If you have had your cholesterol tested, gotten a heart scan or been treated by paramedics, you have benefitted from research conducted at LA BioMed. But you may be unaware of the local research institute’s many contributions to improving healthcare.

The same could be said of the entire biosciences industry in Los Angeles.  San Diego and San Francisco remain much better known for their biosciences industry than LA – even though LA, with 42,000 bioscience-related jobs – has a larger industry workforce than either San Diego or San Francisco.

Growth in the LA region’s bioscience industry outpaced the national average by 6% from 2001-2010. Universities in LA County produce nearly twice as many graduates in bioscience-related fields each year than the San Francisco Bay Area. 

But those graduates tend to leave LA to find employment elsewhere in California or in other cities with bioscience clusters, such as Boston.  LA’s biosciences industry is scattered throughout the region, and it falls far short of San Diego and San Francisco in business development, essential early-stage funding and lab space.

It is time for the region to remedy these shortcomings to foster innovation, generate the high-wage jobs bioscience produces and retain the talented graduates. A Biosciences Industry Master Plan commissioned and adopted by the LA County Board of Supervisors provides a blueprint for doing so.

The Board of Supervisors recently approved taking the first step toward creating a bioscience hub on the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center campus adjacent to LA BioMed. The Board envisions a 15-acre campus with nearly 250,000 square feet of lab, office and specialized space for mid-stage startups on county land. The proposed location puts the new biosciences in the perfect position to encourage “bench to bedside” research and development.

Start-ups can be incubated under the wing of LA BioMed, which already has proven its ability to spinoff new companies and successfully license its innovations. Its many success stories include a therapy for a devastating and fatal genetic disorder, saving the lives of tens of millions of babies born prematurely and an aesthetic treatment for double chins that just received FDA approval.  The medical center is a perfect location for conducting human trials in a hospital setting, when needed.

This visionary plan will require substantial private investment – up to $125 million, according to Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. Potential investors will need to be identified, informed and engaged for LA to achieve its potential. Successfully attracting that new investment holds great promise for creating new high-wage jobs because LA’s biosciences industry is ready to take off – much as Silicon Beach has on the city’s West Side.

At LA BioMed, for instance, plans are already underway for replacing the remainder of its aging World War II-vintage research facilities with new ones – and the research institute has just received its biggest donation ever to kick off its Capital Campaign.  LA BioMed just celebrated the groundbreaking on the first step in this plan, a campus transformation project, which is designed to foster a more collaborative research environment for its more than 100 principal investigators on its 11.5 acre parcel on the Harbor-UCLA campus.

Securing private investment will bring LA’s biosciences industry out of the shadows and into the prominent place it deserves. Taking its place in the spotlight will encourage venture capitalists to invest here, talented researchers to stay here and budding entrepreneurs to start their companies here. That combination would make LA a center of innovation that can advance the pace of discovery and improve the economic and physical health of the region.

Originally published in LA Business Journal.