UCSF shows off planned biotech research hub

The Associated Press
Monday October 29, 2001

SAN FRANCISCO – Rising from landfill across from Pacific Bell Park is the planned biotechnology research facility Genentech Hall, the city’s new economic hope. 

University of California, San Francisco officials on Sunday showed off Genentech Hall to reporters and other attendees of the annual American Medical Association Science Reporters Conference. They saw the skeletal exterior of a 430,000-square-foot building expected to be completed by the end of next year. When completed for an expected $223 million, the building will house some of the university’s biotechnology and medical research departments. 

“It is by far the largest such urban development of its type in the United States,” said Christopher Scott, UCSF assistant chancellor in charge of research. 

Genentech Hall will be the first of four buildings UCSF plans to erect on 43 acres in the city’s China Basin neighborhood during the next three years for an estimated $640.7 million. Officials said the four buildings are only the first phase of a planned 15-year, $1.5 billion expansion at the site. They hope ultimately to have 20 buildings and to spur a biotechnology growth in the city, which UCSF officials said is home to just a single biotech company. Most Bay Area biotechnology companies are clustered in South San Francisco around biotech giant Genentech and south into Silicon Valley. 

“UCSF is a primary player in the formation of the biotech industry,” Scott said. Scott said 63 biotech companies were launched by UCSF faculty or technology developed at the school. 

Most of the project’s funding will come from private donors and corporations as part of the university’s $1.4 billion fund-raising drive. 

“This is an ambitious effort by any stretch of the imagination,” UCSF Chancellor J. Michael Bishop told a gathering of 300 of the school’s top donors during a glitzy dinner Wednesday formally announcing the drive. 

Despite the severe economic downturn and the events of Sept. 11, Bishop said he’s confident the school will meet its fund-raising target and complete the construction project. 

In fact, Bishop said the school has already received donor commitments of $740 million, more than enough to complete the project. The project’s finances were boosted by a lawsuit UCSF filed against Genentech that accused the giant biotech company’s scientists of stealing key intellectual property. Genentech settled the dispute in 1999 by paying the University of California and UCSF a combined $200 million, $50 million of which was used to help finance the building’s construction. In exchange, UCSF agreed to name the building Genentech Hall. 

Nearby, a five-story, 155,000-square-foot building is being built by Catellus, Inc. The developer is hoping to lure private biotech companies to its building, which is expected to be completed about the same time as Genentech Hall. 

Catellus donated most of the land to UCSF and owns nearly all the 303 acres in the formerly industrial area. Catellus plans to turn the area into a vibrant biotech center and residential neighborhood. Catellus hopes eventually to build 6,090 units of housing, 850,000 square feet of retail space and 5 million square feet of office space, mostly devoted to the biotech industry.