Mike Lappen, senior planner with the city.
 
Lappen spoke from the South San Francisco booth, where visitors could find a color-coded map detailing the properties owned by Genentech (highlighted in green) and other entities. Genentech’s holdings, according to the map, include its campus as well as “The Cove,” a 16 acre site where the city has approved a single 9-story, 233,354-square-foot office building, three R&D buildings totaling 388,622 square feet, and a 5-level parking garage. Lappen said no development plans have been submitted for the Cove, which is adjacent to a site occupied by Amgen and two other companies, Napo Pharmaceuticals and Rigel Pharmaceuticals.
 

 
Meeting Will Reflect the Love Behind NY’s Bio Effort; NYBA Eyes Albany Office
 
Biotech leaders in New York state are set to meet next month with Gov. Eliot Spitzer in a session that could forge the sort of close ties with state government that have long been lacking, the industry’s top advocate told BioRegion News.
 
The roundtable session, planned for June 10, will offer an informal opportunity for the leaders to learn Spitzer’s agenda for the industry while communicating to his administration biotech’s needs and opportunities in the state, said Nathan P. Tinker, Executive Director of the New York Biotechnology Association, in an interview.
 
“Even beyond the obvious issues, there are issues to workforce development, business development, of driving businesses into the state, keeping businesses that are here healthy,” Tinker said.
 
And while New York has a high concentration of venture capitalists, he said much of their money goes to startups in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and other states.
 
“We need to do a better job of educating the local VC community about local investment opportunities, and better connect the universities and the tech transfer departments with these funding sources so we can create incentives to translate the technologies out of the lab and into the marketplace,” Tinker said. “We have to start looking at things like, ‘Are there ways to develop tax credits or other programs to incentivize innovation and investment, specifically in biotech but also in high tech as well.”
 
Tinker spoke at the 3,000-square-foot NY Loves Bio pavilion. The pavilion included 33 exhibitors, 14 of them biotech businesses. NY Loves Bio is a marketing campaign launched last fall by the nonprofit New York Economic Development Council to promote life sciences – which includes biotech as well as the pharmaceutical, medical device, nutriceutical, and personal-care sectors.
 
In the $120.9 billion budget approved by Spitzer and lawmakers for the fiscal year that started April 1, the state created an Empire State Stem Cell Trust to collect and distribute funds for stem-cell research.
 
The budget itself earmarked $100 million for the trust, and another $50 million a year was approved over 10 fiscal years starting in 2008-09, paid for through the conversion of the nonprofit Health Insurance Plan of Greater New York to a for-profit company. The trust would be run by a new Empire State Stem Cell Board within the state Department of Health; its members have yet to be named by Spitzer.
 
During his successful gubernatorial campaign last year, Spitzer, a Democrat, proposed the state ask voters to approve a California-style referendum to issue $1 billion in bonds for stem-cell research projects. Earlier this year the referendum plan met a chilly response with key legislator Richard Brodsky, chairman of the Assembly’s Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions.
 
Brodsky, a Democrat from Greenburgh, has dismissed the plan as garden-variety economic development pork and has argued the state should fund the project through its operating budget, and should narrow the proposed use of any new biotech bonds, since the state constitution limits state bonds to a single purpose.
 
Tinker said NYBA plans to step up its advocacy effort with state lawmakers, a source of discontent among some industry leaders. Later this month or early June, the association plans to open an office at the Center for Functional Genomics in Rensselaer, near the state capital of Albany. The organization is also looking to establish a presence in Buffalo, home to an emerging biotech cluster anchored around the state-funded Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences.
 
“There’s certainly interest by the board to be more engaged on that front, and a desire to extend NYBA’s visibility and influence at the state government level,” Tinker said.
 
NYBA is also still on track to relaunch its Web site later this year, with more emphasis on easier navigation and allowing members to post ads, Tinker said.
 

 
Mass. Authority Still Projects Red Ink Despite Convention’s Good Numbers
 
The Biotechnology Industry Organization ended its four-day 2007 BIO International Convention crowing about some record-breaking numbers – 22,366 attendees, highest ever for an annual BIO convention and almost 15 percent above last year’s attendance. An exhibition floor filled with more than 1,900 companies and 60 US and international pavilions.
 
BIO also generated more than $30 million in economic activity, according to the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, operator of the convention site, the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center.
 
Yet those numbers won’t be enough to propel the authority into the black following years of losses, said James E. Rooney, executive director of the authority.
 
“We by design operate at a deficit. We accept that because our mission is to generate economic activity. And that doesn’t go to our bottom line. That goes to the bottom line of the hotels, the restaurants, the state’s tax base,” Rooney said in an interview from the 200,000-square-foot exhibit floor of Bio 2007.
 
Just how much of a deficit won’t be known till after the end of the fiscal year on June 30. In the last fiscal year ending June 30, 2006, the authority lost $12.8 million on revenues of $39.3 million. The loss inched up from the previous year’s $12 million shortfall on revenues of $27.3 million.
 
Yet the convention center itself finished last fiscal year in the black, generating a $4.8 million surplus on revenues of $16.5 million.
 

 
With 2007 Funding Uncertain, Arizona Foundation Reports Success in 2006
 
A nonprofit public-private group created last year to advance biotech and other science activity in Arizona succeeded during its first year of operation, its scientific program officer told an audience visiting his state’s pavilion.
 
Gary B. Greenburg of Science Foundation Arizona (SFAz) said the group fulfilled its goal of developing a plan to spend the $35 million it received from the state in its first year. The money comes from Arizona’s “21st Century Fund” approved by Gov. Janet Napolitano and the state legislature. This year, Napolitano, a Democrat, would spend another $35 million for the foundation as part of her proposed $10.4 billion budget for the fiscal year starting July 1.
 
Without the additional funding, SFAz will not be able to build on its first-year results, Greenburg said.
 
SFAz has set aside just over half its money, or $18 million, for “Strategic Research” seed grants to fund up to 10 industry-academic collaborations or “Strategic Research Groups” this year, toward commercializing technologies developed in universities.
 
The remaining funds include:
  • $4 million in fellowships awarded to top first-year graduate science, engineering or biomedical researchers at Arizona State University, University of Arizona, and Northern Arizona University. Awards of up to $50,000 will be made to 80 students
  • $3.75 million for 23 projects from research institutions statewide under the Competitive Advantage Awards program, intended to identify bioscience, advanced communications/ IT, and environmental sustainability projects with the greatest potential for significant federal grants within 18-24 months, based on a review by outside experts, but as yet unfunded by NIH. Three additional projects are expected to be funded later this year.
  • $2.2 million in “Small Business Catalytic” funds to 10 of 44 proposals for up to $300,000 each. The program funds marketing studies, incubation and legal costs, among business development expenses for research institution projects considered most likely to generate “high-impact” successful commercial outcomes.
  • $2 million for unspecified strategic initiatives.
  • $2 million for research internships for high school science and math teachers set for this summer. Up to 150 science and math teachers would work in paid research-based programs statewide in academic and industry labs.
  • $1.5 million for activities and instructional programs intended to teach science and engineering to K-12 students.
  • $500,000 for program review and management costs.        
“By cultivating a climate of innovation and research, the foundation hopes to spur engineering and medical developments in Arizona, attract and retain top-quality researchers and serve as a magnet for forming research clusters, enhance existing biotech manufacturing base and to open up opportunities for Arizona researchers and students to gain experience and influence the student curriculum as well,” Greenburg said.
 
“The hope is that that will result in corporate labs coming to Arizona, an increase in the number of researchers and companies that want to come to Arizona.”
 
SFAz was founded by three CEO groups: Flagstaff 40, Greater Phoenix Leadership, and the Southern Arizona Leadership Council. The CEO groups have agreed to fund the first five years of operating costs, projected at $2.5 million per year, while public and philanthropic funds would be used for investments intended to build Arizona's scientific, engineering, and medical industries.
 
The foundation’s president and CEO, Bill Harris, helped build Ireland’s biotech cluster as head of Science Foundation Ireland from 2000 to 2005.
 

 
Ontario Teams Up with Partners in India, Japan, Spain
 
Ontario, Canada, announced a trio of overseas partnerships intended to build the province’s biotech cluster:
  • Ontario-India: Ontario has agreed to commit CAN $3 million to fund a new Research Collaboration Fund intended to promote research collaborations between researchers in the province and counterparts in India.
  • Ontario-Catalonia: Ontario has signed a formal Memorandum of Understanding with Catalonia, Spain, to enhance scientific and technological cooperation.  Areas of cooperation include everything from environmental and agricultural technologies to emerging technologies such as photonics and nanotechnology.
  • York University in Ontario has signed its own Memorandum of Understanding with Japan's Kobe Medical Device Development Centre to promote the development and commercialization of innovative medical devices that diagnose, treat, and prevent illnesses.         
"We've forged many friendships and partnerships at BIO 2007 — and we're going to build on our success by turning the goodwill we generated here into jobs and opportunities for Ontarians," said Dalton McGuinty, Ontario’s Premier and Minister of Research and Innovation.
 
Ontario fielded a delegation of more than 300 people representing private sector companies, universities, municipalities and medical research institutions, led by McGuinty and Ontario’s Minister of Economic Development and Trade, Sandra Pupatello.

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