Los Angeles County Emerges as California's Third Biotech Hub, Report Shows

Los Angeles

California is well-known for its position in the biotech and pharma industry, with two world-class hubs in the Bay Area and the San Diego region. However, a new survey reveals the state is actually home to three significant hubs.

Biocom’s 2019 Economic Impact Report Databook, which was released last week at BIO 2019, highlights the significance of the life sciences industry in the Golden State. Joe Panetta, president and chief executive officer of Biocom, told BioSpace in an exclusive interview that the research report demonstrated the emergence of Los Angeles County as an important hub of the state’s biotech sector. According to the report, which was released during BIO, last year all sectors of the life science industry generated $42.5 billion in economic activity and adds $23.5 billion to the county's gross profit. In the region, there are approximately 92,000 related jobs with an average earning of $83,000. Those jobs also support almost 191,000 peripheral jobs in the region, the report shows.

Over the course of 2018 the life sciences industry in Los Angeles County exported almost $9 billion of goods and services and received more than $1 billion in new research awards from the National Institutes for Health.

“Life sciences is an important and overlooked economic engine in the Los Angeles area,” Panetta said.

According to the Biocom report, employment by life science industry sectors in L.A. County shows “highly variable performance” between 2013 and 2018. During that time period, the region saw job growth in biopharmaceuticals and research and lab services sectors. At the same time, there was a decline in medical devices, biorenewables, which includes biofuels and agribio, and life science wholesale trade jobs.

Panetta said the L.A. area is typically viewed as an emerging hub for the life sciences industry. However, the data revealed in the report shows “that it dwarfs most other biotech hubs around the country, if not the world.” Panetta said he continues to be impressed with the growth of the area as a biotech hub and the amount of funding that the area industry receives from the NIH each year.

In addition to the highlights of the Los Angeles area, the Biocom report also showcased the strength of the entire state. Across the state, California’s life sciences industry provides approximately 1.3 million jobs in the state, with economic activity generating a total of $346 billion in 2018 alone. The activity includes all sectors of the industry, including patent work and more, Panetta said. The report from Biocom, a state life science advocacy agency, complements a report released in the fall of 2018 by the California Life Sciences Association. That report showed that in 2017, the life sciences industry, in the state generated total annual revenue of $177.1 billion.

Over the past five years, California’s life science industry has seen an 8 percent increase in the number of jobs statewide, as well as most NIH research funding out of any state in the country, a total of $4.2 billion in the 2018 fiscal year, the report shows.

“California is the fifth-largest economy globally, and life science is a key component of contributing to the growth, employment and success of the entire state,” Panetta said. “In California, everything is orders of magnitude greater when you consider the state’s life sciences industry.”

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The Bay Area, the birthplace of the biotech industry, saw total revenue of $135.6 billion and employment of about 134,000 people, the Biocom report showed. The areas that received the most growth were biopharmaceutical manufacturing, medical devices and diagnostic equipment, as well as research and lab services.

In San Diego, there were more than 65,000 people employed in the life sciences with more than $39 billion in economic activity. The San Diego area saw the largest growth in the areas of biopharmaceuticals manufacturing, medical devices and diagnostic equipment and research and lab services from 2013 to 2018, boasting three times the national average concentration of biochemists and biophysicists, Biocom said.

In a moment of prognostication, Panetta said he anticipates seeing positive growth in California’s life science sector over the next few years. One area that he speculated to increase will be the number of incubator programs. Panetta said they are witnessing a growth of incubator programs that house up to 50 startups, which will lead the way for continued growth in the state’s life sciences sector.

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