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    Getting Biotech in Greater LA Over the “Tipping Point”​

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    By Stephanie Hsieh

    Biocom California brought together diverse biotech CEOs and city leaders from the Thousand Oaks area for the second in our Greater LA region Big Think series. Big Think is an opportunity for us to hear from leaders in the biotech industry in each of our region’s ‘microclusters.’ As Amgen’s hometown, Thousand Oaks has always been a pillar of the LA region’s life science ecosystem. New explosive growth, spawned by increased investments in both infrastructure (especially new incubator spaces) and venture financing, have made the Thousand Oaks microcluster a noted example of biotech’s powerful economic engine.
    While many believe the life science industry has reached a tipping point toward success, our Big Think leaders nonetheless expressed concerns and identified challenges particular to the Greater LA region that could slow, if not impede, biotech’s current positive momentum.The top three concerns raised by our panelists, and Biocom’s calls to action are:Awareness of the Life Science Industry in Greater LA – With almost 7000 life science establishments across six Southern California counties, the life science sector is as significant to California’s economy as Hollywood and the aerospace industry. LA County is home to several world class education and research institutions that generate an impressive and diverse set of innovations and new technologies, evidenced by the County receiving the most NIH funding of any in the state; which in turn, fuels the creation of a rich and vibrant start-up community spread across a wide landscape.And yet, the industry continues to struggle to command the attention and ‘mindshare’ of other important economic stakeholders, such as local officials, investors and mainstream media. We need broader awareness of the breadth and depth of biotech’s workforce opportunities and cross-industry partnerships which benefit all sectors of the economy. Investments in the life science industry have been proven to have extensive positive ripple effects in growth of jobs, housing, manufacturing, infrastructure, entrepreneurship, and small businesses beyond pure biotech.

    What’s Needed: Greater media coverage on the important innovation stories, major deals, and high-value venture financings involving the Greater LA region’s biotech / life sciences sector. We need more media outlets willing to engage in-depth with the life science industry to show its important connections to and impact on our broader community and regional economy. As we build the post-COVID office and industrial space-based economy, Thousand Oaks’ success story should be presented as a model for partnering with the City and County to be, as one of our panelists described it, “focused, consistent and nimble” to meet the huge demand for more biotech spaces, affordable housing and workforce development. 

    What We’re Doing: Biocom California is expanding and building collaborations with local organizations and civic and business leaders, as well as existing and new media outlets across Greater LA and internationally. We are launching a strategic communications plan across the sector to raise awareness of all of the important contributions of the life sciences industry – not just locally but nationwide – and of the wealth of growth opportunities in the Thousand Oaks area and greater LA area more broadly. 

    We are working with our members to provide the media with a steady stream of “what’s new and what’s next” in biotech, especially our industry’s live-saving innovations and investments in health equity. In addition to our own social media channels and newsletters, Biocom California is keeping our partners up to date on the newest data, the exciting developments happening here and helping to connect the dots about the importance of biotech to our region and California. Biocom’s partnerships, like its partnership with Bioscience LA and LAEDC, help align and amplify our regional momentum and the multiplier effect of our industry’s collective success.

    Attracting Talent – Attracting, recruiting and retaining the necessary workforce has become one of the biggest challenges for our industry. We continue to battle a persistent myth – that you can only work in the life science industry if you have an advanced degree – inhibiting many from considering, let alone applying for, the many lab, manufacturing and other entry level positions in the industry. In reality, the distribution of jobs at all levels of educational attainment, from high school diploma to PhD, is relatively even.

    On the other hand, starting and scaling life science companies requires leaders who have highly specialized knowledge and skills that require many years of schooling and/or a depth of experience. This puts Thousand Oaks in competition with other well-established hubs like Cambridge, the Bay Area and even San Diego/La Jolla where many of these experienced leaders are based today. Remarkably, the LA region’s cost of living is below these other clusters, though few appreciate this.

    What’s Needed: Pipeline development in our local educational institutions to produce the needed talent for today’s and tomorrow’s jobs. Greater collaboration is needed between industry and educational institutions to raise student awareness of the variety of biotech/life sciences careers. Workers in the region need to recognize the breadth and depth of the industry’s presence and the workforce opportunities, while regional leaders need to do collaborate on strategies to attract experienced talent, recruiting locally and nationally.

    What We’re Doing: Biocom California, through our workforce development arm, Biocom Institute, offers a variety of programming to foster, nourish and build a diverse talent pipeline – from K-12 to mid-career adults – including real-world life science curricula, professional development courses, industry-recognized certification programs and multi-faceted mentorship.

    Our newly launched Career Lab Portal helps connect talent directly to industry hiring managers. In our region specifically, we partner with several organizations who coordinate and fund internship programs, such as BioscienceLA’s BioFutures, and apprenticeships, such as the South Bay WFDC’s BioFlex program, not to mention the newly formed accelerator program, Heal.LA, spearheaded by the Larta Institute.

    Building Community – Attracting and retaining this talent, from entry-level to seasoned executive to everyone in between, requires a foundation of infrastructure and amenities. 

    As one of our panelists stated, “people are attracted not just to a company but to a community.” This requires broader community investments in housing and schools. We also need a deeper set of connections between and among the multitude of biotech microclusters spread across the region. Much of this can start today, with the goal of building toward long-term collaboration between industry leaders and political leaders to ensure that collaborative decisions are made on major infrastructure initiatives.

    We’re experiencing a ‘tech mash-up’ or tech convergence in our region – with life science innovators cross-pollinating with our legacy innovators in entertainment and aerospace, as well as with tech and agriculture, to create new life science subsectors. We can adopt the same strategy on a much larger scale, not to mention on a variety of different scales.

    Think of what might be possible if we created not just a dedicated life science park, with custom lab space, but a cross-industry park that had collaboration spaces that welcomed regular connections, community and innovation among and between industries, among and between regulatory agencies, or among and between academia and our world-class hospitals. What might be possible if the different microclusters across the LA region were engaged in best practice sharing, joint lobbying and planning, and creation of a shared vision for becoming a true biotech ecosystem?  That’s the future we’d all welcome, a future that would ‘tip’ us forward as a region and make Westlake Village Biopartners’ vision of the “Golden Age of Biotech” a reality … a reality anchored here in the Greater LA area.

    What’s Needed: In the Thousand Oaks region, the number one priority is affordable housing. Secondarily, investment in more ‘amenities’ like entertainment venues and outdoor spaces to attract younger employees who are the backbone of the industry and vital to biotech’s continued growth in the region. 

    What We’re Doing: As a vital part of transforming the post-COVID economy, Biocom California is convening many conversations to identify and advocate for investments in these ecosystems from a variety of industries. We are also showcasing and recognizing the new companies emerging at the intersections of biotech and adjacent industries through a variety of programs and awards like our annual Catalyst Awards.

    Biocom’s Economic Impact Report (coming out later this month) will provide new data on the economic strength and the healthy tax base of the biotech/life science industry, as well as the life-saving innovations and entrepreneurial activity (investments, M&A, growth plans) of our members.  It is imperative that we all work to get biotech/life science over the tipping point and ensure the LA region takes its rightful place as a fast-moving, leading-edge, economic engine both for California and for the nation.

    Source: article by Biocom California.

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    William Hicks
    William Hicks
    11 months ago

    AMGEN may be a great stock to own but consider their relations with Thousand Oaks City Council:

    1. My guess is there was a strong influence for bike lanes by the Amgen Bicycle Club. Bicycle lanes few people use, a car lane was lost to and all taxpayers pay for.
    2. Thousand Oaks City Council pushes for pack-n-stack “affordable” housing so Amgen can have more employee’s.
    William Hicks
    William Hicks
    11 months ago

    AMGEN is a great stock to have, but let me state a few objections to the power of AMGEN with Thousand Oaks City Council:

    1. You are aware of the AMGEN bicycle club that was influential in the bicycle lanes that few people use,. but all taxpayers pay for and every driver of cars lost a lane of traffic over.
    2. And, has anyone noticed the City Council insisting on ‘pack-em/stack-em style “affordable housing projects? Besides AMGEN, who benefits from housing projects that will increase their workforce but reduce the value of existing single family, detached wall communities.

    These are two issues that have come to my mind.

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