California stays innovative with loan program
This was supposed to be the year that FierceBiotech was going to take California off the list of the Top 5. With its $3 billion stem cell institute up and running and issuing grants to researchers, the state has been a real trendsetter in biotechnology circles, spurring a string of states to offer up smaller programs tailored to achieve much of what Californians had in mind when they passed the bond project three years ago.
But thatâ€™s so last year.
Then the stem cell institute decided to get innovative again. Now, the seed money that it has been using to back advanced research in the stem cell field is being augmented with loans to companies. And theyâ€™re willing to come in at a point when venture companies are often at their most skittish: right at the point that biotech developers are pushing their translational work from the bench to the clinical development phase. Robert Klein, chairman of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, says that the approach offers some long-term benefits to the stateâ€™s biotech industry. By using some of the bond money for loans, they can leverage the payments into more loans, expanding the impact.
A task force is sorting out the ticklish issues on how it would balance risk and repayment terms. But in biotechnology, where companies are always scrambling for backers willing to be patient for their returns, the state has proven once again that its willingness to take chances makes it a trendsetter no one can ignore. The payoff has come in thousands of new jobs touted by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger at a recent visit to the Invitrogen campus.
California thinks big when it comes to biomedical research, and that has already paid off with its big biomedical hubs. As long as it remains an innovator in finding new funds to spur the science, it will remain a global leader in the field.