Chancellor Describes "Secret Sauce" Behind California's Leadership in Innovation

Chancellor Sue Desmond-Hellmann discusses California’s leadership in innovation, along with Milken Institute chairman Michael Milken, left, and state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, right.

At a recent conference on the future of California, UCSF Chancellor Sue Desmond-Hellmann, MD, MPH, discussed the key ingredients that have combined to make the state a world leader in technological innovation.

“I think the secret sauce behind Genentech, behind the Googles, the Yahoos, the Amgens of California is [the] combination of entrepreneurial spirit, great universities and the willingness to marry business and science,” she said during a panel titled “Innovation: Keeping California on the Cutting Edge.”

Desmond-Hellmann appeared alongside San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner and Verena Kloos, the president of BMW Group DesignworksUSA, as part of an Oct. 20 conference hosted by the Milken Institute, a publicly supported, independent think tank based in Los Angeles.

Desmond-Hellmann, a former Genentech executive, said she believed the biotechnology industry would not have been possible without the powerful combination of venture capital money and the groundbreaking scientific research taking place at California’s “great local universities,” including UCSF.

To maintain that momentum, she said, the state must work to ensure that immigration barriers, budget cuts and rising tuition fees don’t force out talented individuals. California attracts a bigger population of foreign students than any other state, and UCSF itself is home to a large and growing number of international students and postdoctoral fellows, Desmond-Hellmann noted.

Desmond-Hellmann pointed to the state’s stem-cell initiative as a clear example of how investing in science and education translates directly into groundbreaking innovations.

The $84 million UCSF has received in stem-cell research funding since 2006 has allowed the University to recruit top faculty members and invest in efforts such as clinical trials and a stem cell research building scheduled to open on the Parnassus campus in 2010, Desmond-Hellmann noted.

“That investment [by the state] drove talent, drove great research, and now is driving things toward potential benefits for patients,” she said.

A video of Desmond-Hellmann and the other panelists is posted on the Milken Institute website.

Photo by The Milken Institute

Related Links:

Chancellor to Focus on Four Priorities to Advance Mission, Vision
UCSF Today, Oct. 26, 2009

The Milken Institute 

UCSF Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regeneration Medicine and Stem Cell Research