Life Sciences Short Of Workers, Threatened By Rivals

The life sciences industry in Northern California has grown from a collection of fledgling firms with potential into one that has commercialized hundreds of drugs and medical devices, but the region's regard as a world leader in the field is under threat, industry advocates warned Nov. 14. The warning came as BayBio, the region's life sciences trade and advocacy group, released a lengthy report that largely painted a positive picture of the state of the industry in Northern California. Life sciences firms in Northern California now have 240 products on the market to treat diseases such as cancer, and about 200 product candidates are in later stages of clinical trials. At least a third of all publicly traded domestic biotechnology firms are in Northern California, representing more than $150 billion in market value, and they are plowing nearly $4 billion annually into research, according to the report. The industry in Northern California employs some 85,000 workers. Hiring is proceeding at a rapid clip to fill nearly 8,000 more jobs that the sector is expected to generate by the end of 2006. Employment growth is expected to grow by 10 percent to 20 percent annually over the next several years, according to the report. But industry experts and advocates at the same time cautioned that the cost of living here, government bureaucracy, tax codes and an inability to supply enough trained workers to meet demand could hamper the region's ability to deliver new treatments and could cause some firms to leave the area. BayBio is taking the report on the road to Sacramento and Washington, D.C., and it hopes its message will resonate with lawmakers.

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