NBC’s NewsConference: Looking to 2020 with Bioscience Jobs

LOS ANGELES (NBC) — Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas talks with NBC4’s Conan Nolan about how the booming bioscience industry in Southern California has the potential to save lives and create jobs. The growing bioscience industry directly employs 90,000 people and generates $42.5 billion in economic activity.

To view the full segment, click here.

New Lab Space Pulls Company to LA From Silicon Valley

By Parker Collins | Torrance

TORRANCE, Calif. – The bioscience industry is growing fast and Los Angeles County wants to create a hub to rival Silicon Valley.

In high school she started to fall in love with science. Now she is the president and CEO of her own biopharmaceutical company, Hinge Therapeutics.

Hinge Therapeutics CEO Akiko Futamura and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas at BioLabs LA at the Lundquist Institute. Photo by Aurelia Ventura / Board of Supervisors

Akiko Futamura is trying to cure diseases like hemophilia and Alzheimer’s.

“Every day I’m like potentially this could help thousands of patients,” said Futamura.

Futamura founded her startup about two years ago. However, her story has a different trajectory than most. Instead of hitting it big in Silicon Valley, Futamura came to LA County.

“I want to make sure you know we focus on developing the best drug for patients and I feel like the Silicon Valley kind of lost a little bit sense of why we are in this space,” said Futamura.

Futamura is renting lab space from BioLabs LA at the Lundquist Institute. There are 18,000 square feet of lab space you can rent by the bench.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas being interviewed by Spectrum One’s Parker Collins

The Lundquist Institute for Biomedical Innovation is a nonprofit research organization founded in 1952. The Institute has hundreds of researchers working on over 1,000 studies. Plus Harbor-University of California Los Angeles Medical Center is there, making it a prime spot to get your start.

“What we saw is an opportunity to save lives and create more jobs,” said L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

LA County invested several million dollars in this project. BioLabs LA opened in May 2019. A dozen companies have moved in so far. This incubator could become the start of a local bioscience magnet.

“This is so exciting until I can hardly stand it. I mean we’ve been working on this for quite a while,” said Ridley-Thomas.

The people in charge believe there is a reason everyone should be rooting for this.

“There’s a very simple three-word explanation: jobs, jobs, jobs,” said David Meyer, the CEO of the Lundquist Institute.

The lab isn’t full yet. Possible renters are still being interviewed.

Lundquist Institute CEO David Meyer and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas at the Lundquist Institute. Photo by Aurelia Ventura / Board of SupervisorsSupervisor.

Forum Showcases LA County’s Dynamic Bioscience Industry And How Artificial Intelligence Is Revolutionizing Medical Invention

Scientists, engineers and executives from Los Angeles-based bioscience companies and organizations painted a vivid and panoramic picture of how artificial intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing the medical field, with much of that transformative energy taking place in Los Angeles County.

These observations highlighted a forum held at that hot-house of high-tech innovation, Google’s Spruce Goose Hanger.

Google’s Spruce Goose Hanger welcomes over 250 attendees at the Los Angeles County Bioscience Forum. Photo by Diandra Jay / Board of Supervisors

Reviewing the field of innovators on the podium, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, co-sponsor of the event with Google, said: “AI and machine learning are playing key roles in accelerating the innovation and growth of our bioscience industry. With a boost from AI, I am confident that in the not too distant future LA County will be a world-recognized capital of bioscience.”

The LA bioscience industry currently hires an estimated 90,000 employees and supports the jobs of 100,000 others. In 2018, all sectors of the life sciences industry generated $42.5 billion of economic activity in the county. Also in 2018, the National Institutes of Health awarded a record-setting $1.1 billion in grants for bioscience research to LA County-based universities and organizations.

Director of Engineering at Google Accelerated Science Philip Nelson sets the stage by reviewing AI-assisted biomedical projects at Google.  Photo by Diandra Jay / Board of Supervisors

Inventiveness was on full display at the forum attended by 250 persons.  Forum keynote speaker Philip Nelson, director of engineering at Google Accelerated Science, set the stage by reviewing several notable AI-assisted biomedical projects at Google.

These include an AI-assisted system for early detection of diabetic retinopathy, a condition that yearly blinds hundreds of thousands of people globally. Detected soon enough, this condition can be treated and blindness prevented. At present, diabetic retinopathy can only be reliably detected by highly-trained ophthalmologists. Google’s AI-assisted detection system can be operated by a clinician, a development that will dramatically increase the accessibility of treatment, Nelson said. Google is also exploring similar AI-assisted imaging technology to detect breast cancer more effectively than current techniques, Nelson related.

Director of the West Coast Consortium for Technology & Innovation in Pediatrics at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles Juan Espinosa discusses Artificial Intelligence-Based 3D Screening of Fetal Programming in Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia. Photo by Diandra Jay / Board of Supervisors

The forum also heard from Juan Espinosa, director of the West Coast Consortium for Technology & Innovation in Pediatrics. CTIP is centered at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) and the University of Southern California (USC). Established in 2011, CTIP is a network of children’s hospitals, academic institutions, accelerators and incubators that promotes the commercialization and clinical use of pediatric medical device technology. In 2018 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration awarded CTIP a $6.6 million grant to support its work.

In 2018, CTIP awarded $235,000 in seed grants to six innovators developing new devices and technologies for young patients, Espinosa told the audience. The 2018 grant winners included a low-cost infant microbiome monitoring device for home or clinic use, a novel short arm exoskeleton to help treat orthopedic fractures, an improved sound-delivery vest for treating respiratory conditions and a virtual reality system for treating pediatric chronic pain.

(left to right) Senior Business Director at the UCLA Technology Development Group Dina Lozofsky and Neural Analytics CEO Leo Petrossian discuss robotic systems for tracking brain health of patients.  Photo by Diandra Jay / Board of Supervisors

Dina Lozofsky, a senior business director at the UCLA Technology Development Group, lifted the audience’s spirits by noting the 2019 third quarter report of the National Venture Capital Association showed funding of AI startups is off-the-charts. According to the Q3 data, 965 AI-related companies in the U.S. have raised $13.5 billion in venture capital through the first 9 months of this year. “Those are record-breaking numbers,” Lozofsky said.

Lozofsky also moderated a panel consisting of the CEOs of four LA-based bioscience companies. One of the panelists was Martha Lawrence, CEO and co-founder of Torrance-based AccendoWave. AccendoWave has developed a non-opioid system for managing pain and anxiety that consists of an electroencephalogram (EEG) headband, a Samsung tablet (computer) and AI-assisted software. The EEG headband measures a patient’s distress; the patient then dials up different programs on the tablet to alleviate that distress. These programs range from animated films to music from Bach or the Beatles. Lawrence said the system has been used to treat some 58,000 patients in hospitals in three states.

At the forum, Lawrence announced her company is now partnering with AT&T to market and support the AccendoWave system. Its use does not require a doctor’s prescription and it has proved to be particularly useful in dealing with the pain issues of young people, Lawrence said. AccendoWave’s chief technology officer demonstrated the company’s pain management system at the forum.

Other forum panelists were:

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas addresses the standing room only audience at the first-of-its-kind forum. Photo by Aurelia Ventura / Board of Supervisors

• Neural Analytics CEO Leo Petrossian. Petrossian talked about a recent agreement his company reached to conduct a feasibility study of its latest generation robotic system for measuring and tracking brain health of patients. The agreement is with the Ochsner Health System. Louisiana-based Ochsner owns, manages or is affiliated with 40 hospitals and 100 clinics. Neural Analytics’ device non-invasively measures a patient’s brain blood flow information to provide neurologists with critical information about the brain health of their patients. In 2017, Neural Analytics received a $10 million U.S. Department of Defense grant to develop a device for assessing combat-related traumatic brain injuries.

• Deep 6 AI CEO Wout Brusselaers. Brusselaers discussed how his company uses AI to scan tens of thousands of medical records to identify persons best-suited to participate in clinical drug trials. Now, Brusselaers explained pharmaceutical companies often take months to select clinical trial subjects and frequently pick the wrong ones. His technology, Brusselaers said, takes the guesswork and missteps out of this process, saving drug companies time and money.

• QuLab CEO Alireza Shabani. Shabani talked about his company’s development of the first integrated AI-based platform for small molecule drug design. This product will help revolutionize the discovery of new pharmaceutical products, Shabani predicted.

Accenture Senior Manager Monark Vyas discusses applied intelligence strategies. Photo by Aurelia Ventura / Board of Supervisors

During his remarks, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas challenged the bioscience leaders to hire a diversified workforce. “As in the past, evolving economies have the potential to raise incomes and improve our quality of life,” Ridley-Thomas said. “But many have warned that this emerging economy will yield yet greater inequality, further widening the gap between the rich and the poor, the haves and the have nots.”

Such a dire result does not need to happen, Ridley-Thomas said. The Supervisor observed that Los Angeles County is working to ensure the bioscience industry has access to an LA-based workforce that is diverse and highly-trained.

Los Angeles County CEO Sachi Hamai at the forum. Photo by Aurelia Ventura / Board of Supervisors

“The County recognizes the moral imperative of this mandate for equality and to that end we have funded and helped develop the Bio-Flex program,” Ridley-Thomas said. Bio-Flex, a first-in-the-nation apprenticeship training program, was launched in partnership with the South Bay Workforce Investment Board, Cal State Dominguez Hills, West LA College and the bioscience industry itself, including companies such as Bachem and Thermo Fisher Scientific, to prepare persons of color and the economically disadvantaged for jobs in the bioscience industry.

“We recently celebrated the first of what we expect will be many graduates of this program,” said the Supervisor.

The Board of Supervisors, under Ridley-Thomas’ leadership, has taken a number of steps to nurture LA’s bioscience industry. For example the County is negotiating with a nonprofit research institute to develop a biotech business park at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center campus; it has helped fund bioscience incubators at the Lundquist Institute and at California State University Los Angeles; it has approved the creation of “overlay zones” in almost a dozen locations across the county where bioscience commercial and industrial companies can co-exist free of the zoning restrictions that would otherwise make their clustering infeasible; and it has set up an investment fund, with $15 million of seed money, to provide affordable loans to small and medium-sized bioscience companies.

A more complete overview of the Board of Supervisors’ support for bioscience is outlined in an op-ed published recently in the Los Angeles Daily News and four of its sister newspapers.

County of Los Angeles Department leaders take the stage. Photo by Aurelia Ventura / Board of Supervisors

Encouraging a Bioscience Bonanza in LA County

After hosting a Bioscience Summit at Loyola Marymount University, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas stands with Biomedical Growth Strategies LLC President and CEO Dr. Susan Windham-Bannister, an internationally-recognized life sciences innovation executive once named one of the 10 Most Influential Women in Biotech. She currently serves as chief strategy officer at BioLA. Photo taken by Diandra Jay, Board of Supervisors.

By Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas

The entertainment industry has Hollywood. The computer world has its Silicon Valley. The financial world its Wall Street. In each case, people and companies gravitate toward their peers and the creative and entrepreneurial energy that working in proximity to each other generates.

In the booming bioscience industry the same paradigm exists. That’s why there is a life sciences cluster in Boston and a bioscience corridor in San Diego where literally hundreds of startups and mature bioscience companies operate cheek to cheek to manufacture pharmaceuticals, medical devices, sell and distribute health care products and invent new medical delivery systems.

Now, I ask, why not a bioscience cluster/corridor centered around the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center on the borders of Torrance and Carson?

One of LA County’s best kept secrets is that it is home to a growing bioscience industry that directly employs 90,000 people (indirectly another 100,000) and generates $42.5 billion in economic activity.

Last year, our region’s hospitals and universities received a record $1.1 billion in National Health Institute grants. Despite these hallmarks of success, Los Angeles’ bioscience industry has yet to become as muscular as its counterparts in Boston, San Diego and the San Francisco Bay area. In recent years, often quietly and unnoticed, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has taken steps to nurture this industry so it can achieve its potential.

One major challenge is fostering the geographic clustering of bioscience talent and companies that, once created, would act as a magnet for yet more talent and companies. The industry thrives on clustering yet LA’s bioscience firms are widely dispersed.

To help in this regard, the Board in July approved creation of “overlay zones” wherein bioscience companies can establish their operations free of existing land-use restrictions that would otherwise significantly inhibit a “clustering” of bioscience commercial and manufacturing businesses. In the same vein, the Board agreed to negotiate with the non-profit Lundquist Institute, a highly-respected bioscience research organization, to lease and develop a 15-acre county-owned parcel on the Harbor-UCLA campus and develop it as a biotech industrial park — and future anchor for a cluster zone.

The growth of the bioscience sector in LA County has also been hampered by the “leaky bucket” effect. While our colleges and universities annually produce 5,000 life sciences graduates, these young people too often take their skills and entrepreneurial talent to the marquee bioscience clusters in Boston, San Francisco and San Diego. Some of this talent “leakiness” is a result of the absence of an infrastructure in Los Angeles to support startups.

To fix this shortcoming, the Board has funded bioscience “incubator” facilities on the East Los Angeles College and Harbor-UCLA campuses where dozens of startups can rent affordable office space and labs and receive technical training and business mentoring to help them thrive. In addition, the Board has invested $15 million in a $50 million public-private fund that will make affordable loans to small and mid-sized bioscience firms.

Finally, the Board, in collaboration with the South Bay Workforce Investment Board, has helped fund Bio-Flex, an apprenticeship program with a key objective of training the disadvantaged and people of color for good jobs in the bioscience industry. It is noteworthy that the first Bio-Flex classes included Torrance and Compton residents.

LA County’s bioscience industry and the Board’s support for it are both works in progress. But if we keep our eye on the prize our region can become a world leader in developing therapies and modalities that improve our health and provide thousands of rewarding and exciting jobs for generations to come.

Mark Ridley-Thomas is a member of the LA County Board of Supervisors.

Device that Instantly Diagnoses Ear Infections Headlines the 2019 Lundquist Institute’s Innovation Showcase

Local startups working on everything from a device that diagnoses children’s ear infections with the push of a button, to a gene therapy to replace opioids, to a diagnostic providing a highly specific analysis of cancerous lesions shared their groundbreaking innovations at the Lundquist Institute’s (formerly known as LA BioMed) sixth annual Innovation Showcase. At the event, entrepreneurs gave presentations to a select group of local life science entrepreneurs,, investors, and biotech executives, and government leaders, sharing the groundbreaking work taking place in the burgeoning biotech hot spot of Los Angeles.

“This institution is distinguishing itself in ways that might not have been imagined by others, but those who are here believe and they are showing what can be done when you have a vision and you are prepared to pursue it,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas who facilitated the medical research building’s construction on County property.

This year’s event was the first Innovation Showcase to be held at the crown jewel of the Lundquist Institute’s campus at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, the new four-story, 78,000-square-foot Medical Research Lab building. The state-of-the-art building includes an 18,000-square-foot incubator, “BioLabs at The Lundquist,” with the most advanced equipment on the market. The new Medical Research Lab is a place where present and future innovators can build the great bioscience companies of the future—and the perfect setting for Monday’s event.

Presenting companies included:

  • Cactus Health, which has developed a device that diagnoses ear infections in children with the push of a button;
  • Navega Therapeutics, which is developing a gene therapy for pain relief that could replace opioids, a leading cause of drug addiction and early deaths in the United States; and
  • Catalia Health, which has created an artificial intelligence-powered virtual home health aide, providing 24/7 support to patients who need it but can’t afford a full-time person; and
  • ImaginAb, which has developed a platform that can make a highly specific assessment of each cancer lesion, potentially enabling a highly targeted treatment—and which announced a collaboration agreement early Monday morning with health care giants Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Takeda Pharmaceutical.

“From over 65 entries, a distinguished selection committee of over 25 active venture capitalists and big pharma executives chose 24 startup companies for this year’s Showcase. The competition was fierce, and I was delighted at the quality of selected presenters. The event was also blessed with a star-studded venture capital panel as well as great individual speakers covering a range of topics directly related to bioscience startups and the tools and insights that they need to be successful,” said Keith Hoffman, PhD, Senior Vice President of Business Development and Technology Transfer at The Lundquist Institute. “I want to thank all involved, from sponsors, selection committee members, speakers, and, of course, the innovative entrepreneurs that captivated us with their medical breakthroughs, for one heck of a great show!”

Drawing from throughout the western United States, the Innovation Showcase provided a forum for academic institutions to promote and share their startups and early stage technologies with leading investors and strategic partners. The program featured 24 curated bioscience presentations with two tracks (therapeutics and medical devices/other) along with a distinguished lineup of speakers.

This year’s speakers include Bethany Mancilla, Vice President of Corporate Development at Kite Pharma, a subsidiary of Gilead Sciences Inc.; Susie Harborth, Chief Operating Officer of BioLabs, Rohit Shukla, CEO of The Larta Institute, Sean Harper, Managing Director of Westlake Village BioPartners; Los Angeles County Supervisor Hon. Mark Ridley Thomas—and the Lundquist Institute President and CEO David Meyer as well as its Senior Vice President of Business Development and Technology Transfer, Keith Hoffman.

“The Lundquist Institute has a nearly seven-decade track record of life sciences innovation,” said Dr. David Meyer, PhD, President and CEO of the Lundquist Institute. “As our institute enters a transformative phase, we were thrilled to welcome some of the next great health and science startups to our new state-of-the-art research facility.”