Vacaville launches California Biomanufacturing Center

October 23 2020


PUBLISHED: October 22, 2020 at 6:05 p.m. | UPDATED: October 22, 2020 at 6:06 p.m.

Vacaville took a giant leap forward Thursday in its efforts to become a world-class biomanufacturing region.

The city entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Solano Community College to expand its biomanufacturing cluster on approximately 300 acres adjacent to existent centers and to name the zone the California Biomanufacturing Center.

At a news conference on SCC’s Vacaville campus, the city also announced the creation of the California Biomanufacturing Center, Inc., a nonprofit that aims to speed up the growth of the sector by working with industry and academic partners to help the industry thrive.

Mayor Ron Rowlett remarked that it was “a major milestone for the history and economic development of Vacaville.”

Rowlett noted that Vacaville was already home to several biotechnology businesses, including Novici Biotech, Polaris Pharmaceuticals, RxD Nova, Johnson & Johnson and Genentech, the latter being one of the largest biotech drug manufacturing companies in the world and one of the city’s largest employers. This year, the city has taken an aggressive approach to build on that base and “make Vacaville and the Bay Area the epicenter for biomanufacturing in the United States.”

“Our plans have potential to expand biomanufacturing in this city to lead to more than $2 billion worth of development, 3.5 million square feet of commercial real estate development and the addition of 13,000 jobs, which equates to $1 billion in payroll per year,” he said.

Rowlett also praised the partnership of SCC’s biotechnology program as a key factor in making the efforts closer to becoming a reality.

“I want to thank them for their commitment to the bio and tech industry and to our community,” he said.

The school’s biotech program began in 1997 after working with Genentech’s team. It was “the first biotech program in the United States that emphasized the skills and knowledge required to enter the manufacturing sector of the biotech industry,” said Dr. Celia Esposito-Noy, SCC president.

Today, SCC is one of 15 community colleges in California accredited to offer a bachelor’s degree and one of two that offers a bachelor of science in biomanufacturing. Recently, Esposito-Noy said, SCC signed an agreement with Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia for bachelor’s degree graduates to be guaranteed admission into Jefferson’s master’s degree program in biopharmaceutical processing and engineering.

“No other community college in the state offers a pathway such as this,” she said.

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Solano, said that during his time in Congress, he has supported an agenda of “Make it in America,” particularly for pharmaceuticals. In serving on the Armed Forces Committee, he noticed in a report that nearly all pharmaceuticals purchased in the U.S. came from China.

“If our troops cannot be healthy, we’re in serious trouble,” he said. “If our troops’ health is dependent on the Chinese government and their willingness to continue to supply the necessary materials for the manufacturing of those drugs, we’re in trouble.”

Rep. John Garamendi speaks at a news conference on the unveiling of the California Biomanufacturing Center on the importance of biotechnology. The event was held at Solano Community College’s Vacaville campus. (Nick Sestanovich — The Reporter)

Garamendi expressed his support for increased national biomanufacturing, especially during a pandemic. He said America was in the midst of the greatest public health threat since the Spanish Flu of 1918 and that COVID-19 had the potential to be even more deadly.

“If only this (program) had come to pass 10 years ago, and the 60 bachelor’s of science students that graduate every year from this facility were out in the biomanufacturing sector or the research sector gearing up for the manufacturing of the vaccines and the therapeutics,” he said. “But here we are. We’ve got a great start going.”

With SCC serving as a foundation and several companies already established in Vacaville, Garamendi said biomanufacturing had already taken root in Solano County and was excited to see it continue to move forward and that he would remain an advocate for it.

“I’ll be there hand in hand — excuse me — 6 feet apart with each and every one of you,” he said.

Matthew Gardner, president of the California Biomanufacturing Center, said the path for Vacaville to become a biomanufacturing hub was set in 1987 when Alza opened a center in the city.

“That history has led to billions of dollars invested and thousands of jobs today,” he said. “As we look ahead at this tremendous opportunity ahead moving forward, we know that there’s more manufacturing coming.”

Gardner said new biomanufacturing businesses would allow for cleaner pharmaceuticals.

“Being able to substitute petrochemical byproduct with a biologically, sustainably made, simpler product, it’s a tremendous inspiration for people who want to be involved in something that’s clean, sustainable and green.”

Plus, with more companies growing out of the Bay Area, Gardner hopes more will come to Vacaville. The first step, he said, was a partnership with SCC.

“It couldn’t be more important to us to continue to acknowledge the central role the college plays in the town pipeline that makes this industry work,” he said. “The companies know it, the communities know it and those young professionals getting their careers started through Solano College know it.”

Gardner joined Esposito-Noy in signing the MOU, and Ron Turner, a representative for Sen. Bill Dodd, awarded two certificates to the city, one signed by Dodd and the other by Assemblyman Jim Frazier.

Rowlett reiterated his enthusiasm.

“Vacaville has been a world leader in the center for biomanufacturing for decades, and we are capitalizing on our location in the heart of the world-leading regions for biotechnology,” he said.

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