Study: Calif. biomedical companies called to relocate

February 1, 2011 7:11:04 PM PST
Eight out of 10 biomedical research firms in California say they are getting overtures to move their labs and people to other states, even overseas. Two of their trade groups are urging state lawmakers to do something to retain them. Too many regulatory hurdles at the state and federal level is one of their primary complaints.

John Lewicki is chief scientist at OncoMed, a Redwood City biomedical company working on antibodies to treat cancer.

"Delays imposed by the FDA, either because of understaffing or because maybe their under-appreciation of certain products and what they can do to treat diseases like cancer, can have a tremendous impact on our timeline," Lewicki said.

Another concern is having a well trained work force. California's eighth graders rank 47th in the nation in science literacy, according to BayBio and the California Healthcare Institute.

A biotech program at San Mateo High School is trying to change that. One-fourth of the 1,500 students take the elective course. Most are also taking biology or chemistry.

"In this program it's about actually developing significantly higher skills so that they are working like research associates or scientists in the lab regularly and getting the experience what that means and what that is really like," educator Ellyn Daughterty said.

The biomedical industry says that is how California can keep them here.

Tiffany Fujii, 16, says it will give her a leg up if she decides to work in this field.

"I would know most of the basic things they would have to each me first, and that would make the process faster of me working on more elaborate things," she said.

California has over 2,200 biomedical companies, employing 268,000 people, nearly 52,000 of them in the Bay Area.

A select committee of Sacramento lawmakers is beginning to look into what it can do to save those jobs.