November / December 2017

San Francisco Bay Area Chapter: Supporting A Prosperous Industry

Mike McGrath

With more than 600 biotech and pharmaceutical companies and 700 medical device and equipment companies, the pharmaceutical industry in the San Francisco Bay Area is flourishing. In 2016 alone, biotechnology and pharmaceutical investment in California, and the Bay Area in particular, resulted in 63 deals worth $2.2 billion.1

Like its home region, ISPE’s San Francisco/Bay Area Chapter is equally robust and growing—engaging its membership with a series of events that both educate and provide much-need networking and social interaction.

Founded in 1991, the Chapter covers the greater San Francisco Bay Area, a populous, area in northern California that includes major cities such as San Jose, San Francisco, and Oakland as well as Silicon Valley. With more than 810 members, the chapter reflects the region’s diverse business landscape, with representation from biotechnology, pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers, architects, engineers, construction firms, government agencies, universities, and equipment manufacturers and suppliers.

Quick Facts

Founded: 1991
Region: San Francisco/Bay Area, California, US
Membership: 810+


Patti Larson, XL Construction

Vice President
Ralf Elsaesser, Dome Construction Corp

Brian Vaughn, CRB

Trevor Auer, CRB

Past President
Dr. Karl Wilks, WCS, Inc.

Arnold Asuncion, Total Validation Services Inc.
Tareq Barakzoy, ACCO Engineered Systems
Jason Beck, Alexandria Real Estate Equities
Germaine Bickel, Genentech
Logan Kelley, BioMarin

Membership Chair
Shawn Mazzeo, University of California-San Francisco

Young Professionals Chair
Heather Bennett, ACCO Engineered Systems

Student Affairs Chair
Heather Bennett, ACCO Engineered Systems

Chapter Manager
Kimberly Syre, Attention To Detail


To support such a large and diverse membership, the chapter’s board maintains a high level of engagement through a series of educational, market-information, and social events, among others. “We try to cover everything our membership might be interested in,” says Chapter President Patti Larson.

The chapter was the first to offer CEO nights, which are fast becoming popular among other ISPE Chapters and Affiliates. The dinner meeting—the chapter’s first event of the year—features one or two senior executives from local firms who present an overview of their organizations and discuss challenges and opportunities.

The highly popular Vendor Night, held in March, is a major contributor to the chapter’s annual revenues. “Two years ago, we moved the event to AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants baseball team,” says Kimberly Syre, Chapter Manager. “By moving to AT&T Park, located in downtown San Francisco, we increased our participation from both attendees and vendors.”

The chapter’s other major annual event, and its largest networking activity, is Fun Day, where attendees can either play golf at one of two adjacent courses or tour some of the region’s famed wineries.

In addition to these large annual events, the chapter provides many opportunities for members to get together, among them the unique Commuter Conferences, which are members- only activities held about four times per year from midafternoon to early evening.

“We have been working hard on making content strong enough at our events, but things are complicated by extreme traffic,” explains Larson. “The idea with the Commuter Conferences is to get people to the meetings before traffic starts and let them out after it ends.” 

The event calendar in the region has been supplemented in the last two years by the ISPE Biopharmaceutical Manufacturing Conference, an annual event that launched in 2016.


Since 2006, the chapter has been involved in the Chocolate Factory Program, a community outreach initiative designed to spark an interest in science and engineering among fifth-grade students in the South San Francisco Unified School District. “Each month, a sponsor company brings in people to show the kids how to build a mock chocolate factory using craft supplies,” says Syre. “They explain how the whole system works—using raw materials to produce an end product—which is somewhat similar to the pharmaceutical industry.”

The chapter also has strong student chapters at local colleges, such as San Jose State University and the University of California, Berkeley, as well as an active Young Professionals (YP) Committee. “Students and YPs are a great resource for us as far as getting volunteers to help,” says Larson. “They support the chapter in a big way.”


Keeping the chapter running smoothly means relying heavily on the volunteer efforts of Board and Committee members. To ensure a tightly knit group, the chapter organizes a retreat for its Board as a team-building experience. “I think it really helps set the tone for the entire chapter as well as the events,” says Larson. “We have a really strong group of people who genuinely like and respect each other.”

The chapter also holds an annual volunteer appreciation day to say thank you to the many committee members. “We invite the committee members, the Advisory Council and the current Board of Directors,” says Syre. “Just like the retreat does, the day helps us keep strong committees and strong working groups.”