Bold Plans for a Biotech Park

“We plan to establish a vibrant hub that will dramatically bolster an entirely new industry in Los Angeles: biotechnology.”

March 01, 2016 C. L. Max Nikias

When Niki and I welcome alumni back to USC, they’re often amazed by the tremendous transformation on our campuses, taking pictures as Fertitta Hall acquires its new spire and the USC Kaufman School of Dance shakes off its scaffolding. USC Village inevitably draws the most attention, and is on schedule to open next fall, adding 2,700 student beds, 15 acres and even a Trader Joe’s to our University Park Campus.

As these important changes continue apace, I want to share another transformation we intend to see in the coming years. Adjacent to our Health Sciences Campus, we plan to establish a vibrant hub that will dramatically bolster an entirely new industry in Los Angeles: biotechnology. We’re calling this new corridor a Biotech Park.

As a field, biotechnology encompasses a broad range of products and services, including medical device manufacturing, biopharmaceutical development and the latest diagnostic tools. California already has two major biotechnology hubs—San Francisco and San Diego—but Los Angeles lags behind. Although universities in our county produce more than 5,000 graduates in science-and engineering-related fields each year, compared with only 2,800 in the San Francisco Bay Area, it was San Francisco that attracted $1.15 billion in biotechnology investment in 2013. By comparison, our county drew only $45 million, prompting many of our talented graduates to head north.

To reverse this, we need to create opportunities for these skilled graduates close to home. These opportunities would come naturally from a collaborative community that supports business, a dynamic workforce, venture capital investment, and access to academic medical centers for research and clinical trials. This is where a Biotech Park will pay dividends.

To advance our plan—and to lay the infrastructure for such a corridor—we are working with our colleagues in county and city government, as well as at Caltech, Cal State LA, Cal Poly Pomona, community colleges, the LA United School District, and other institutions. Together, we can provide space for established companies, training for entry-level jobs and incubators for start-up firms. Earlier this year, USC hosted a highly productive summit to develop our strategy, and Supervisor Hilda Solis, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Councilman José Huizar highlighted our discussions.

The economic potential of a Biotech Park is enormous. It will initially produce 3,000 construction jobs and nearly 4,000 permanent positions, from entry-level technicians to high-wage, doctorate-level scientists.

But that would be just the start. The entire corridor could be similar in size and scope to San Francisco’s Mission Bay project, which will employ an estimated 30,000 people once completed. A recent study found that every new high-tech job created leads to four more jobs in other fields, such as marketing, accounting, administration, service and sales.

There are a number of reasons why Los Angeles is so ripe for a Biotech Park. We already have leading research universities, top clinical and research hospitals, a manufacturing base, a massive port and a venture capital presence. A Biotech Park will connect these pieces, generating investment, jobs and tax revenues throughout the county. With the right alignment between government, academia and industry, we will make this happen, thereby harnessing our region’s strengths—including our science graduates—to spark extraordinary growth.