Biotech companies in need of resources to thrive

April 2, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
The unemployment rate in Silicon Valley is hovering close to 13 percent, and while there's no doubt Silicon Valley has the brain power to turn things around, many say tech companies aren't getting what they need to create new jobs.

Genia is a biotech company in its infancy. They hope their product will revolutionize DNA sequencing and are creating a handheld portable DNA reader which will sell for $300.

"We'll probably be able to create a pretty large company, probably a few thousand jobs. Basically we are taking Silicon Valley technology and moving it into biotech," Genia founder Roger Chen said.

Genia is one of more than a dozen biotech start-ups, which are being weaned at the San Jose BioCenter. This is an incubator for biotech companies San Jose hopes will develop, stay in the valley and employ thousands of residents -- putting a dent in the area's 12.4 percent unemployment rate.

Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, hopes these companies succeed.

"Every large company was once a little company, and to nurture the small businesses to go and become successful is a key to our future," she said.

Lofgren says she is proud that the Bay Area and Silicon Valley has received hundreds of millions of federal stimulus dollars for biotech and clean technology development, as well as job training in new technologies like solar.

But some critics point out California was left out of stimulus funds when it came to the smart grid and battery development for electric and hybrid cars.

Ironically on Friday, President Obama touted the creation of 162,000 new jobs at a lithium battery company in North Carolina, which received stimulus money.

In order for Silicon Valley to take advantage of it's knack for innovation and create more high-tech jobs, Dan Kammen, director of UC Berkeley's Renewable Energy Lab, says California has to be more aggressive.

"California politicians and industrial leaders need to keep making the case in Washington D.C. that there are some exceptional innovations going on in California that warrant support," he said.

Lofgren pointed out that Silicon Valley has received some stimulus money for clean energy. Still, the battery companies like the one the president was at shared $1.5 billion. A lot of money will create jobs for years to come, but evidently none in Silicon Valley.


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