Délocalisation biotech en Inde, Chine et Singapour

Je crois que la durée de vie sur internet de cet article sera courte. Donc je passe outre le copyright, et je le reprends en intégralité ici.

Outsourcing not out of question for Bay Area biotech companies

Daniel S. Levine

In 2004, Reuters began outsourcing journalism jobs to Bangalore, India.

If one of hundreds of small or mid-sized U.S.-based public companies releases news, a reporter in Bangalore now writes the story. The move, driven by cost-cutting concerns, has been the source of a bitter and ongoing dispute between the wire service and its reporters. But Reuters’ actions have been eye opening for ink-stained wretches like myself, who may have labored under the false impression that whatever threats to job security may lurk, outsourcing was certainly not one.

Sometimes reality smacks me in the face and as much as I’d like to smack it back, it seems to refuse to sit still long enough for me to do so.

So it is without the least bit of shock that I have watched the emergence of outsourcing in the biotechnology industry. If you can outsource journalism jobs to Bangalore, you can outsource biotech jobs anywhere.

In the Bay Area, public officials and economic development big-brains have long talked about increased outsourcing of biopharmaceutical jobs to other parts of the country and overseas, but the focus has been on manufacturing and not research and development. If you have an urge from time to time to smack public officials and economic development big-brains, which I assure you is normal and healthy, relax. Reality is about to take care of that for you.

Menlo Park-based Bridge Pharmaceuticals, a contract research organization that has been subcontracting preclinical drug development work throughout China, next month will open an 85,000-square-foot facility in Beijing. Glenn Rice, CEO of Bridge Pharmaceuticals, said the company will be significantly more profitable than contract research organizations in the United States and operate at half the cost. He expects 60 researchers to be working there within the first year and is looking at building an additional facility in Taiwan.

Rice has argued that cutting the cost of drug development will allow drugs that might not otherwise be developed — ones where markets are not big enough to justify the massive investment needed to move them from discovery to the market — to see the light of day.

Bridge is not the only Bay Area company cutting ribbons in Asia these days. South San Francisco-based Fluidigm Corp. just opened it first offshore facility in Singapore. The company sells so called “integrated fluidic circuits” that speed and reduce the costs of life science research by carrying out experiments on clear, rubber chips that incorporate tens of thousands of liquid-handling components in roughly a 10- square-centimeter area. The 15,000-square-foot facility will manufacture the company’s Topaz chip, but will also be used to perform research and development work as well.

A 2004 study by A.T. Kearney for the Bay Area Economic Forum, called Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network and the Stanford Project on Regions of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, on the impacts of offshoring and other key trends on the future of Bay Area jobs noted that while biotechnology R&D work here is less susceptible to offshoring, that threat in the future remains a possibility.

“Some biotech functions, such as manufacturing, routine clinical trials, testing and administrative operations are being sent outside of the Bay Area and offshore,” the study said. “R&D is more resistant to offshoring, given the complex lab work involved and the need for collaboration with regional partners, but is not entirely secure. The offshoring of R&D may become a larger issue in the future as other countries (such as Singapore) are making major investments in biomedical research facilities to attract up-and-coming researchers.”

In the Bay Area, while there has been a begrudging acknowledgment of the possibility that research and development jobs could be siphoned off by the forces of globalization, it has never been seen as a serious threat. Instead there has been confidence — confidence a follicle cell shy of arrogance — that such trends would have little impact on the research and development jobs here. But while these recent deals shouldn’t set off a panic, they should call that thinking into question. As pressures to reduce the cost of development and find new sources of capital continue, there’s no reason to think research and development jobs will be immune from these forces.

When Cole Porter wrote about the shock of change in his song “Anything Goes,” the focus was sexual mores, not globalization. I offer this rewrite for our times:

Researchers and Ph.D.s.
They worked hard for fancy degrees
But since costs rose
Everything goes.

Daniel S. Levine can be reached at dlevine@bizjournals.com or (415) 288-4949.

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