The Board of Supervisors is the governing body of the County of Los Angeles, a charter county with a population of 10 million people and a budget of $33 billion. The Board has the unique function of serving as the executive and legislative head of the largest and most complex county government in the entire United States.
Could you introduce us to L.A. County’s bioscience industry and underline the catalyst behind the increase in life sciences jobs over the past year?
L.A. County’s bioscience industry currently generates more than $40 billion dollars in economic activity and supports more than 70,000 direct jobs and 160,000 indirect jobs, but it still has tremendous potential for growth.
Even during the Great Recession, when so many industry sectors plummeted, L.A. County’s bioscience industry continued to expand, and by double digits: 12 percent. Last year, L.A. County overtook San Diego and moved into second place in California in terms of its number of life science jobs and amount of grant awards from the National Institutes of Health.
L.A. County is perfectly positioned to take the bioscience industry to the next level because it is the largest provider of public health services in California. As part of its Bioscience Initiative, L.A. County brings to the table not only financing but also real estate at its five medical campuses. It has invested in two bioscience incubators, the first at LA BioMed on the Harbor-UCLA Medical Campus, and the second at California State University Los Angeles. It is also working with LA BioMed to build a 15-acre biotech park on the Harbor-UCLA Medical Campus.
L.A. County has also allocated $15 million to create a Bipscience Investment Fund or early-stage startups; partnered with community colleges and industry leaders such as Grifols and Bachem to implement life sciences apprenticeship programs; and is exploring options to expedite the permitting process for local companies wanting to expand, as well as for new companies looking to relocate to L.A. County.
L.A. County and Amgen have announced a collaboration to support the life sciences innovation hub – BioLA. Could you elaborate on the key focus of this organization?
A key component of L.A. County’s bioscience initiative is BioLA, a nonprofit corporation intended to be an innovation catalyst and an entrepreneurial hub for government, research institutions and private investors to accelerate startup activity and amplify economic opportunity. Amgen is one of several entities that have stepped forward to help fund the initiative for the next three years.
Modeled after the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, which catapulted Boston into becoming of the world’s leading bioscience hubs, BioLA will help coordinate academic institutions, research hospitals, investors, startups, mature companies, trade associations and public and quasi-public agencies to advance the pace of innovation and startup activity, as well as to facilitate local job creation.
How is the investment climate in L.A. currently set up to better facilitate partnerships between investors and the biotech industry?
After a 2014 Battelle Memorial Institute study affirmed L.A. County’s potential to become a national bioscience leader, the L.A. County Economic Development Corporation released a Bioscience Industry Cluster Development Implementation Plan in 2016.
There is significant economic potential, scientific and research interest, and opportunity for market penetration in L.A. County. Up until now, however, partnerships have happened organically due to interest from both investor and industry. With BioLA, we can ensure that the core elements of startup activity – infrastructure, capital and talent – exist in abundance for all early stage life science companies.
What are your key objectives for the life sciences space in your final two years in office?
We are taking the concept of public-private partnership to new heights with the goal of making make L.A. County a world leader in bioscience. We want to contribute to advances in global health, drive economic development, and create jobs.
Contrary to public perception, bioscience is not strictly a “lab coat” industry but one that provides well-paying jobs at all skill levels. In growing the industry, L.A. County is making is a strategic investment to diversify the regional economy so that job losses can be kept at a minimum during economic downturns.