Los Angeles is home to a number of world-class biotech research centers. Here are some of the biggest and best.Amgen Inc.
1 Amgen Center Drive, Thousand Oaks
Amgen, with $3.2 billion in annual sales, is the biggest of the country's biotech companies. It makes and markets therapeutic products for hematology, oncology, bone and inflammatory disorders, and neuroendocrine and neurodegenerative diseases. The anti-anemia drug Epogen and the immune system stimulator Neupogen account for about 95 percent of sales. The company, which employs 6,000 people in Thousand Oaks, has several new drugs in its pipeline, possibly blockbusters. Its research team has focused its studies on genomics, cancer, neuroscience and small-molecule chemistry.MiniMed Inc.
18000 Devonshire St., Northridge
MiniMed, with $212 million in sales last year, makes external insulin pumps and related products for the treatment of diabetes. Its pump delivers hundreds of tiny insulin infusions, replacing the need for insulin injections. About 100 scientists and engineers are developing an external and an implantable artificial pancreas. In addition, another 50 scientists are applying MiniMed's drug-delivery technology and trying to apply it to treat other chronic diseases such as pulmonary hypertension, HIV and AIDS.USC Health Sciences Campus
1975 Zonal Ave. , East Los Angeles
A number of major biotech/biomed projects are under way at USC. Twelve researchers are investigating stem cell biology. They are isolating the stem cell genes in the blood and identifying the factors that control stem cell multiplication. Understanding this process could lead to advancements in the treatment of every disease influenced by these cells, from leukemias to immune deficiencies.
Another team of 20 researchers is looking at how to use stem cell therapy to rebuild or rescue damaged and injured hearts.
Another major project is linking the data from the Human Genome Project to specific human diseases.UCLA Center for the Health Sciences
UCLA Campus, Westwood
UCLA has one of the largest biomedical research facilities in the country, receiving $400 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health for various projects. Some of those include the UCLA Human Gene Medicine Program that since 1993 has enrolled almost 200 patients to develop a gene therapy for cancer and HIV. The gene therapy program includes treatment for melanoma, liver cancer, ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, kidney cancer and lung cancer.
The Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center has scores of researchers conducting clinical trials using immune-based therapies and intracellular therapies to fight cancer. Other scientists are using information from the Human Genome Project to obtain the genetic fingerprint of brain tumors to determine what therapies the tumors will respond to.Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
8700 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles
Among the projects under way at Cedars-Sinai is development of a bioartificial liver capable of extending the lives of patients suffering from liver failure or helping them survive while awaiting a liver donor. The project is headed by Dr. Achilles A. Demetriou, chairman of Cedars-Sinai's Department of Surgery. Demetriou began to study the biologic mechanisms and functions of liver cells in the 1970s, while working at the National Institutes of Health. The bioartificial liver completed Phase 1 clinical trials at Cedars-Sinai and is now in Phase 2 and Phase 3 studies at the hospital and at various other centers around the country. Demetriou is the lead investigator.
The bioartificial liver is made up of billions of pig liver cells and of man-made materials consisting of a cartridge that contains a synthetic membrane and a machine that controls the flow of blood plasma through the cartridge.Caltech
1200 E. California Blvd., Pasadena
Caltech scientists have been instrumental in helping to map the sequencing of the human genome, which consists of the 100,000 genes in human DNA.
Caltech scientists are actively engaged in the future of genomics to discover and understand the function of genes in normal biology and in disease. This includes devising new ways to extract and manipulate information from the human genome sequence and from recently completed genome sequences of organisms in the lab, such as fruit flies, mustard weed and yeast.
Another major genomics project at Caltech is aimed at understanding how groups of genes work to direct development from a fertilized egg into an adult organism and how these groups of genes change their action or fail in aging, cancer or degenerative disease.City of Hope Medical Center
1500 Duarte Road, Duarte
City of Hope's name is synonymous with cancer research. The 200-bed hospital just opened a $12 million Center for Biomedicine and Genetics, the largest academic research-based facility of its kind in the country. The center allows new patient therapies to be developed on site at City of Hope, cutting costs and time.
Most of City of Hope's researchers are working on understanding the genetic basis and cause of cancer and how to treat cancer. Researchers here are focused on doing research on hematological cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma, in addition to other cancer research.
City of Hope scientists and physicians are trying to better understand the genetic basis of cancer, how people inherit the disease, how environment shapes their susceptibility to cancer and how better to prevent it and treat it. Currently, researchers at the center are involved in such innovative therapies as genetically engineered viruses that deliver treatments directly to diseased cells, antibodies developed from patients' own tumor cells and genetically modified immune system T-cells.Alfred E. Mann Institute for Biomedical Engineering
USC Campus, Exposition Park
The institute, funded in 1997 by a $112 million grant from physicist and biomedical entrepreneur Alfred E. Mann, is designed to build new medical devices and test them. The research staff is working on several projects. The most notable is a research project on BIONs bionic neurons that are small enough to be injected into paralyzed muscles where they receive power and send and receive data by radio links with an external controller. BIONs are being used in clinical trials right now to exercise paralyzed muscles. The clinical trials are being performed on stroke victims and patients with osteoarthritis. The institute is also researching the viability of using ultrasound imaging as a replacement for X-ray mammography.
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