Berkeley City Council set to vote on agreement to grow anchor biotech; negotiates significant community investment commitment

The agreement would see the city reap the economic benefits of Bayer’s growing operations, as well as a commitment from the global life science company to invest $33.1M in the community.

Employees at Bayer making FVIII. Credit: Bayer Berkeley

This story is brought to you by Bayer Berkeley.

Last month in a unanimous vote, Berkeley’s Planning Commission recommended that the City Council approve a proposed extension of its development agreement with Bayer. The revised agreement sets the stage for the city to attract investments in upwards of 1 million square feet of Bayer biotech infrastructure projects over the next 30 years. The potential new facilities would enable Bayer to advance a pipeline of novel biotechnology-based medicines to patients waiting for new treatment options. 

In life sciences hubs around the world, including the U.S., governments frequently offer valuable incentives to win just this sort of investment. In contrast, Berkeley is expected to reap not only the economic benefits of Bayer’s growing operations, but also a commitment from the global life science company to invest $33.1 million in the community. The Berkeley City Council is expected to vote on the development agreement extension on Nov. 30.

The upcoming vote follows a nearly two-year-long comprehensive environmental review of Bayer’s plans to transform its 46-acre biotech hub, long known for manufacturing therapies to serve patients living with hemophilia. Now Bayer plans to shift its operations to add treatment production facilities for cell and gene therapies to treat patients with conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, cancer and cardiovascular disease to name a few.

“In 1992, when the development agreement was originally created, it was the first of its kind in Berkeley. Since then, this public-private partnership has served patients around the world and helped a local community thrive,” noted Drew Johnston, vice president of engineering for Bayer. “The proposed development agreement extension continues that tradition and ensures that Bayer can develop infrastructure that will support a broader range of patients, while also proudly providing significant local investments in areas defined by the community.”

Broad range of community benefits proposed

The development agreement extension proposes investments that advance education and workforce development in biotech, support the West Berkeley community, fund civic arts, and contribute to the city’s efforts to advance affordable housing and childcare. In addition, the company is to provide ongoing employee volunteerism in the community, to communicate regularly with neighbors, to promote job openings locally, and to explore how local minority- and women-owned enterprises can do business with Bayer.  

  • STEAM power

Nearly 50% of Bayer’s annual community investment in Berkeley will go toward STEAM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) and paid internships for high school and community college students from underrepresented populations. This investment builds on the current development agreement, which launched Biotech Partners, a nonprofit that serves students at Berkeley High and other Bay Area schools. In addition to paid high school internships, the program enables year-long community college internships that allow students to earn and learn while gaining marketable experience in the biotech field.

“Biotech Partners would not exist today without the help of Bayer and the foresight of many community leaders interested in providing meaningful opportunities for students, particularly those from low-income families,” said Executive Director Lynda Gayden. “By extending the development agreement to continue paid internships for high school and community college students, Berkeley will ensure that young people from underserved populations can access opportunities that set the stage for lucrative careers in biotech.”

  • West Berkeley resilience

A significant addition to the development agreement extension came directly from community feedback seeking support for the West Berkeley neighborhood. Twenty percent of Bayer’s community benefits commitment will animate neighborhood initiatives in three areas: climate action, health equity and local economic resiliency. 

Faith in the Bay Founder and community engagement advocate Denisha DeLane was one of the early advocates of this approach. “Bayer’s involvement in community programs was part of my growing up in South and West Berkeley; investments like these are a start to ensuring the next generation has access to equitable solutions for those who need it most.”

  • Public arts, affordable housing and childcare

The remainder of Bayer’s community benefits funding will be split between City of Berkeley-administered programs advancing affordable housing, childcare and public arts programs. 

Bayer’s relationship with Berkeley goes well beyond the prescriptive elements of its current development agreement or the proposed extension.

“Bayer has proven to be a strong supporter of the Berkeley community,” said Sara Webber, co-founder and executive director of the Berkeley Food Network. “The Bayer Fund stepped in at a critical time with a substantial donation that helped us dramatically ramp up our assistance to those suffering from food insecurity during the Covid-19 pandemic. We look forward to continuing to work with the team at Bayer for decades to come.” 

To learn more about Bayer in Berkeley and their plans for the future visit bayer.com/berkeley.

​​This story is written and sponsored by Bayer Berkeley. Bayer is a global enterprise with core competencies in the life science fields of health care and nutrition. Its products and services are designed to benefit people by supporting efforts to overcome the major challenges presented by a growing and aging global population. Bayer is committed to the principles of sustainable development, and the Bayer brand stands for trust, reliability and quality throughout the world. Bayer is a life science company with a more than 150-year history and core competencies in the areas of health care and nutrition. With its innovative products, it is contributing to finding solutions to some of the major challenges of a growing and aging global population.