Published May 18, 2017
Volume 1, Number 5

Hacienda a Destination for Life Sciences Field

By Tina Hansen
Pulse Writer

It is no secret to those in the thriving biotechnology sector that Hacienda has become a life sciences hub. The recent surge in biotechnology businesses moving to Hacienda and Pleasanton is the result of a convergence of innovation, highly qualified workforce, affordable rent and proximity to venture capital, not to mention the desirability of the Pleasanton community.

The confluence of all these elements has helped accelerate the growth and development of the biotechnology industry making Pleasanton, and Hacienda, one of the fastest growing locations for new ventures, as well as for established companies to open additional offices.

According to the California Life Sciences Association (CLSA), California is leading the country in the number of life sciences companies with more than 3,000 life sciences businesses. Hacienda is home to nine biotechnology companies, and Pleasanton has 21, which makes the city a leading destination in the vibrant life sciences ecosystem.

A cornerstone of the biotechnology companies in Hacienda is Roche Molecular Diagnostics (RMD). RMD, who first arrived in Hacienda as Microgenics and then later Boehringer-Mannheim, built their first facility in Hacienda in 1997. The successor organization, RMD, is one of five businesses under the Roche diagnostics umbrella. RMD develops and manufactures a wide array of medical diagnostic products for researchers, physicians, patients, hospitals, laboratories and blood banks worldwide and is a recognized leader in the drive toward personalized healthcare, an approach based on tailoring disease treatment to the individual patient.

RMD is but one example of the great breadth and diversity of focus seen in Hacienda's biotechnology businesses; another reason this industries' presence in Hacienda is exciting. Furthermore, each company here tackles an aspect of biotechnology that touches and effects people's lives in different ways.

For instance, Hacienda based IntegenX, formerly Microchip Biotechnologies, is the market leader of “rapid human DNA identification” technology that helps solve crimes, among other things.

IntegenX was the first company to create a simple and cost-effective tool to generate a forensic DNA profile at the point of action for arrestee testing. According to victims’ rights advocate Mai Fernandez of National Center for Victims of Crime, IntegenX could ultimately play a role in helping reduce the nation’s backlog of DNA samples. “With IntegenX technology, we now have another tool for the forensic labs to assist in streamlining their workflow to help with complex DNA tests such as rape kits,” said Fernandez.

IntegenX President and CEO Robert Schueren said “We are honored to have enabled forensic labs with yet another game changing tool. To develop a solution that has such potential to help further reduce backlog across all ranges of forensic DNA samples, as well as enabling crime scene samples to be rapidly uploaded to CODIS, is another significant evolution of the technology.”

Another Hacienda biotechnology company that is changing lives is Astex Pharmaceuticals. They, in partnership with another firm, developed a drug called Kisqali for cancer patients. It was announced last month that Astex Pharmaceuticals’ scientific expertise was instrumental in the discovery of a new drug for breast cancer.

The emergence of biotechnology hubs like Hacienda is being seen elsewhere in the U.S. economy that, when done right, can have significant positive impacts for the cities in which the hub is located. Hacienda offers this industry the necessary ingredients to respond to and embrace the needs of this sector so that it can prosper.

According to experts who study the formation and economic influence of new business developments at the Economic Development Administration (EDA), creating hubs that can change the local and regional economy is anything but formulaic. Researchers are starting to understand how these developments work, as well as their true economic impact to the community.  As Pleasanton invests part of its economic future in becoming an innovation hub, Hacienda not only benefits from it, but contributes to it as well.

Enrico Moretti, Professor of Economics at Berkeley has done extensive research on the symbiotic relationship between a location and the success of an industry like biotechnology.

He notes that the “thickness of the market is what creates webs of dynamic, forward-thinking biotechnology companies; bigger and bigger webs of entrepreneurs, where highly skilled workers can find specific jobs, generates a win-win situation that feeds on itself.” In other words, with the success of each biotechnology company in Hacienda and as the city becomes known as the destination for the biotechnology industry, other businesses in the field will follow to take advantage of the highly skilled workforce.

However, before a city or community can become the location for a highly specialized field, it must first invest in the necessary elements for those businesses to succeed, such as building infrastructure, emphasizing education and offering a high quality of life. Hacienda and Pleasanton have accomplished that and are now taking the next step to ensure success of the upcoming generation.

In 2012 Pleasanton Unified School District (PUSD), in coordination with Project Lead The Way (PLTW), began to integrate the national educational program called STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) into its platform. STEM gives students access to skills and knowledge they will need to be to compete in the job market. PUSD upgraded the program and added arts to the curriculum. In 2016, PUSD opened a new preschool program called Pleasanton Unified STEAM, which can enroll up to 48 children.

"It has been a cultivation of a lot of people's dreaming and work," said Traci Peterson, the STEAM preschool program director, "and it is great to see it in action."

According to estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, STEM professions will expand 1.7 times faster than non-STEM occupations between 2010 and 2020. As the workforce grows, more businesses will be attracted to the area, which in turn attracts more businesses.

Given their growing demand, STEM careers today comprise some of the most lucrative employment, paying higher salaries and boasting far fewer threats of unemployment compared with non-STEM jobs.

Biotechnology, like all technology businesses, needs capital to drive its vision. One of the biggest reasons for the biotechnology growth in Hacienda is its proximity to venture capital in both Silicon Valley and San Francisco, where many interested investors are located. Biotechnology companies in Hacienda benefit from the investments that are being made in Pleasanton companies, which are helping to sustain the overall biotechnology environment.

According to James Golden, research vice president at Life Science Insights, an industry tracker, venture capitalists began shifting investments about 15 years ago from other sectors into the biotechnology sector.

The result of that shift is a Hacienda company called Purigen Biosystems, an innovative company that provides a solution for extracting, enriching and quantifying DNA and RNA from biological samples solutions for genomic sample preparation. The company, created in 2012,  raised $18.2 million in a Series A financing round last year and plans to use the funds to further develop and commercialize its technology for automated preparation of genomic and genetic testing samples.

A key goal of the continued economic growth in Hacienda is the further development of the biotechnology sector. A Hacienda business that is contributing to that goal is Veeva Systems. Veeva has seen explosive growth is as they provide the cloud backbone for the $1.7 trillion life sciences industry. Its dual roles include organizing doctor information for pharmaceutical reps and clinical trial data and graphics for companies. Since Veeva Systems launched in 2007, it has outpaced its revenue projections, it has seen its stock triple in a span of less than three years and has expanded its product line to 23 applications.

Another biotechnology company in Hacienda is Waters Technologies Corporation (WTC), an organization in the analytical instrument manufacturers industry and the division in Hacienda designs, manufactures, sells, and services sophisticated analytical instruments and laboratory information management systems for demanding scientific applications.

It is clear the synergy being generated around Hacienda’s biotechnology sector is getting more robust as each unique company grows and becomes more successful. The economic advantages for the city will substantially contribute to being a draw for other industries over the next decade. All the things that make Hacienda a great place to live and work are what also make it a great destination for biotechnology.