prick), Aldurazyme and Firdapse (approved in the European
Union only). It has five more experimental therapies in clinical
trials and t wo slated to go to trial in 2015. The company has been
publicly traded since 1999, reporting revenue that has grown
steadily over the years to 2013’s $549 million.
However, BioMarin is not yet profitable. “What we've been
communicating (to investors) is that when we reach a billion
dollars in revenue, which should be in two to three years, we
will be operationally profitable,” Bienaimé says.
The fact that investors are willing to wait through more
than a decade of testing and steady growth throws biotech
into sharp contrast with high tech. “It tends to be a longer-term play than the short bursts you see in tech like mobile
apps, social media,” Eyler says. Pair that with its hunger for
educated workers, and the industry has the potential to be a
good driver of Marin’s economy, he adds.
But biotech firms that would launch or expand in Marin
County face challenges. A major hurdle is finding space for
laboratories and drug production plants. The vacancy rate for
industrial and warehouse space in Marin is only 4.1 percent,
meaning that space here is much scarcer than in Oakland,
where vacancy is almost 20 percent, or San Mateo, with 11. 8
percent, according to the Marin Economic Forum.
When considering if Marin’s biotech cluster could ever rival
South San Francisco’s in size, Bienaimé gazes out his office win-
dow. BioMarin is constructing a new research laboratory not
far from where he is sitting and has drawn up plans for another
building across the street. “Maybe it could happen here too. It
would take a while. The space is more limited here,” he says,
finally. BioMarin has purchased a drug production plant in
Ireland, but intends to continue growing in Marin as well.
In the end, it doesn’t matter if Marin’s cluster will ever
rival South San Francisco’s. It’s a good thing at any size,
industry insiders agree. “We don’t have to get to that level to
be successful,” says Kennedy, CEO of the Buck. “These are
high-paying jobs, they’re technical jobs, they bring a lot of
young exciting people into the region — and we’ve got a nice
base to grow from here.” M
Between Marin and Sonoma
counties, biotech firms bring in $2.7
billion in annual revenue, the Marin
Economic Forum estimates.