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S.F. gets stem cell agency


All politics is local, and so it is with winning the stem-cell agency.

Here's our story in Saturday's Merc about how SF was chosen Friday as the headquarters for California's $3 billion stem cell agency after an intense competition with San Diego and Sacramento.

The 29-member committee that oversees the agency, or the Institute for Regenerative Medicine, voted for SF after its search panel recommended the city.

The phones were "already ringing" off the hook Friday evening from companies interested in being "around and near the intellectual power of this institute," SF Mayor Gavin Newsom said at a press conference late Friday, which we attended. Both Newsom and his lead negotiator on the issue, Jessie Blout, mentioned the support offered by Kleiner Perkins' Brook Byers at the final pitch in Fresno Friday. After the news briefing, we asked Blout how, specifically, Byers had helped. Newsom, who was walking ahead of us, heard the question, spun around, and said: "Brook was amazing." He said Byers led off the SF team's eleven-minute presentation....

Byers, Newsom continued, explained how he not only invested in biotech companies, "but ones coming up to the Bay Area and San Francisco, and wouldn't be doing that unless the companies were here because the region has the best talent."

Byers' Kliener Perkins provided the original financing for Genentech, one of the first biotech companies in the world. Industry luminaries Paul Berg and William Rutter, and venture capitalist Steve Burrill, all gave similar testimonies as part of the Fresno presentation: "There is no place in the world'' like the Bay Area for this sort of research, Rutter said.

"That's as good as it gets," the mayor concluded about the help from Byers et al. And just to connect the dots: Kleiner Perkins appears to be ready.

This is great news for Silicon Valley. As much as people want to believe location doesn't matter, we all know that networking is EVERYTHING, and that an company executive, entrepreneur, scientist, professor or VC based in Silicon Valley is going to have an easier time taking out the right official from the stem cell agency for lunch, and will thus have an advantage on the margin in getting financing than will someone in San Diego.

We should add that Newsom, during his conference, reeled off a long list of other political support for SF's bid, including 29 community organizations, several of which were religious groups; the city's supervisors; $19 million in contributions from the private sector; and the 71 percent vote by SF residents in support of Prop. 71.

Here's some past coverage: Here and here on original stem-cell proposition, and here on conflicts and conflicts continued (scroll down).

And stem-cell watchdog blog, California Stem Cell Report, has lots of history, but not much yet on Friday's vote.

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