The San Francisco area is home to a number of research universities, medical centers, and biotech companies that employ thousands of scientists, healthcare and life science professionals.
According to the nonprofit association BayBio, northern California has the largest number of life sciences companies in the United States -- over 1,377 companies who employ over 100,000 people. These companies, like Cetus, the world's first biotech company, and Genentech, discover, develop and manufacture a wide variety of drugs that can treat disease and improve health.
And nearby universities like UC-Berkeley, UC-San Francisco, UC-Davis and Stanford University are all active in life science research that can help lead to new therapies.
A Career in Biotech
Biotech companies and research universities employ a variety of scientists, engineers, and technicans to develop new drugs, and streamline their manufacture with attention to quality control, cost and environmental impact.
Of the life scientists who work in biotechnology, most are biological and medical scientists who produce new drugs using biotechnology to recombine the genetic material of animals or plants. Other scientists who work in pharmaceutical research and production include organic chemists, biochemists, microbiologists, virologists, pharmacologists, botanists, toxicologists and pathologists.
Research and development (R&D) is in fact the backbone of the pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing industry.
Much of the basic biological research done in recent years has resulted in new knowledge, including the successful identification of genes. Life and physical scientists will be needed to take this knowledge to the next stage, which is to understand how certain genes function so that gene therapies can be developed to treat diseases.
Science technicians, such as biological and chemical technicians, set up, operate, and maintain laboratory equipment, monitor experiments, analyze data, and record and interpret results. Science technicians usually work under the supervision of scientists or engineers.
Engineers at drug manufacturing companies focus on improving quality control and production efficiency. For example, chemical engineers design equipment and devise manufacturing processes specific to the requirements of the new drugs.
Training & Education
Most scientists working in biotechnology hold at lease a bachelor of science, though many also hold a master's or PhD. Medical scientists working in R&D for a biotechnology company usually must have a doctoral degree in their specific field, such as microbiology or organic chemistry.
Science technicians usually hold an associate's or bachelor's degree in a biological or chemical science.
Because biotechnology is not one discipline, but the interaction of several disciplines, the best preparation for work in biotechnology is training in a traditional biological science, such as genetics, molecular biology, biochemistry, virology, or biochemical engineering.