Vacaville, Solano College at center of new biomanufacturing hubOctober 23 2020
Daily Republic By Todd R. Hansen
VACAVILLE — About 60 students graduate from the Solano Community College Biotechnology program each year.
One course of study added this semester is the Cell and Gene Therapy certificate program – the first of its kind in the country for a community college.
Vacaville and the college took a step Thursday by signing an agreement that officials hope will result in a rapid growth in the college’s programs and provide thousands of job opportunities in the coming decades.
Even bigger still are the billions of dollars the newly formed 300-acre California Biomanufacturing Center zone could generate for the city.
Powering that effort will be the nonprofit California Biomanufacturing Center Inc., headed by Matt Gardner, which will help bring academic, industry and related biotechnology interests to Vacaville.
Gardner and Solano Community College Superintendent/President Celia Esposito-Noy signed the memorandum of understanding that houses the nonprofit staff in the annex building of the Vacaville campus, and links the college’s programs to future development.
The private-public endeavor expects to be funded from a variety of sources, but will take its first steps with the help of in-kind contributions from the city.
Mayor Ron Rowlett said Vacaville is positioned to become the “epicenter of biomanufacturing in the United States.”
The city expects that this expansion will lead to more than $2 billion in industrial development, 3.5 million square feet of commercial real estate and the addition of 10,000 jobs with a payroll of more than $1 billion a year.
The group hopes to have its own facility, including a conference and training center, in the future, but there is no timeline for that project.
“And I will tell you, there is a role for the federal government here,” U.S. Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, said at the kickoff ceremony that occurred in front of the Solano College building that houses the science courses at the Vacaville campus.
Garamendi said the country is too dependent on China, including what the congressman said was China’s precursor role in pharmaceuticals used by the U.S. military. He called it a national security risk.
The zone, though not specifically defined by geographic borders, has several companies already, not the least of which is Genentech.
There is also Nobici, Johnson & Johnson, Polaris Pharma, Durect and RxD Nova Pharmaceuticals, the latter of which could soon be involved in the Covid-19 fight with the development of a protein that officials said “likes to eat up the coronavirus.”
“Vacaville has the land, infrastructure and workforce that the biotechnology industry needs to grow, as well as a long-standing commitment to make doing so a streamlined and efficient process,” Rowlett said in a statement released prior to the event. “With the California Biomanufacturing Center, we are building on our proven success with the industry to secure Vacaville’s continued leadership as a biomanufacturing center going forward.”
The concept is to bring industry, academia and other partners together to raise the profile of Vacaville as a biotech and biomanufacturing hub.