As LAEDC continues to foster growth of the lifesciences / biosciences industry cluster in the Los Angeles region, we wanted to share excerpts of an article that LA Daily News published, which hits on some key issues regarding the lifescience industry, its potential to create even more well-paying jobs, and the need to support both the industry’s growth here and the talent development systems that help our local residents access these jobs.
There’s nothing easy about developing a new therapy. Researchers spend years in the lab trying to understand how a particular process goes wrong and causes disease. Sometimes they find a way to correct the problem — a new medicine or device. If the idea is promising, a company might buy it, or the researchers might seek out investors and develop it themselves.
The new therapy must be studied repeatedly to make sure it’s safe and effective. These tests are unrelenting and rigorous — most medicines fail in clinical trials. However, if the trials are successful, the Food and Drug Administration will likely grant approval. After more than a decade of hard work, a new treatment reaches patients.
This story gets repeated over and over. California companies have more than 1,269 drugs in the pipeline. These medicines are being developed to treat cancer, infectious diseases, diabetes, neurodegenerative disorders and other conditions. In addition, there are hundreds of devices and diagnostics being developed. Each went through some version of the process described above.
If the dedicated people who drive California’s life sciences sector only produced amazing therapies that saved and improved lives, that would be enough. But there is another important and powerful part of this story.
In addition to producing innovative medicines, devices and diagnostics, the life sciences sector is helping drive our state’s economy, employing more than 287,000 Californians at 3,040 companies, universities and independent research institutes. If we add work associated with and supporting the sector, California life sciences sector employment exceeds 884,000 jobs. (data source California Life Sciences Association)
California leads the nation in several important statistics related to the life sciences sector. We produced the most life sciences doctorates in 2014, amounting to 1,318. In 2016, we received the most National Institutes of Health (NIH) research funding: $3.5 billion. Life sciences entrepreneurs brought in $4.4 billion in venture capital in 2016 — again, the most in the country. These are all signs of a vibrant life sciences infrastructure.
Much of this innovative work is clustered in the San Francisco Bay Area, San Diego and Orange County, but Los Angeles County is now emerging as a medical device and biotech hotbed as well. Currently, L.A. County employs around 20 percent of California’s life sciences workforce, second only to the multi-county Bay Area. These 57,000 jobs run the gamut from academic research to biopharmaceuticals and wholesale trade.
The industry report also highlights the nascent revolution in digital health, centered here in California. These technologies range from telemedicine to fitness tools, like the FitBit, to devices that can track chronic diseases and medication adherence. Digital health technologies have great potential to help patients and reduce healthcare costs.
As strong as the life sciences enterprise may be in California, we must never forget that this is an incredibly competitive sector. The state must continue its longstanding tradition of supporting world-class educational institutions while encouraging a more business-friendly environment. We must continue to nurture the biomedical innovation that has made the Golden State a life sciences powerhouse.
Sara Radcliffe is president and CEO of the California Life Sciences Association, a non-profit organization representing the state’s leading life-sciences organizations.