Biotech L.A. #1: Biotechnology Research Hub

  • Biotech will be the fastest growing sector of the global economy for the next 20 to 30 years.
  • Los Angeles universities produce over 5,000 graduates in the sciences, engineering and technology — more than San Francisco and San Diego combined.
  • Many of Los Angeles’ graduates head off to San Francisco or San Diego for better employment options; inflicting a massive brain drain to L.A. County.
  • In 2014, Los Angeles attracted $45 million in biotech investment (ranking #14th in the nation), much less than San Francisco (#1) with $1 billion or San Diego (#3).

Building a Booming Biotechnology Research Hub in Los Angeles

Building a Booming Biotechnology Research Hub in Los Angeles

Building a Booming Biotechnology Research Hub in Los Angeles

Building a Booming Biotechnology Research Hub in Los Angeles

Los Angeles, best known as the creative capital of the world, is not often associated in the public mind with the world’s leading biomedical research. However, there has been a strong and steady push to foster cutting-edge research and promote medical technology in Tinseltown. Four years ago, in February of 2011, the Board of Supervisors passed a motion to promote biotechnology innovation in Los Angeles County through countywide public-private partnerships. Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Supervisor Don Knabe led the initiative in an effort to boost the local economy by harnessing the rapid growth of the biotechnology industry (1).

A more recent development has clinched the deal and may establish Los Angeles County as an emerging contender for top biomedical cluster on the West Coast. The Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience broke ground on the USC campus on October 23rd, 2014 following a gift of $50M by the retired orthopedic spinal surgeon, Gary K. Michelson (2). The goal of the Michelson Center is to establish a collaborative and interdisciplinary hub for translational research.

As the inventor of more than 955 issued and pending patents worldwide on methods and devices for spinal surgery, Dr. Michelson is a strong advocate for bringing together science and engineering to benefit patients. The new Michelson Center, expected to be completed in 2017, will house researchers from the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences, the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and the Keck School of Medicine. It will offer a unique ecosystem that supports strategic interchanges. All efforts will be aimed at improving our understanding of the body as a whole, as a system of small-molecules, proteins, cells, and organs that can be quantitatively monitored to accurately diagnose disease and predict effective treatments.

A $50 million gift from pioneering surgeon Gary K. Michelson will fund the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience, which unites engineering and the life sciences: a new stimuli for biotechnological research in Los Angeles.

Financial investment alone is not sufficient to catalyze the formation of a vibrant biotechnology cluster. Successful biomedical developments require thriving networks that link scientists, founders, experienced managers, and investors. Recognizing the importance of social organizations to the development of a well-functioning marketplace (3), the Michelson Center has prioritized investments in top talent. Leading scientists have been recruited and their research teams have been relocated to USC. Among those who will launch the Center’s budding ecosystem, are:

Steve A. Kay, Dean of USC Dornsife, Los Angeles, CA [2012-06-20]
Steve A. Kay, Dean of USC Dornsife, Los Angeles, CA [2012-06-20]
Steve A. Kay, Dean of USC Dornsife, Los Angeles, CA [2012-06-20]
Steve A. Kay, Dean of USC Dornsife, Los Angeles, CA [2012-06-20]

Steve A. Kay, Ph.D.

Steve A. Kay, Ph.D.

Steve A. Kay, Ph.D.
Steve A. Kay, Ph.D.

Steve A. Kay, Dean of USC’s Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences and member of the National Academy of Sciences. Using high-throughput genomic and chemical biology platforms, Dr. Kay and his team investigate the link between circadian and metabolic networks that maintain our biological clock.

Scripps | Scripps Scientist Raymond C. Stevens, Ph.D.
Scripps | Scripps Scientist Raymond C. Stevens, Ph.D.
Scripps | Scripps Scientist Raymond C. Stevens, Ph.D.
Scripps | Scripps Scientist Raymond C. Stevens, Ph.D.

Raymond C. Stevens, Ph.D.

Raymond C. Stevens, Ph.D.

Raymond C. Stevens, Ph.D.
Raymond C. Stevens, Ph.D.

Raymond C. Stevens, Provost Professor of Biological Sciences and Chemistry and Director of The Bridge Institute at USC. Using high-throughput structural biology, Dr. Stevens and his team investigate the molecular basis of neurotransmission and its modulation for pharmaceutical drug development.

Both Steve A. Kay and Raymond C. Stevens are considered to be amongst the world’s most influential scientists in biotechnology research.

Scripps | Peter Kuhn, Ph.D.; Scripps Physics Oncology Center.
Scripps | Peter Kuhn, Ph.D.; Scripps Physics Oncology Center.
Scripps | Peter Kuhn, Ph.D.; Scripps Physics Oncology Center.
Scripps | Peter Kuhn, Ph.D.; Scripps Physics Oncology Center.

Peter Kuhn, Ph.D.

Peter Kuhn, Ph.D.

Peter Kuhn, Ph.D.
Peter Kuhn, Ph.D.

Peter Kuhn, Dean’s Professor of Biological Sciences and the Keck School of Medicine at USC. Dr. Kuhn and his interdisciplinary team of physicists and biologists investigate cancer metastasis and develop new methods for the early diagnosis of cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Scott E. Fraser, Ph.D. [Provost Professor Director of Science Initiatives University of Southern California] (Photo Credit: John Livzey)
Scott E. Fraser, Ph.D. [Provost Professor Director of Science Initiatives University of Southern California] (Photo Credit: John Livzey)
Scott E. Fraser, Ph.D. [Provost Professor Director of Science Initiatives University of Southern California] (Photo Credit: John Livzey)
Scott E. Fraser, Ph.D. [Provost Professor Director of Science Initiatives University of Southern California] (Photo Credit: John Livzey)

Scott Fraser, Ph.D.

Scott Fraser, Ph.D.

Scott Fraser, Ph.D.
Scott Fraser, Ph.D.

Scott Fraser, Provost Professor of Biological Sciences, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Keck School of Medicine, and Viterbi School of Engineering, and Director of the Translational Imaging Center and Science Initiatives at USC. Using novel imaging platforms and quantitative analysis, Dr. Fraser & his team investigate early development, organogenesis, and biological response in intact organisms.

Practical Biotechnology Research

A common theme at the Michelson Center is a focus on overcoming the obstacles that prevent research from benefiting patients. By breaking down the physical separation among departments and actively encouraging collaborative and interdisciplinary research, the Michelson Center promises to escape the uncoordinated silos of expertise that define traditional academic environments. To further catalyze the translation of technologies from bench to bedside, USC has also initiated a consortium of partnerships with 8 pharmaceutical companies. These valuable interactions are expected to drive the creation of new startups and products. By investing in infrastructure and recruiting top talent, the Michelson Center may provide the decisive blow that jolts translational research in Los Angeles to its feet. Scientists, engineers, medical providers, and patients nationwide will benefit from the development of a robust biotechnology industry in Los Angeles that rivals San Diego and San Francisco.

MMRF Initiative

References

  1. Supervisors Ridley-Thomas and Knabe introduce motion to promote biotechnology research partnerships
  2. USC Michelson Center Groundbreaking Keynote [MMRF Official Video] [YouTube]
  3. The Marketplace for Ideas: Can Los Angeles build a successful biotechnology cluster? [August 2009. Steven Casper, Keck Graduate Institute of Applied Life Sciences]

Related Links

Juliesta Sylvester, Ph.D. is a biochemist who promotes innovation and technology transfer at the interface of academia and industry. Her research has spanned pharmaceutical discovery, molecular diagnostics, bioinformatics, and quantitative systems analysis. She is an avid world traveler, invited speaker at national and international meetings, and enthusiastic consultant for startups.

Juliesta Sylvester, Ph.D. is a biochemist who promotes innovation and technology transfer at the interface of academia and industry. Her research has spanned pharmaceutical discovery, molecular diagnostics, bioinformatics, and quantitative systems analysis. She is an avid world traveler, invited speaker at national and international meetings, and enthusiastic consultant for startups.

Juliesta Sylvester, Ph.D. is a biochemist who promotes innovation and technology transfer at the interface of academia and industry. Her research has spanned pharmaceutical discovery, molecular diagnostics, bioinformatics, and quantitative systems analysis. She is an avid world traveler, invited speaker at national and international meetings, and enthusiastic consultant for startups.

Juliesta Sylvester, Ph.D. is a biochemist who promotes innovation and technology transfer at the interface of academia and industry. Her research has spanned pharmaceutical discovery, molecular diagnostics, bioinformatics, and quantitative systems analysis. She is an avid world traveler, invited speaker at national and international meetings, and enthusiastic consultant for startups.