Chancellor's Recent Speeches

Remarks by Charles B. Reed
Chancellor, California State University
CSU Biotechnology Symposium
January 12, 2008
Oakland, CA

Thanks you Susan (Baxter) and Steve (Weber) for all your expertise and coordination to make this symposium possible.

Thank you all for gathering here, and thank you for the opportunity to speak to you this morning.

I am so proud to be here today. Everywhere you look on this agenda there is an opportunity learn something about one of the most exciting and promising fields of the future. I know that we are on the cutting edge of some truly groundbreaking developments.

I thought I’d start with a brief story: A few years ago I had a conversation with Larry Summers, who was then president of Harvard University. Many of you know him as someone who is not afraid to speak his mind. I disagree with him - women can be scientists… Harvard should be more like CSU…

I asked him what his priorities were, and with all of the money that Harvard has, how he would invest that in the future.

He said, “I know that the faculty would want to spread it evenly around the entire university, but I would want to invest all that we possibly can into two areas: biology and the life sciences, and China studies.”

He went on to say that in the last half-century, the biggest gains in the world have come from physics. All of the investments we made in the hard sciences paid off handsomely with today’s telecommunications, super conductivity, IT, cell phones, and computers. (And the national labs – Sandia, Los Alamos, Berkeley).

But he said that our future success would depend on our investment in these other two areas. For example, consider that more than 1.3 billion people live in China and the population continues to grow exponentially.

We’re going to have to learn as much as we can about China by studying Chinese language, culture, business, and so on. They are becoming the new super power. They have made the biggest investments in the U.S.

The other major investment we need to make is in life sciences and biotechnology. In the next 25 years we are on the cusp of being able to solve and cure many of the diseases and medical problems that challenge us today. Heart disease, Alzheimer’s, cancer – all that we know about now may be solved in the next 50 years…

I often think about his comments when people ask me what areas the CSU specializes in.

I love to tell people about our work in biotechnology because the CSU has an important role and a responsibility to prepare the future biotechnology workforce.

We have students, staff, and faculty members who are making important scientific inroads through their work. I know we have the attention of many leaders in the industry.

I’d like to talk for just a few minutes this morning about the scope of our work, and about where I see us headed.

Role of the CSU

The California State University has a dual mission of education and research.

Currently the CSU has more than 58,500 undergraduates and more than 8,600 graduate students enrolled in the STEM fields, including engineering, life sciences, information sciences, physical sciences, and mathematics.

In 2006/07, we granted 8,400 undergraduate and 2,600 graduate degrees in these fields.

The CSU prepares about 40 percent of California’s graduates in life sciences, computer and electronic engineering, and information technology.

Our faculty play an important role in teaching, pursuing research, and mentoring students in the STEM pathways. These fields of study can lead to the doctorate or straight into the workforce.

Our commitment to a quality science education also includes innovative, industry-responsive curricula, like the Professional Science Masters’ programs discussed here yesterday.

Additionally, we have impressive collaborations like C-LAB, which involves the eight CSU campuses in the L.A. basin. Through C-LAB, we’re working to meet state and regional needs in workforce development and training through partnerships with the Pasadena Bioscience Collaborative and the Southern California Biomedical Council.

And we have outstanding campus resources, programs, and specialties to bring into these collaborations.

For example, Cal State L.A.’s 600-megahertz Nuclear Magnetic Resonance spectrometer is an incredible resource. It is used across several departments and we are looking for opportunities to demonstrate it to local high school and middle school students as well.

Here in the Bay Area, we on the leading edge of biotechnology programs. For example, San Francisco State’s teacher education program in biotechnology was the first and largest program of its kind that set the standard for many subsequent programs.

We’re also proud that San Francisco State was recently awarded a prestigious grant from the National Institutes of Health to promote pathways to biomedical research careers for girls and women of color.

Preparing the Workforce

I know that much of the attention in biotechnology goes to students who plan to pursue a doctorate. But those students who don’t earn a doctorate have important jobs ahead as well.

The CSU gives students the education knowledge base and the hands-on experience to take the lead in important laboratory jobs. Many of those labs wouldn’t be able to open every day if there weren’t specialized workers in every capacity.

In fact, the Department of Labor predicts that by 2012, more than 83 percent of biotech workers will have an education at or below the master’s level – reflecting the increased commercialization of biotech products.

The emerging stem cell workforce is a good example of this kind of growth. The stem cell industry will have a variety of needs as cures, therapies, diagnostics, and research technologies are developed and commercialized.

Our graduates will need skills to support mission-directed research in a nonprofit setting or within the emerging stem cell industry.

To translate discoveries into patient care we need scientists and technicians trained in life science product development.

We also need to prepare the managers and technical staff who can translate discoveries into stem cell based therapies and technologies.

Many of you know that the CSU and the community colleges are talking with the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine about a $30 million plan to expand the stem cell sector’s workforce. The program would be administered by CSUPERB.

Our comprehensive proposal would prepare over 4,400 students and faculty with hands-on stem cell related training.

This effort is just one of many that shows how the CSU can provide the bridge between basic research and clinical and commercial development and technical careers.

We anticipate working with CIRM leadership, and with our colleagues in the community college system, on further development of this proposal.

Looking Ahead

Looking ahead, we know that we have an ambitious agenda but we are proud to have the support of our state and federal legislators. In the federal budget we are asking for continued earmarks for CSUPERB.

We are extremely pleased with the support and recognition we have received thus far.

In particular, we look forward to honoring Senator Ellen Corbett as our Legislator of the Year next in the program. We thank her and our many other supporters for recognizing the CSU’s important role in biotechnology research and workforce preparation.

I want to conclude by letting you know how proud I am of all of you and your work.

The research and the insights that you develop today will become the medicines, therapies and cures of tomorrow.

Your work will directly and indirectly improve the quality of lives of people around the world. I hope that you take as much pride in your work as I do in all of you. I’d say, “Move over Harvard”!

On behalf of the California State University, thank you for all that you do. I look forward to hearing more about all of your accomplishments in the months and years ahead.