Their pitches to investors promised breakthroughs in bioscience – and potential windfalls from new drugs, immunotherapies and digital monitoring of medical patients.

The dozens of emerging biotech firms showcasing their scientific advances at the 19th annual Southern California Biomedical Council Conference late last month were taking a shot at entering what was being billed as an exploding biotech market.

“We’re entering into a golden era here in the century of biology,” said Joseph Boystak, an L.A.-based co-founder of Health 2047, an investment arm for the American Medical Association and keynote speaker for the Sept. 29 confab. “The next great company is about to emerge – another Amgen in the making, another Genentech in the making. We just need to have enough vision and support to capitalize upon these opportunities.”

The conference at the Long Beach Hilton drew more than 300 biotech company representatives, scientists, patent attorneys, real estate and insurance agents, industry advocates, in addition to rooms full of venture capitalists and investors.

Across the nation, year-over-year seed investment in early stage biotech firms was up 41 percent last month, to $5.6 million, according to Pitchbook, while Series D dollars jumped 119 percent to $138 million.

The challenge for SoCal biotech firms, conference panelists said, was to tap into the biotech venture capital now streaming into the Bay Area and Boston.

The Bay Area drew 565 health care-related financing deals in the past year, up 24 percent from the year before, Boystak said. New England drew 412 deals, up 17 percent. Southern California – including Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties – managed to close on 290 financing rounds, an increase of 12 percent.

SoCal deals skewed toward biotech and away from health information technology compared to national trends, Boystack added. U.S. health IT deals were about 9 percent of the market, while they amounted to just 5 percent in the Southland.

“With the abundance of companies and technologies that exist here, we should be growing our share of the capital in the marketplace,” Boystak said. “The Bay Area remains the predominant source of activity, followed by New England, which is anchored by the businesses up in Boston and Cambridge. We’re standing as No. 3 here, with greater upside. And I don’t think we’re that far away from capturing the No. 2 spot.”

A panel discussion on strengthening the life sciences ecosystem in the L.A. area featured Elliot Friedman, chairman of QiJian Funds Ltd. of Los Angeles; Jeffrey Quan, president of ImaginAB of Inglewood; Steve Goldman, president of World Wide Mind of Venice; and Alexander Suh, managing director of California Technology Ventures of Pasadena.

A lunchtime panel featured a “fireside chat” with business development leaders from Amgen Inc.

Doc Decorated

A leading pituitary medicine scholar at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center has drawn international plaudits for his contribution to endocrinology, a branch of medicine that focuses on endocrine glands and hormones.

Dr. Shlomo Melmed, dean of the Cedars-Sinai medical faculty, won a 2018 Outstanding Scholarly Physician Award from the Endocrine Society for his clinical and investigative work.

The society, the world’s largest professional group of endocrinologists, praised the physician for “integrating clinical practice with cutting-edge pituitary discovery.”

Melmed, a professor of medicine and executive vice president of academic affairs, helped spotlight the pituitary gland and how it helps regulate the body’s hormonal system while controlling growth and metabolism.

The award-winning physician throughout his career trained more than 70 doctors, scientist and graduate students who now occupy leading positions around the world in academic endocrinology, according to Cedars-Sinai. Melmed will receive the award in March at the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting in Chicago.

Crisis Control

A team of doctors in residence at UCLA hopes to prevent a national shortage of physicians by spearheading a pilot program to teach biomedical sciences at three L.A. high schools. The program, launched last week by the California Society of Anesthesiologists and Project Lead the Way, intends to inspire future physicians and health care providers before a projected physician shortfall becomes an actual one.

The new biomedical sciences curriculum, taught by doctors and trained teachers at Venice and El Segundo high schools and the Girls Academic Leadership Academy at Los Angeles High School, will teach hands-on biomedical skills.

The anesthesiologists’ society aims to expand the program to schools throughout California in partnership with anesthesiology resident programs at USC, UC Davis, Stanford University and others.

In the next decade, the Association of American Medical Colleges projects a nationwide shortage of between 61,700 and 94,700 doctors, with a major shortage among some surgical specialties.

Staff reporter Dana Bartholomew can be reached at dbartholomew@labusinessjournal.com or 323-556-8333.

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