California Biotechs: Top EHS and BSC Maintenance Programs a Strategic Competitive Advantage

As a national life sciences industry leader, California is perhaps the defining force for pharmaceutical and biotech development worldwide. But for organizations to leverage this momentum, they must pay attention to essential environmental, health, and safety (EHS) basics—including proper biological safety cabinet (BSC) maintenance.

The state’s academic investigators, as well as its business executives and managers, are driving major innovations of all sorts. Along with that, they are developing much-needed new therapies and creating major profitable enterprises. California’s first-class research institutions, its top-notch, highly educated, and technically skilled workforce, and its matchless access to capital all nurture creativity and productivity on a vast scale.

Golden State: Life Sciences Juggernaut

Despite some headwinds, the state’s pharma-life sciences industry remains top notch. Each year, the Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (GEN) analyzes the United States' various biopharma clusters for its top 10 ranking. It factors in lab space, number of patents, and funding. For 2023, GEN rated:

  • San Francisco Bay as the number-one cluster, taking the top slot from Boston-Cambridge (which it had occupied since 2015). The bay area received a whopping $16 billion in National Institutes of Health (NIH) and venture capital funding, and its total lab area comprised 47 million square feet. It also held 27,472 biotech-related patents and employed 158,449 workers.
  • Los Angeles-Orange County as number five, with nearly $7 billion in combined funding and 5,676 patents.
  • San Diego at number six, with nearly $5.3 billion in funding and 12,705 patents.

Despite the ever-constant churn, for now, California's life sciences organizations collectively are a top player in the market. But even with all this momentum—and boosted by these assets and powered by the greatest innovation ambitions—it’s actually easy for any individual company or lab to fail. That’s because R&D and production success requires outstanding EHS programs—including BSC management systems.

Responsibility for Life Sciences Essentials

California’s life sciences organizations—from standalone labs in incubators to universities to major pharma enterprises—must never skimp on operational EHS fundamentals. It’s up to everyone in the industry—managers, administrators, and technicians—to all do their part. In the long term, amid innovation, production, and product lifecycles, they must always keep their focus on such areas as:

  • Safety
  • Training
  • Compliance
  • Performance

This also means applying the necessary time, effort, and cash to the diligent maintenance of facilities and appliances.

BSC Contamination a Serious Risk

Across the board, R&D and enterprise-level production activities are ongoing in the state. BSCs are essential to these operations: the more productive a facility, network, or campus is, the more BSC cycles. Their performance has both direct and indirect impacts on organizational performance. These affect productivity, R&D breakthroughs, go-to-market deadlines, and, ultimately, even the bottom line.

Over time, all organizations will face appliance contamination, which is a serious challenge to R&D integrity and production performance. So, managers in top life sciences communities (such as California) must give that much more attention to creating or enhancing their maintenance programs. These systems must comprise testing, certification, decontamination, and similar activities. 

Scaling BSC Maintenance Ops

In the rush for approvals, securing funding, going to market, and so on, it’s easy for busy innovators to skimp on something like EHS operations and their appliance and machine maintenance. And larger organizations with multiple facilities, given their scale, especially face major challenges. It just requires all that much more time and effort when trying to keep their units running at peak form.

But unfortunately, from experience, I know that BSC maintenance is all too often overlooked—until it’s too late. I have seen repeatedly how even the best scientists and researchers can harm themselves by overlooking basic lab or production maintenance.

Among the potential downsides of contaminated, malfunctioning, or damaged appliances are:

  • Compromised R&D results
  • Shutdown of operations, resulting in loss of time and money
  • Missed submission deadlines
  • Loss of reputation and damaged work morale
  • Forfeiture of competitive edge in the rush to market
  • Harm to healthcare patients and clients (those depending on test results and other outcomes)

It’s clear every little thing counts on the road to operational or market success. Any missed opportunity can mean life or death delays to R&D organizations. And that compromises organizational competitiveness—even in a powerhouse like California.

BSC Workforce Challenge

Additionally, EHS worker recruitment, training, and retention is a major life sciences and pharma challenge in California. Certainly, its population and wealth of educational institutions offers an immense talent pool. However, as always in high technology and data-driven industries, good help is always expensive, as well as hard to find and retain.

This applies especially to life sciences, as there is fierce competition to secure, train, and on-board the best staff members. This takes time—and any churn in the workforce also means potential bottlenecks in R&D and production. This is an ongoing problem, and for the past two years, we haven’t seen it improve.

California BSC Maintenance Partnerships

One way of reducing risk without sacrificing BSC performance is to turn to a partner to manage part (or all) of the necessary maintenance tasks, including decontamination, certification, testing, and more. Any large organization will need a partner with the heft and skill to keep operations running optimally.

Naturally, when vetting a California BSC maintenance vendor, you should perform due diligence. A vendor candidate must be as good and competitive as the market it services. Naturally, the Golden State’s life sciences industry sets a high bar for operational excellence.

After performing due diligence and assessing your BSC needs, you should then review the prospective partners very closely—as they can make or break operations. A top BSC maintenance candidate should demonstrate it has:

  • A grasp of your specific market: The candidate should be able to meet your particular needs. For instance, there are major differences between a large nonprofit, an academic facility or network, and a major pharma enterprise. A vendor should be capable of distinguishing the different operational cycles and priorities of each individual client and of tailoring the services accordingly.
  • The scale and flexibility to support all your operations: From small spinoffs to major labs or production facilities, scaling ability is a must. It requires a support team comprising expert members equipped with the best maintenance gear and solutions. They also must have the ability to oversee major projects and routine maintenance alike.
  • A full BSC services portfolio: The vendor should be able to display competence in everything from decontamination and troubleshooting to repair and replacement. As needed, the vendor should have special qualifications—such as clean room suite certification, as well as extensive capabilities for troubleshooting, repair, and so on.
  • A commitment to quality (this applies across the board in all tasks): For instance, the vendor should use only the best decontamination processes, equipment, and chemicals. In this case,  they should solely deploy true gas as disinfectant, and they must strictly adhere to guidelines from the NSF/American National Standards Institute (NSF/ANSI) 49 standard.

    BSC Partner for California and Beyond

    This is where Triumvirate Environmental comes in. We maintain operations throughout California and offer 30-plus years of experience in EHS processes for a wide variety of life sciences, healthcare, and industrial clients. We can support all operations—from the smallest R&D facilities all the way up to the largest enterprise labs and production sites. Talk to us today.

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