The roughly 1,000 employees who were laid off last year from Amgen Inc. produced a near feeding frenzy among recruiters and competing companies looking for talent.
Brent Reinke and Wayne Davey think they have a better idea.
The two are creating an incubator in Agoura Hills that aims to tap into the entrepreneurial spirit of the company's former workers by giving them a place where they can establish and grow biotech startups.
The specific goal: creating a commune for fledgling biotech firms that provides shared space for laboratories, offices and conference rooms. Plans call for an advisory council to steer new companies through the financial and legal hurdles faced by most startups.
"Having worked with a lot of scientists throughout my career, they're brilliant individuals," said Reinke, 47, a partner at the Westlake Village law firm of Musick Peeler & Garrett LLP. "But they don't always know what it takes to start and grow a company."
Reinke and Davey, 56, himself a former Amgen executive, found a two-story, 38,000-square-foot Agoura Road building where the owner is willing to front the money for renovations. The two are evaluating prospective tenants and hope to open the incubator in the spring.
If successful, Gold Coast Bio Center would be the largest biotech incubator in Los Angeles County, which is home to two others. The largest now is Momentum Biosciences in Culver City at just 10,000 square feet; it was founded two years ago by a group of UCLA and Caltech professors.
This isn't the first effort by Reinke to promote biotech startups amid the downturn at Amgen, which has seen sales of its leading anemia drugs slump after a series of studies raised concerns the drugs may promote tumor growth.
Last August, he co-founded the BioTech Forum in Westlake Village with another partner that brought together entrepreneurs, academics, venture capitalists and others with the intent of fostering a "biotech corridor" along the Ventura (101) Freeway near the county line between Los Angeles and Ventura counties.
Rivals also have taken notice of the opportunities. Several Bay Area venture capital and law firms have set up shop or have been visiting the region looking for promising startups they can fund or gain as clients.
Meanwhile, the incubator is in its own incubation period. The lease to the building has yet to be signed. And Reinke and Davey are still settling on a rent structure, though they said it would be competitive for a startup.
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