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Biotech, Publishing and Prison

Columnist: Bill Meagher
July, 2015 Issue

Bill Meagher
All articles by columnist

A 2001 study put the cost at $695 million, and it isn’t like that figure would get any bigger over 14 years, right?

For years, every economist with an Alan Greenspan baseball card has said that what Marin needed was to become a cozy destination for biotech companies, and the Buck Institute for Research on Aging was going to be the magnet to make it happen.
With Google’s Calico Life Sciences signing a partnership deal with the Buck, that big idea may be coming true.
The agreement calls for Calico to support research by identifying and funding projects connected to age-related diseases. Financial terms of the partnership were not revealed. The South San Francisco-based Calico is run by CEO Arthur Levinson, former chairman of Genentech and a legend in the life science sector. Levinson is also currently chairman of a small tech startup called Apple.
Calico has been on a tear since its creation just two years ago, partnering with UCSF, the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, the Bay Area’s QB3, MIT’s Broad Institute and Chicago-based AbbVie. What the partnerships all have in common is that all the players are, in one way or another, researching how we age.

BioMarin tries to cure space malady

After buying the Corporate Center in downtown San Rafael last year for $116.5 million, BioMarin Pharmaceutical Inc. has decided it could use more space. The biotech company that’s focused on developing drugs to treat so-called orphan diseases has submitted plans to the city of San Rafael to build a 72,396-square-foot, four-story office building.
The company is already building an 85,000-square-foot facility that will be dedicated to research and development and was part of the original master plan for the campus envisioned by Fair Issac Corp., which had planned to build its world headquarters on the 15-acre property but got cold feet, abandoning the project in 1998.
The new building will require BioMarin to get a master use amendment and some rezoning, but given the jobs the company will generate, the paperwork won’t be a challenge.
The neighbors from Gerstle Park, however, have concerns over the scale of the project as well as whether some of the new parking required for the building (the site will add 332 spaces) will be made available to the public. Stay tuned, this may get loud before it’s over.

Sun doesn’t set on Pacific Sun

Pacific Sun, one of the many newspapers where I had the privilege of writing, was sold for the third time in 11 years, with Bob Heinen selling and San Jose-based Metro Publishing on the buy side. Metro also publishes North Bay Bohemian.
These days, any time a newspaper sells instead of folds, it’s a blessing. And though I haven’t read the Bohemian consistently enough to be an expert, I do know the Metro Publishing staff knows the area well enough to understand that radical change won’t be well received.

Your Marin moment

About once every decade, someone suggests the scrapping of San Quentin prison. The antiquated prison was built in 1852, making it 163 years old, or 12 years older than the computer I’m using. The prison sits on a 432-acre site overlooking the bay. Stephen Roulac, economic scholar, author and all-around smart fellow, believes the property would fetch someplace between $1 billion and $2 billion if it were sold, maybe more if it’s staged well.
Roulac shared his thoughts with KTVU, saying that the sale of the prison would take the facility from the red into the black, creating a windfall for the state. He envisions housing, retail, parks and more.
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District has ruled that the prison’s boiler house is no longer up to snuff, and the Department of Corrections plans on spending $18 million to tear down the old structure and build a new one.
Building one or two other prisons to house the 4,300 prisoners wouldn’t be cheap. A 2001 study put the cost at $695 million, and it isn’t like that figure would get any bigger over 14 years, right?
Marin residents have always hated the association with Death Row that SQ brings. Those who favor doing away with the death penalty would find favor in putting the prison on the block.
In 2009, State Senator Jeff Denham put up a pair of bills proposing selling the prison, but the bills suffered the death penalty in committee.
And there’s nothing to suggest there’s support for selling off the ancient jail yard.


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