Michelson Hall, USC.

Michelson Hall, USC.

USC is betting big on biotech, dedicating the university’s largest campus building to research biosciences.

The 190,000-square-foot Michelson Hall, home to a new Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience, was heralded last week as a milestone for Southern California biotech.

The $186 million center aims to serve as a nucleus for collaborative research, uniting dozens of world-class scientists, engineers and medical researchers under one roof at the University Park Campus for an exponential boost in bio-research power, university officials said.

“Together, Michelson Center researchers will establish a model for innovation in precision medicine that quickly translates from the bench to the bedside in the form of new drug therapies, cures, high-tech diagnostics and biomedical devices,” the university said in a statement.

The new research facility, made possible by a $50 million gift from inventor and orthopedic surgeon Dr. Gary K. Michelson and his wife, Alya Michelson, will now serve as the cornerstone for biotech at USC – and an anchor for a larger initiative for a Southland tech and biotech corridor.

Gary Michelson was No. 39 this year on the Business Journal’s list of wealthiest Angelenos with a net worth of $1.85 billion.

The initiative by the Alliance for Southern California Innovation, co-founded this summer by tech entrepreneur Steve Poizner, includes nearly two dozen research companies, universities and venture capitalists who want to make Los Angeles the next tech/biotech hub.

“If you are going to form a global tech hub in the region, you have to pull together,” said Poizner, a former California insurance commissioner and founder of Silicon Valley GPS start-up SnapTrack, in a USC news blog.

Campus administrators have said they hope to stanch the flow of thousands of university graduates hired away by high-tech and biotechnology companies outside of Los Angeles.

Michelson Hall, featuring gothic arched windows, includes a cleanroom lab for dust-free nanotech testing designed to withstand vibrations from a nearby Metro light rail line. The largest building on campus also boasts custom 20-foot-tall electron microscopes, core labs for biological and chemical research and the fastest fiber connectivity on campus, at 100 gigabytes.

Those conducting research inside include biotech maverick Ray Stevens, whose early work led to the development of Tamiflu, a blockbuster anti-viral drug, and cancer moonshot scientist Peter Kuhn, a renowned leader in molecular research.

Cedars in Silicon Beach

While the new USC biotech center aims to help turn SoCal into the next tech hub, Cedars-Sinai is opening new medical offices to serve a growing Silicon Beach.


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