The largest bioscience companies in Los Angeles combined for a nearly 10 percent hike in local employment over the past year, a 12-month stretch marked by major drug approvals and a record $12 billion biotech
business acquisition, according to a Business Journal analysis.
The jump in jobs among the top 50 biopharmaceutical firms, medical device makers and diagnostic service providers with a presence in the L.A. region was accompanied by a 5.3 percent boost in combined revenue to $527 billion.
“We’re seeing so much momentum from all different sides in Los Angeles,” said Dina Lozofsky, executive director of Biocom L.A., an advocacy group for the bioscience business sector. “It’s so great to see the proof in the pudding – the actual numbers going up. The bioscience industry continues to grow.”
The list is based on local employment, and 19 of the 50 companies reported job growth, while 25 were flat or declined to provide information, and six saw job cuts over the past 12 months.
The average employment growth rate for all of the combined firms this year was 9.8 percent from more than 23,900 biosciences workers among the largest firms last year to nearly 26,300 last week.
The growth compared with a 1 percent loss in companywide jobs for the bioscience firms on the list, many of which have plants and offices across the nation and around the world.
The $527.3 billion in total revenue for the group was up from $500.1 billion. Amgen Inc., whose global headquarters is in Thousand Oaks, reported 3.8 percent drop in jobs there to 5,400 local employees, or 216 fewer than last year.
The biopharmaceutical giant, whose total revenue decreased 1 percent to $22.8 billion in 2017, announced last fall it would lay off 200 employees in its research and development division. An Amgen year-end report said its R&D expenses fell 7 percent largely because of lower spending required to support later-stage clinical programs.
“Amgen is well positioned for future growth with the strong volume-driven growth of our recently launched products and robust pipeline,” said Kristen Davis, a spokeswoman for the firm, in a statement. “We are looking forward to the pending approval of our new migraine therapy and advancing new medicines for serious diseases in our pipeline.”
The No. 2 bioscience company was Quest Diagnostics Inc., a $7.8 billion New
Jersey-based medical diagnostic testing company with clinical laboratories in West Hills and Valencia.
Quest Diagnostics reported 2,500 employees in Los Angeles County, a 7 percent increase over last year.
The jobs were split between its West Hills lab, which conducts routine blood tests, and its Nichols Institute in Valencia, which conducts esoteric gene-based tests, in addition to patient testing offices throughout the region.
“We’re growing across the board,” said Robert F. Moverly, vice president and general manager for its West Region. “We’re really happy with it. It is persistence – we’ve been in the business for some time. We’re anticipating 4 percent to 5 percent growth for 2018.”
A recent report by Biocom said the life sciences industry generates $40.3 billion a year in economic activity in Los Angeles County while employing 70,000 workers.
Among its five sectors – bio-renewables, biopharmaceutical manufacturing, medical devices and diagnostic equipment, life sciences wholesale and research and lab services – the average wage in 2016 was nearly $73,000.
Industry advocates point to major milestones last year that helped put Los Angeles on the
map as an emerging biotechnology hub behind those in San Francisco Bay Area, Boston and San Diego.
Emmaus Life Sciences Inc. of Torrance won federal approval last July for the first new sickle cell disease treatment released in 20 years for adults and the first-ever treatment for children. Company officials said the U.S. market for its Endari drug could generate up to $2 billion a year.
Puma Biotechnology Inc. of West Los Angeles won approval the same month to sell its tent-pole drug, Nerlynx, which treats a specific type of breast cancer. Company officials said annual sales from the drug could reach $1.3 billion.
Kite Pharma Inc. of Santa Monica, which develops gene-based therapies that engineer the body’s immune cells to attack cancer cells, was acquired by Gilead Sciences Inc. of Foster City for nearly $12 billion in August (see related coverage in Page 3 column, Special Report on Business Hall of Fame, starting on page 18).
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Kite’s Yescarta CART-T cancer therapy to treat adult patients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma two weeks after the sale.
The new treatment costs $373,000 per patient and was also expected to generate billions in sales.
The newly named Kite, a Gilead Co., ranks No. 9 on the Business Journal list after increasing its workforce 84 percent to 800 workers. Gilead officials have said they would be adding 200 more.
Medtronic Diabetes ranked No. 3, thanks to a 52 percent hike in jobs at its Northridge plant, which produces insulin pumps and now employs 2,355 workers.
It was followed by Grifols in El Sereno, whose plant produces plasma-derived therapies and grew in terms of staff by 23 percent to 1,600 employees.
Boston Scientific Corp., a global medical company based near Boston, ranked No. 8 and held steady with 1,200 employees at its Valencia plant. The facility produces two new brain implants that won federal approval last year.
“It does serve as our primary location for our neuro-modulation business, which develops products for people with chronic pain and movement disorders,” said Kate Haranis, spokeswoman for the company. “We’re very excited about both.”
Los Angeles will continue to generate new biotech companies with help from leading research institutions such as UCLA, USC, Cedars-Sinai and City of Hope, which have all beefed up their technology transfer offices for increased royalties from medical advances, industry advocates say.
Ahmed Enany, chief executive of the Southern California Biomedical Council, said many smaller L.A. area firms are now finishing phase 3 drug trials, with new drugs and medical devices poised for market approval.
“Job increases are expected, with new firms being formed,” Enany said. “You’re going to see an uptick in employment in biosciences.”
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