Monday, April 15, 2013

Meager California Biotech Representation in Governor's China Trip

California Gov. Jerry Brown and a flying squad of business types visited China last week, beating the drum for the Golden State in an effort to raise billions of dollars in investments.

Some 90 persons were involved in the governor's delegation, but representation was meager from California's renown biotech sector and none at all from the $3 billion California stem cell agency, which has a collaboration underway with Chinese scientists. It may have been the only state agency with a formal collaboration agreement with China prior to Brown's visit.

According to many reports, the Chinese government regards growth of its biotech industry as one of its core economic efforts. Within that sector, biomedicine ranks as the most important and fastest growing, according to an Italian Trade Commission report. Stem cell research is especially important, according to this Canadian study. Indeed, some scientists in China are eyeing a Nobel Prize in the field (See here or here.)

California would seem to be well placed to take advantage of that situation, given its substantial biotech industry and community, which is only rivaled by Massachusetts. Add to that the existence of the unique California stem cell agency, which has funded a $1.5 million study by Holger Willenbring at UC San Francisco that also involves research by Lijian Hui at the Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences, which is separately funded by that country to the tune of nearly $1 million.

A look at the list of those traveling to China with the governor showed two representatives who could be considered from biotech: Joe Panetta, head of BioCom, a life science industry organization in Southern California, and Michel Baudry, dean of the Graduate College of Biomedical Sciences, Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, Ca..

We queried Baudry before he left for China about the situation. Here is the full text of his reply.
“I do not know how this set of delegates were selected. What I do know is that this is the first of several delegations of California business delegates going to China with Governor Brown, and that more trips are scheduled. The focus of this first trip is Energy and Environment, and this might be why there is no biotech delegates in this trip. I am quite sure that they will participate in the following trips.”
Meanwhile, the folks in Richmond on San Francisco Bay are waiting to hear about plans of a major but unnamed Chinese biotech company for the 53-acre, former Bayer Healthcare Campus.

(Following the posting of this item, Ron Leuty of the San Francisco Business Times gave us a heads up on the latest on the site. He reported in March that Joinn Laboratories, a Chinese contract research organization, purchased the site. Leuty said that its plans are vague about future development, but that it may lease some of the space.)


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