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Industrial Biotechnology Growth At Record Pace In California

Audio

Aired 9/17/10

A new jobs survey shows one sector of biotechnology is growing at a record-setting pace in California. Industrial biotechnology companies work to develop new and sustainable fuel sources, feedstock, enzymes and green industrial chemicals.

A new jobs survey shows one sector of biotechnology is growing at a record-setting pace in California.

Industrial biotechnology companies work to develop new and sustainable fuel sources, feedstock, enzymes and green industrial chemicals.

Results from the first statewide survey of this relatively new biotechnology sector shows it grew 19 percent between last year and this year.

The survey was commissioned by BIOCOM and BayBio, the leading biotechnology industry trade groups in the state.

BIOCOM CEO and President Joe Panetta said that, in just a few short years, the industrial biotechnology sector has experienced record-setting growth.

"In the last five years it's grown at about 50 percent and going forward we see some trends in anticipated hiring that show us that the industry will continue to grow and grow very rapidly in the future," Panetta said.

Panetta said it's estimated the industrial biotechnology sector will create 100,000 jobs in the United States during the next five years. He expects many of those jobs will be in California.

"We saw that in the survey when we asked questions about the demand for certain job functions going forward," said Panetta. "And across the board that job demand was particularly high in processed development and fermentation engineering, areas that are going to be of growing importance as companies evolve to the point where they're actually ready to produce products."

But Panetta said there is not enough skilled workers to fill demand for jobs created in the industrial biotechnology sector.

He said BIOCOM recently received a $5 million grant from the California Department of Labor to create training programs for the biofuels industry.

"Working with partners like UC San Diego and San Diego State and some of the community colleges, we'll be creating the homegrown workforce of the future through developing those programs that we're going to train people in," Panetta said.

Panetta said a combination of academic power, a strong biotechnology industry and the local climate give San Diego the potential to be a leader in the development of algae biofuels.

The survey responses came from 22 companies, ranging from start-up companies with $0 revenues to divisions of a $1.6 billion multinational corporation.

Panetta said the 22 companies represent the full range of industrial biotechnology, including companies developing biofuels, green chemicals from renewable feedstock, improved feedstock (including energy crops and algae), and new technologies for product development and optimization (including synthetic biology).

He said the companies also cited their specific need for employees who understand both science and business functions, with particular emphasis on project management, business and teamwork skills.

The survey shows that hiring demand over the next 12 months among these companies is expected to be strongest for molecular/cell biologists, chemists, chemical engineers, fermentation specialists and process engineers.

The surveyed companies also specified the need for employees who demonstrate hands-on capabilities, business appreciation and skills, project management, and "plug-and-play" capabilities in new applications of biotechnology.

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