gavingiants.jpgLt. Gov. Gavin Newsom appeared at the University of California at San Francisco today to emphasize the bioscience industry’s importance and its role in creating jobs throughout the state.

Newsom joined with city and state officials at UCSF’s Mission Bay campus to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences.

The institute, also known as QB3, is a collection of laboratories that began operating in 2000 at three participating UC schools–Santa Cruz, San Francisco and Berkeley–with a mission to support accelerated research in biosciences, according to the organization.

Newsom said that in 2004, when he began his tenure as mayor of San Francisco, one of his first objectives was the development of the Bay Area biotech industry. He began growing biotech jobs by offering a 1.5 percent tax exemption for newly hired employees in the industry.

“Back then, the perception of biotech was that it was nothing more than giant halibut and giant strawberries,” he said. “There wasn’t a full appreciation or understanding of what biotech even meant.”

Newsom said QB3 played an “incredibly important” role in his efforts to grow the local industry with its creation of an “incubator” program to lure startup biotech companies to the Bay Area.

Beginning in 2005, the incubator program essentially allowed new biotech companies to rent research facilities on the three participating QB3 UC campuses.

Collectively, the research space totaled 96,000 square feet, according to the organization.

“We started with just a handful of companies–not even 10–and grew it exponentially, to about 30,” Newsom said.

QB3 facilities now make up more than 200 laboratories collectively on UCSF, UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz campuses, organization officials said.

Newsom said that five years ago, San Francisco officials claimed there was one biotech company in the Bay Area. Now, there are more than 70, he said.

QB3’s 10-year anniversary was also attended today by former state Gov. Gray Davis, who was responsible for initially funding the program.

“I wanted some money in what we do best in California, and that’s innovation,” he said.

“More than any other place on earth, California will be a major influence where we invent the future.”

Saul Sugarman, Bay City News

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