Los Angeles is the world’s capital of creativity, and its status as a high-tech hub is on the rise. In recent years, a bioscience industry has come alive, energizing the region’s economy by generating thousands of high-paying jobs. Bioscience companies require buy-in from research institutions that give the future’s brightest minds the freedom to innovate at all levels within a given team environment. The rewards are obvious: an improved local economy and an advanced quality of life.
Last year, California was home to 3,249 biotech and life sciences companies, 209 more than in 2016, according to a study from PricewaterhouseCoopers. These companies are responsible for nearly 300,000 life sciences jobs in the state, with more than 58,000 in Los Angeles County. Employees earn an average annual salary of $113,000. Each biotech job creates four to five ancillary jobs at various levels.
The positive momentum will continue as the National Institutes of Health received a $2 billion bump in its budget last month, boosting it to $39 billion overall. California received $3.9 billion in NIH grants last year, according to Bloomberg, and is well-positioned to capitalize on the new funding. For Californians, opportunities abound: more purposeful jobs, more tax revenue from growing businesses and more ground-breaking discoveries leading to better lives.
The Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute, or LA BioMed, has received more than $230 million in funding from the NIH and other federal agencies over the past decade with 27 awards totaling more than $13.6 million coming in just this year. And with a bigger bucket of potential funding, more opportunities for local bioscience companies to develop to their full potential will arise.
LA BioMed has a 66-year track record of bringing bioscience innovations to market, having also spun off 13 companies over the last decade. Several of these are advancing innovative medical devices and therapies that are conducting phase II and phase III clinical trials, with FDA approval completed or anticipated. LA BioMed currently supports more than 100 principal investigators who are working on more than 600 research studies. Recently, it incubated companies like Emmaus Medical Inc., which this year started selling an oral treatment for sickle cell disease. And the innovation of LA Biomed is part of the health care legacy: Paramedic training and the nurse practitioner profession have their roots in LA BioMed.
The company also sponsored an Innovation Showcase in Manhattan Beach in September where 32 life sciences startups were selected by a panel of industry experts to present their technologies, demonstrating the breadth of the bioscience sector in Southern California. The showcase included companies such as Cactus Medical, which is developing a better diagnostic tool for ear infections; Veriskin Inc., which makes a handheld tool that screens for skin cancer; and BasePaws, the first company to develop a consumer DNA test for cats.
Organizations like LA BioMed are one piece of the puzzle. The region’s institutions of higher education, such as Loyola Marymount University (LMU), also play a critical role in building a thriving and sustainable bioscience economy.
LMU’s Seaver College of Science and Engineering educates ambitious students across disciplines, challenging them to embrace new ways of learning and thinking, creatively and comprehensively. Mathematicians, scientists and entrepreneurial students collaborate in the university’s Life Sciences Building, which puts sciences on display through open labs that encourage interdisciplinary, hands-on experiences. LMU has also retained nationally esteemed faculty (including a Nobel Prize winner) with expertise in biomechanics, bioengineering, biophysics and biomathematics to enhance its contributions to the sciences and propel its students to develop the world’s next transformative bioscience startup.
We are fortunate that our local government officials value a flourishing bioscience sector. Los Angeles County established a Bioscience Cluster Development Initiative last year, focusing on supporting startups and commercialization. Mark Ridley-Thomas, the longest-tenured member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, continues to be the driving force behind the initiative.
Investing in bioscience research and education is smart. The math is solid: Billions of dollars are at work, and thousands of skilled jobs are compelling. And better yet, it might even save your life.
David I. Meyer is the president and chief executive of LA BioMed. Timothy Law Snyder is the president of Loyola Marymount University.
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