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Industry report cites CSU key role in biomedical sector

February 4, 2011

Category: A Closer Look

California’s leadership rooted in ‘entrepreneurial workforce,’ ‘culture of innovation’

Why do people come to California?

When the chief executive officers of nearly 100 of the state’s leading biomedical companies were asked why they set up shop in California, these are the keys they cited:

  • availability of a highly skilled, entrepreneurial workforce; and
  • California’s culture of innovation, anchored by leading research universities.

The CEO survey anchors The California Biomedical Industry 2011 Report, released earlier this week (Feb. 1) by the California Healthcare Institute.Computer-derived image of cancer cell, from cover of CHI 2011 biomedical industry report

The 105-page report describes California’s rise to global leadership in the biomedical industry and the impact of the industry’s presence on the state. California, it says, houses the biggest concentration of biomedical companies, researchers, entrepreneurs, suppliers, venture capitalists and workers in the world.

The California State University, the report notes, plays key roles in preparing that workforce with the requisite skills to advance biomedicine.

In calling for a commitment to research and education, it states: “The University of California, California State University and Community Colleges have reduced staff and raised student fees. Together these institutions have been the cornerstone of the state’s competitiveness, generating world class inventions and educating a workforce prepared to advance life sciences research and development.”

CSU’s big picture in biomedicine

Currently, the CSU has about 41,000 undergraduates and about 7,000 graduate students in life-science degree programs (including agriculture).  The CSU confers about 44 percent of California’s life science and health professions bachelor’s degrees, 45 percent of its bachelor’s degrees in engineering, and nearly 37 percent of its graduate degrees in healthcare and life sciences. In 2009, the CSU received more than $56 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health.

The report notes how the CSU supports access, excellence and diversity along the educational pipeline. For example, the IMPACT L.A. program at California State University, Los Angeles, among other activities, connects Cal State L.A. graduate students – as visiting scientists and mentors – with middle-school teachers and their classes to encourage more young people to pursue engineering and research careers.  (For more, see page 73 of the report.)

In lauding the CSU’s Professional Science Master’s programs, the report spotlights PSMs at CSU Channel Islands that couple biotechnology with business administration and bioinformatics, and PSMs at San Diego State University that serve veterans and active-duty military personnel.

CSU’s role as industry expands

In the industry survey, when asked to describe their plans over the next two years inside California, two-thirds of the CEOs said they plan to expand their overall workforce; two-thirds said they plan to expand their research and development; and about 40 percent said they plan to expand manufacturing.  (In each category, between 12 and 17 percent said they planned to reduce such operations.)

“It’s pretty clear from this year’s report,” said Susan Baxter, executive director of the CSU Program for Education and Research in Biotechnology (CSUPERB).  “The CSU has an important and growing role in preparing a well-educated, highly skilled homegrown workforce in biomedicine.”

The CSU, she said, has built a strong array of programs by collaborating with industry, federal and state agencies, California’s leading research institutions, other universities and K-12 schools.

CSU programs address a range of California’s workforce needs by focusing on emerging areas of biomedical research—such as stem-cell research—and industry-responsive educational programs in regulatory affairs, rehabilitative technology, and licensed clinical professions, as well as bolstering science education.

“It’s always nice to see CSU success stories highlighted,” said Baxter. “But, more importantly, the annual biomedical industry report helps us realign and reinforce our commitment to provide students with the experiences, knowledge and networking they will need to contribute to California’s innovation economy.”

–Sean Kearns

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