Los Angeles: The next major biotech hub?
The news broke in September that Amgen would become a founding sponsor of BioLA, a newly formed organisation working to foster growth in the life science industry within Los Angeles County.
David Piacquad, Amgen’s senior vice president of Business Development, said, “We are now part of a vibrant life sciences community in and around Los Angeles County that has all of the ingredients for sustained success, including world-class research institutions, experienced managerial talent, ambitious startups, incubator space and venture funding.”
Attracting big biotech backing will be the best way for LA to build its reputation as a hub for the industry; Massachusetts, for example, has benefited from large companies moving into the Boston area.
As a result, more capital has begun flowing through the state to the point where a recent report revealed that half of all investment into biotech industry occurs in Massachusetts.
The presence of large pharma companies, such as Sanofi and Gilead, also brings a substantial employment benefit to the area, with the larger companies employing thousands of staff members. In addition, many companies build manufacturing facilities closer to their bases in the state, creating further employment positions.
The advantages of housing a hub are quite clear but not every state has such fertile academic ground to draw upon. Biopharma-Reporter spoke to LA County supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas to find out how the state will support the growth of the industry in the county and how LA County has the intellectual capital to call upon to drive the initiative forward.
Ridley-Thomas affirmed that the County is confident that it has enough academic firepower to rival other biotech hubs: “Southern California’s life scientists are world class and already compete with San Francisco, Boston, and international hubs in discovery. LA County also houses 10 million residents and a $10bn [€8.61bn] public health system budget to leverage and prototype new treatments, diagnostics, devices and digital health solutions.”
He continued, “LA County thrives on entrepreneurship, innovation, creativity and tech-savvy, and is a multicultural gateway to Pacific Rim and Latin American trading partners.”
Despite having the funding and the brains to back the project, the County crucially needs emerging biotechs and startups to seed the space, and Ridley-Thomas confirmed that there is a “diverse pipeline” of research underpinning the creation of the BioLA hub.
He explained, “The BioLA hub is being formalised to further encourage the region’s top scientists to partner with entrepreneurs and commercialise, as well as to ensure that the core elements of startup activity – infrastructure, capital and talent – exist in abundance for all early-stage life science companies.
”Regarding the role Amgen will play in the helping the hub develop, Ridley-Thomas stated: “Amgen has a number of technical employees and an alumni base that is unmatched in Southern California. By bringing that technical and business acumen to bear on the Los Angeles ecosystem, BioLA is confident that it can focus efforts on the key enablers of innovation."
He also added that BioLA will be able to utilise the biotech’s “international reputation and rolodex” with the addition of David Piacquad to the organisation’s board of directors.
In addition, the organisation will call upon the biotech’s “expertise in science, investment, regulation, and business development” to strengthen the County’s move to become the next hotbed of biotech innovation.