For nearly 15 years, the dream of a major biomedical park near Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center on L.A.’s Eastside has eluded USC and industry leaders, shoved aside by competing county and university priorities.
But thanks to a change at the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, USC and other backers are pushing the biomedical park with renewed hope that it will finally become reality. Former Supervisor Gloria Molina, seen by some as an obstacle to the park’s development, is out and new Supervisor Hilda Solis is in.
Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas confirmed last week that “discussions are now under way between the county and USC regarding the design of a biomedical campus,” with more details to emerge early in the new year.
The view from USC is just as hopeful.
“For the first time in years, I’m optimistic that with the momentum we’ve finally begun to build, this is going to happen,” said Tom Sayles, senior vice president for university relations at USC, which owns much of the land and is expected to take the lead in planning the biomed park.
At stake is the prospect of bringing in dozens of companies and hundreds – perhaps thousands – of high-paying jobs to a long-blighted Eastside neighborhood and of putting Los Angeles on the map as a major biomed and biotech center to rival San Diego or the Bay Area.
“Without this cluster, we’re seeing biomedical companies and projects move outside the region,” said Ahmed Enany, chief executive of industry booster group Southern California Biomedical Council. “We hope things are finally changing and this park can get back on track.”
Getting in sync?
The USC biomedical park would be located on roughly 50 acres straddling Valley Boulevard on the northern edge of the USC Health Sciences Campus in Boyle Heights. The land is within walking distance of three major hospitals: County-USC Medical Center, the USC Norris Cancer Center and USC University Hospital.
Such a park might be attractive to companies that want to get access to the physicians, researchers and staff of those hospitals as well as the lab space at those facilities. Clinical trials, also, would be much easier for companies next to the hospitals.
Until now, USC’s Sayles said, the county – which holds two of the larger parcels on the site of the proposed biomed park – has been out of sync with the university on the park plan.
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