Biosearch Technologies

business_top_bio

 

Fertile Ground
for Biotech

Who They Are & What They Do

Biosearch is a leading supplier of DNA tools to the biotech industry.

By the Numbers

Biosearch relocated from Marin County to Petaluma in 2013, moving into a 125,000 square foot commercial building renovated to support the company’s projected 20 percent future growth.

Why Petaluma?

A motivated workforce, commercial space that’s affordable compared to other Bay Area locations, and the perfect urban/rural balance makes Petaluma an ideal place to grow, says Ron Cook, founder and CEO of Biosearch Technologies.

“Our clients are impressed with the logic that brought us to Petaluma,” says Cook. “We’re proving you can be at the forefront of biotechnology and still have a wonderful quality of life.”

“We’re proving you can be at the forefront of biotechnology and still have a wonderful quality of life.”

The DNA of Success

How do you grow a business with the building blocks of life?

Ron Cook has been providing answers to that question since 1976, when he was a post-doc in biochemistry/biophysics at UC San Francisco and the “biotech” industry was in its infancy. Cook’s entrepreneurial instincts told him he could make a business out of his passion for science, so he recruited other PhDs, set up a laboratory in Sausalito and established what would eventually become Biosearch Technologies.

Over the course of 30 years, Cook has grown Biosearch to be a leading supplier of DNA tools to the biotech industry. Its primary business is to design and manufacture synthetic DNA for pharmaceutical firms, diagnostic companies and government agencies. More recently, the company has developed a revolutionary new laser-enabled microscope–called Stellarvision–that determines and analyzes the precise molecular structure of cells. This technology will offer an important new tool for cutting edge research, drug discovery and medical diagnostics.

In 2013, after more than 35 years in Marin County, Biosearch relocated to Petaluma, moving into a commercial building the company had renovated to optimize employee productivity and support new product development. Key factors in the decision to move included shorter commute times for employees; the need for more space to accommodate future growth; and the desire to hire motivated, trainable employees from the local talent pool. The move has improved quality of life for Biosearch employees, while simultaneously helping the company to optimize productivity and lower costs.

“We’re happy to have put down roots in Petaluma,”says Cook. “We expect to grow 20 percent in the future, and our location will help us do that.”

A Shorter Commute = Happier Employees

The path to Petaluma started in 2012, when Cook received an unexpected call from Steve Leonard, a commercial realtor who had handled Biosearch’s previous space requirements in Marin County. Leonard asked Cook if he might be interested in looking at a former semiconductor manufacturing plant in Petaluma that had been on the market for months.

The timing was right. Cook knew Biosearch would need more space soon since its lease was nearing an end, and at nearly 125,000 square feet, the new property would be big enough to accommodate the company’s growth with room to spare. The financial aspects could work, too, since interest rates were at a historic low.

Feedback from Biosearch employees tipped the scales. A company-wide poll revealed that 30 percent of its employees lived in or north of Novato, where Biosearch was based at the time. Increased traffic during commute times had made the drive to and from work a nightmare. Even Cook, who lives in Novato, found his commute taking longer each day. Moving the company closer to where employees live would bring them economic relief as well as improve their quality of life.

“Quality of life starts with a commute that doesn’t deplete you before you get to work,” says Cook. “We needed more space and more people, and Petaluma offered both, with the added benefit of a better commute for most of our employees.”

The building’s convenient location extends to other areas of life as well. Work-related and personal errands take less time to complete because Kaiser Permanente medical offices, FedEx and UPS shipping facilities, and a longtime manufacturing partner (Labcon) are within a mile of the office. Also nearby is Shollenberger Park, where employees can walk, jog, or ride bikes next to restored wetlands.

“I very much like being close to our healthcare provider and our logistics partners,” says Cook. “It makes my life and my employees’ lives much easier.”

Renovations Enable Growth

After the building was purchased, the Biosearch team met with representatives from the City of Petaluma to discuss how the company would store and use chemicals in its new building. Also on the agenda were renovation plans for the structure. This proactive approach helped the two parties build an honest, productive relationship that continues today.

“Our growth projections caught the fire marshal’s attention, and we were asked to include a number of safety measures to our renovations plan,” remembers Daren Dick, Biosearch Chief Operating Officer. “The planning team and fire officials worked with us to create a plan that would phase in the modifications without interrupting our business.”

“Petaluma city officials have a thorough knowledge of how codes and standards apply to potentially hazardous materials,” adds Cook. “They are careful without being extreme. As a responsible business, we appreciate their approach.”

Biosearch completely overhauled the 75,000 square foot lab space, which enabled the company to optimize workflow. Now employees can move freely from one work area to another, which enhances productivity. Another boost to the business comes from its new DNA manufacturing room. Here, bioscience, computing power and hand-built machinery come together to make DNA programmed to meet customer needs. A state-of-the-art alarm system tied directly to the Petaluma Fire Department
monitors the entire lab to ensure safety.

Adjacent to the lab, Biosearch converted a portion of the parking lot into a partially-enclosed storage and containment area for chemical supplies. This addition was required to meet fire codes, but it has resulted in an unexpected benefit: Now that there’s more room to store chemicals safely, Biosearch can purchase in larger quantities, which saves money.

“This is the first time in our company’s history we’ve had such control over the manufacturing process,” says Cook. “Our new lab gives us a competitive advantage and is enabling growth.”

Petaluma: Charming and Hardworking

Biosearch plans to add 20 to 40 positions by 2017, and Cook believes that the company’s new Petaluma location offers several recruiting advantages.

About 20 percent of Biosearch jobs require Ph.D.-level education and highly specialized bioscience skills. Biosearch recruits from all over the world for these positions, and Cook credits Petaluma’s unique blend of rural charm and urban pizzazz for helping to convince top-notch scientists to join his company.

The remaining 80 percent of jobs require varying levels of education and experience, with a few common denominators: strong work ethic, high integrity, good people skills and a willingness to learn. Biosearch recruits across the entire Bay Area to fill these positions, but, according to Cook, the best candidates usually come from Sonoma County.

“People in Sonoma County want to work, and their salary requirements are more reasonable than what we find in other Bay Area cities,” he explains. “Petaluma and its neighboring cities offer an abundance of talent, particularly when we are recruiting for positions that require an understanding of business operations.”

Cook believes Petaluma has what it takes to be a regional biotech hub. It offers affordable commercial space and access to a stable workforce. It’s part of the urban buzz of the wider Bay Area, yet retains a rural softness that appeals to many. It’s a reasonable drive from top-flight research centers and is about ten miles from Sonoma State University and the Buck Institute. It’s even received thumbs up from Biosearch’s European customers, who enjoy a taste of Wine Country when they visit company headquarters.

“Our clients are impressed with the logic that brought us to Petaluma,” says Cook. “We’re proving you can be at the forefront of biotechnology and still have a wonderful quality of life.”



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