President’s Message

nikias-photo-lrgWe are at a most auspicious moment in the history of medicine and the biological sciences. Each day brings advances that not only improve how long we live, but how well we live. Now, we have an opportunity to usher in progress and economic development, here in the heart of our city.

What Silicon Valley brought to computer technology, Los Angeles can bring to biotechnology:

a thriving environment of innovations encompassing academic institutions, training centers, companies, and communities throughout the county.

Los Angeles universities produce over 5,000 graduates in the sciences, engineering, and technology—more than San Francisco and San Diego combined—yet Los Angeles ranks 14th nationwide in biotech investment at $45 million, well behind San Francisco (#1 with $1 billion last year) and San Diego (#3). Because of the existing infrastructure and opportunities, many of our city’s graduates head off to these two other metropolitan areas for better employment options.

We simply can no longer afford this massive brain drain from Los Angeles,

nor should we take a back seat to other cities in biotech development with the deep expertise and capabilities we already have in this great city. Key stakeholders within the City and County are already taking action to build a stronger biotech infrastructure on the heels of the Biotech Summit that was hosted earlier this year.

  • In March, City Councilmember Mitch Englander introduced a motion to analyze the estimated fiscal and economic impact of biotech tax credits within the City of L.A. to encourage growth and development in this sector.
  • In March, USC announced a $50 million gift from Mark and Mary Stevens to name the University’s renowned institute for brain research, helping to fund ongoing research and technology investments into one of biology’s most complex puzzles—the brain.
  • In April, the Board of Supervisors took an important step forward in creating the first-ever biotech medical park in Los Angeles County on the campus of the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. This 15-acre campus is expected to generate between 800 and 900 jobs, and is the first of what we anticipate to be several biotech parks in the city, including one near our own Health Sciences Campus.
  • In May, the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce hosts a State of STEM event, where biotech is an important topic of discussion as key leaders explore how we cultivate talent across the Greater Los Angeles region and foster education-industry partnerships to meet the area’s high-skill workforce needs.

These are important starting points. The opportunity that lies before us can have enduring impact on the City.

Accelerating the development of biotech in Los Angeles will not only promote discoveries that revitalize healthcare, it will also dramatically invigorate job growth throughout the area.

USC is committed to contributing to this revitalization and invigoration. Our dedication to patient care and research extends to our longstanding partnership with Los Angeles County USC Medical Center. For decades, USC has provided many of the outstanding doctors at this facility.

We believe that one of the best places for a biotech park within this emerging industry is in eastern L.A., at USC’s Health Sciences Campus.

We estimate that a biotech park in this space can create up to 3,000 new construction jobs and almost 4,000 new permanent jobs—jobs that will be accessible for the local community as well as to medical and research professionals. A recent study found that for every high-tech job created, four more are added in fields like marketing, accounting, administration, or sales. A project of this magnitude will expand job opportunities across the entirety of the professional and administrative spectrum.

The City and County can count on many institutions besides USC to participate in this noble cause. Caltech, East Los Angeles College, Los Angeles Trade Tech, the LAUSD, and Cal State L.A. all have a vested interest in the growth of biotech within Los Angeles. Many of their graduates will benefit from the increase in jobs that will come with expanded development. We are committed to being true partners with county and city leaders, public and private institutions, and across the leadership ranks of Keck Medicine of USC, all of whom view the hopes for biotech through the same prism of promise.

At its core, biotech harnesses the components of life to create new compounds, products, and processes to enhance life.

By harnessing the potential of the biotech industry, we can also infuse new life into our neighborhoods, our city, and our county. In doing so, we can forever change the lives of every man, woman, and child.

C. L. Max Nikias
President, University of Southern California