Ridley-Thomas Calls For Jumpstarting LA County’s Bioscience Industry

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas made the case Thursday for creating thriving bioscience hubs within Los Angeles County’s five medical research facilities, and he urged private investors and scientific researchers to join in the effort.

Speaking at the Biotech Summit at USC’s Health Sciences Campus, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas noted the bioscience industry accounts for a mere 1 percent of private sector employment in Los Angeles County. This, even though local universities produce more than 5,000 graduates in fields related to bioscience every year.

The problem is that most of those graduates leave Los Angeles to work in bioscience hubs in San Diego, San Francisco, and elsewhere.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said the county should create its own bioscience hubs at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, LAC+USC Medical Center, Olive View-UCLA Medical Center, Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center, and the Martin Luther King Jr. Medical Campus.

“This concept of a biomedical park will be catalytic in terms of the number of positive things that would come from it,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “It means jobs, the advancement of science and technology, better health outcomes, and economic development and community development.”

“It’s a game changer that’s truly transformative,” he added. “It’s about the highest level of public private partnership, and I think it’s very important that the state, the county, the city and the private sector do all it can to join forces.”

Acting on a motion by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas in 2011, the county Board of Supervisors hired researchers from the Battelle Memorial Institute to help craft a master plan for growing the bioscience industry, which includes everything from medical device manufacturing to biopharmaceutical development.

The study concluded the county’s bioscience industry is primed for take off, because it has top research universities and clinical hospitals, as well as a manufacturing base, massive ports and venture capitalists. It recommended harnessing the potential of the county’s medical research facilities to create incubators for start-up firms, and to make room for well-established companies to expand in Los Angeles.

 A Biosciences Task Force, created at the urging of Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, is expected to submit its own blueprint for the fledgling industry near the end of summer.

Ahead of the summit, USC President C.L. Max Nikias said, “Los Angeles requires an ecosystem that fosters business, venture capital investment and access to academic medial centers for research and clinical trials. USC hopes to spark this change by building a Biotechnology Park adjacent to our Health Sciences Campus in Boyle Heights.”

“All of the ingredients for Los Angeles to capture growth in this booming field are already here,” Nikias said. “With the right alignment between government, academia and industry, we can harness the region’s exiting strengths – including our science graduates, to create lasting growth.”

The bioscience industry may represent just 1 percent of private sector employment in the county, but it still outpaced all other sectors in job growth, even during the Great Recession.

David Meyer, president and CEO of LA BioMed, or the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, believes that percentage could multiply fivefold – maybe even tenfold — with enough private investment and political will.

He said efforts underway to jumpstart the bioscience industry are “one of the best things to come along in support of discovery and innovation that I’ve seen in LA County.”