The Berkeley-Emeryville Bio Cluster is built on the resources of the area’s world-class educational and research institutions where scientists and researchers are tackling the most urgent challenges of the day.
The University of California’s flagship Berkeley campus is one of the preeminent universities in the world — with a distinguished faculty (22 Nobel laureates to date), a stellar research library and more than 350 academic programs.
UC Berkeley has long been a catalyst for innovative technologies and economic growth. Its scientists’ understanding of genetics and the development of computers revolutionized the possibilities of research. Berkeley scientists and researchers founded the field of molecular evolution using genetic material rather than fossils; merged the campus’s biological sciences setting the stage for critical research breakthroughs; and identified the gene responsible for hereditary breast cancer. UC Berkeley computer scientists joined bioengineers in work supporting the Human Genome Project.
Open source software-distribution was pioneered at UC Berkeley and had a formative influence on the development of the Internet and the growth of Silicon Valley. In 2007, thanks to a proven track record conducting “big science” projects, UC Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory received $625 million in funding for two major efforts — the Energy Biosciences Institute and the Joint BioEnergy Institute — to address the nation’s energy needs and the challenges of global warming in the 21st century.
The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, managed by the University of California, is the oldest of the U.S. Department of Energy’ National Laboratories. Berkeley Lab is named after Ernest O. Lawrence, inventor of the cyclotron, which won him the 1939 Nobel Prize in physics and ushered in a new era in the study of subatomic particles. Lawrence recruited a brilliant circle of colleagues from physics, chemistry, biology, engineering and medicine who would be critical to the laboratory’s legendary success. Today, Berkeley Lab continues the tradition of multidisciplinary scientific teams working together to solve global problems in human health, technology, energy and the environment. The Lab can count 12 Nobel winners among scientists who have worked there, including Steve Chu, later Secretary of Energy. Berkeley Lab was the birthplace of nuclear medicine, and its strong record in the biological sciences has continued with such breakthroughs as the engineering of yeast to produce the world’s foremost antimalarial drug, the identification of risk factors for breast cancer, and major advances in biomedical imaging, genetic sequencing and proteomics. Berkeley Lab is among the top 15 employers in the area, with 4,000 scientists and support staff, and it plays a seminal role in the creation and growth of the Berkeley-Emeryville Bio Cluster.
Inside the Joint BioEnergy Institute’s (JBEI) state-of-the-art labs in EmeryStation East, researchers are using the latest tools in molecular biology, chemical engineering, computational and robotic technologies to transform biomass into fuels. JBEI’s CEO, Jay Keasling, is an internationally recognized leader in biofuels research who holds joint positions with Berkeley Lab and UC Berkeley, and is a co-founder of Amyris, which provides high-performance renewable hydrocarbons used in a broad range of petroleumsourced products.
“JBEI has spun out one startup company so far that has set up shop in the Berkeley-Emeryville Bio Cluster and there are more in the pipeline that will likely locate here,” says Keasling. “The resources and synergies that have developed in these two sister cities provide a rich media in which new bio companies can thrive. This community of innovators speaks the same language and we’re all focused on moving biology to the next stage.”
Energy Biosciences Institute
A project of UC Berkeley and Berkeley Lab, the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI) received a major grant from global energy giant BP to support bioenergy development using fuels derived from non-food plants and fossil fuel microbiology.
“When it came to competing for – and then winning – the Energy Biosciences Institute partnership, Berkeley as a centerpiece was clearly a decisive factor,” says EBI Managing Director Susan Jenkins. “The expertise found on campus, as well as the innovative and entrepreneurial atmosphere that has been reflected in the city’s culture for decades, were perfect elements to anchor the search for renewable, responsible energy sources.” EBI ’s reputation as an international leader in bioenergy research “is underpinned by UC Berkeley’s global reputation and the City of Berkeley’s roster of worldclass talent in business, education and research,” adds Jenkins.
In 2000, the University of California created the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences, dubbed QB3, drawing on faculty from UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz and UCSF, among them two Nobel laureates and 41 members of the National Academies. QB3’s comprehensive approach enables the university to convert life science research into solutions for better health, a sustainable environment and a dynamic economy. QB3 also administers a venture capital fund. QB3’s East Bay Innovation Center (EBIC) incubator in Berkeley provides wet-labs and facilities specifically designed to meet the needs of start-up biotech companies. Located less than 15 minutes from UC Berkeley and walking distance from several Berkeley Lab divisions, the QB3 EBIC gives participants access to these world-class scientific communities, as well as researchers at local and international companies such as Novartis, Bayer HealthCare and Amyris.
To date, the 62 companies in the QB3 system have created more than 280 jobs and attracted more than $230 million in investment. To further supporte nterprising entrepreneurs, QB3 created the Garage@Berkeley – a small space mimicking the quintessential Silicon Valley garages that spawned Apple and HP, but outfitted for the needs of biological research companies. QB3 has also teamed with private partners to offer microspace in a network of locations throughout the Bay Area. “ Given the innovative science coming out of our academic labs, it makes perfect sense that so many of our more entrepreneurial researchers have launched successful startups and found their footing in the Berkeley-Emeryville area,” says Susan Marqusee, M.D., Ph.D., Berkeley QB3 director. “QB3 increases their chance of success by offering incubator space and providing programs to help them jump through those first difficult hurdles – with SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) workshops, legal services, and mentoring.”