Conejo Valley’s senior biotech executives discussed why they put down roots in the region at the BioScience Alliance’s Panel Event on Wednesday in Thousand Oaks.
The participants were Steve Bertram, vice president of Human Resources at Atara Biotherapeutics Inc.; Michael Castagna, chief executive of MannKind Corp.; and Ric Peterson, chief financial officer of Sienna Biopharmaceutical Inc. All three companies have operations in Westlake Village.
For the three publicly traded companies, the main draws to the Conejo Valley are a fluid talent pool and the lower cost of living compared to other biotech hubs.
Atara, headquartered in San Francisco, recently broke ground on a new 91,000-square-foot facility in Thousand Oaks, which will be completed near the end of 2018.
“We made a bit of strategic decision about three years ago to expand out here because it was going to allow us to scale much faster than the San Francisco Bay area,” said Bertram. “This area is a hotbed of talent.”
Castagna of MannKind echoed the sentiment, citing talent as one of the reasons for the company’s recent move to Westlake Village from Valencia.
“As we keep growing, more companies will come to find talent and investment,” he said. “It’s a snowball effect.”
Castagna added that turning around a company heavily depends on strategy and talent, eluding to the company’s recent double-digit gain in the market.
Peterson from Sienna, which recently completed a successful IPO in July, said the region is headed for more growth as companies like Sienna expands.
“We are building the company for the long term with multiple assets and multiple platforms,” he said. “If you look at the positions that are growing, they are scientists and clinical trial specialists, high-level and technical positions.”
The discussion was led by Brent Reinke, founder of the alliance. Reinke commented that while startups are important, the journey to becoming a biotech hub will jump start with growth of well-funded and publicly traded companies.
“There is a nice story that can be told to companies,” he said. “If you can get people to start hearing a buzz, and verify it, it starts feeding itself.”
The event was held in the Founder's Room at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza with about 40 people in attendance.