Science Staples: County project looks to put L.A. on map as bioscience hub.

Science Staples: County project looks to put L.A. on map as bioscience hub. Photo by Ringo Chiu.

A new agency that would serve as a development hub for startup drug, diagnostic, digital health and medical device companies is being billed as a “life sciences innovation catalyst for Los Angeles County.”

The not-for-profit Bioscience Los Angeles County – also referred to as BioLA – is expected to be announced this month by Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, with financial backing from the county and 11 bioscience firms or stakeholders.

The name of one of the founding sponsors for Bioscience Los Angeles County is expected to be announced by Ridley-Thomas at a Bioscience LA Summit on Sept. 20 hosted by the county at Loyola Marymount University.

“Los Angeles is home to cutting edge research from our world-renowned universities,” Ridley-Thomas said in a statement. “But historically, much of our commercial potential migrates to other more recognized life science hubs.”

Proponents say the new public-private agency will help put a national spotlight on the industry to attract investment.

The plan is to turn the tables on the trend and put L.A. on par with Boston, the Bay Area and San Diego in perception and practice.

Plans call for the county and founding sponsors to kick in $750,000 each over three years.

The $3 million a year in fees paid by the backers – who will make up the organization’s governing board – would go in part to developing a website for L.A. bioscience news and data, with information on financing, technology transfer, marketing and resources for startup companies.

The agency’s formation is led by Douglas Baron, the newly named director of biosciences for the county’s chief executive office, in conjunction with Avivar Capital of Hollywood, an investment advisory firm also assisting with the development of an independent bioscience equity fund.

Requests for proposals will soon go out for a manager for the Bioscience Investment Fund, which hopes to raise as $40 million to $60 million for seed investments in startups. An initial $15 million will come in the form of a loan from the county, with hopes of drawing the balance of funding from private investors.

Boosting bio

The development of BioLA tracks back to 2015, when county officials began to seek ways to stimulate job growth in the local life sciences industry, valued at about $40 billion, according to Biocom LA, one of three bioscience trade groups in Los Angeles. Life sciences were the only economic sector to add jobs during the recession, according to the county. Other efforts to boost the industry in recent years have included $6 million in county funding for bioscience incubators in El Sereno and Torrance, and a newly signed agreement to develop a 15-acre biotech park on the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center campus.

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