Los Angeles Biotech Summit

Delivered on February 26, 2015 at the Los Angeles Biotech Summit

Good morning everyone! On behalf of the entire USC community, I am so pleased to welcome you to the Los Angeles Biotech Summit.

Today, through several panels of prestigious researchers and leaders from academia and industry and our community, we will explore the extraordinary possibilities for expanding the development of biotech in our region.

To some, the challenges may seem great. But to many, the prospects for success are far greater. By marshaling the commitment and resources to tap biotech’s vast potential, we can lift human health as never before, and truly transform our communities.

Before I begin, I would like to thank two remarkable Trojans for joining us today: the Honorable Hilda Solis and the Honorable Mark Ridley-Thomas, of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

Supervisor Solis, who represents the First District, has led a life of exceptional service to her country, her state, and her home city of Los Angeles. Her singular commitment to community has elevated the health and job opportunities of countless Californians. We are proud she is representing the area within which USC’s Health Sciences Campus is located.

Representing the Second District, which is home to our University Park Campus, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas has been a tireless champion of healthcare infrastructure for city residents, from clinics to hospitals. In addition, he recognizes the pivotal role of technology in promoting wellness to citizens of all ages.

I would also like to express my appreciation to the Honorable Curren Price and the Honorable José Huizar of the Los Angeles City Council for being here today.   Councilman Price represents our University Park Campus’ 9th District, and Councilman Huizar represents our Health Sciences Campus’ 14th District. Their inspiring leadership is revitalizing our communities.

I would also like to thank Nelson Rising, the chairman and CEO of Rising Realty Partners. A veteran of real estate investment and development, he has advanced a number of distinctive projects—including San Francisco’s Mission Bay—that have redefined how we live and work.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge Elmy Bermejo, the regional representative for U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez.

Today, we gather 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.

And yet, San Francisco is the national leader in biotech investment, attracting $1 billion last year alone. Los Angeles ranks 14th with $45 million, placing us well behind San Diego, which stands at number 3.

What makes this puzzling is that Los Angeles universities produce over 5,000 graduates in the sciences, engineering, and technology—more than San Francisco and San Diego combined. 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 L.A. County. We must make this our moment for the benefit of all county citizens!

We stand at a unique intersection of ambition and opportunity. The visionary leaders of our region recognize the extraordinary windfall that biotech can bring to the city and county, both medically and economically.

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. In fact, a recent study found that for every high-tech job created, four more are added in fields like marketing, accounting, administration, or sales.

In all these efforts, we are fortunate to have the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation as a steadfast partner with a noteworthy track record of creating jobs within L.A. County. Partners like this will be critical to invigorating the local biotech industry.

The expansion of biotech will generate many new jobs within the industry, such as researchers and lab techs. It will also create even more jobs to support the infrastructure surrounding the biotech industry.

One of the best places for a biotech park within this emerging industry is right here in East L.A., at the Health Sciences Campus. The county and city leaders have true partners across the leadership ranks of Keck Medicine of USC, all of whom view the hopes for biotech through the same prism of promise.

As a research university, USC has made significant investments to enhance our medical enterprise. Over the last decade alone, USC has more than doubled its investment in the biomedical sciences. We have also made key purchases of hospitals and clinical practices to expand our footprint in healthcare.

In addition, the university has supportive benefactors who believe in our mission in biotech, such as the renowned inventor, Dr. Gary Michelson. Last year, we broke ground on the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience. When completed, the building will host 20 to 30 teams of gifted scientists who will translate their collaborative research into real-world advances to treat disease and other afflictions.

Capital investments at USC are matched by ones in personnel, not only to ensure excellence in caregiving, but also in research. The university has recruited some of the top minds in medical science, including Drs. Andrew McMahon, Steven Kay, Ray Stevens, and Stephen Gruber.

These researchers, who will be offering their insights in this morning’s first panel, are conducting translational work that is transforming medicine and our understanding of biology. They also have demonstrated records of starting biotech companies.

USC’s aspirations in biotech are further backed by one of the most comprehensive, interdisciplinary research programs in the nation. This program touches on every school at USC, from the medical, dental, and pharmacy schools to the schools of liberal arts, health policy, and social work.

Our dedication to patient care and research also 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. And recently, USC cemented its commitment to research and clinical trials at the hospital by signing a “sponsored programs agreement.”

The university’s special relationship with County/USC is but one example of our support of the community. Dedication to our neighborhoods can also be found at the Keck School of Medicine.

A world leader of preventative medicine, the medical school is home to the Southern California Children’s Environmental Health Center. Its primary mandate for outreach is to protect children’s health through educating local residents and reducing air pollution at all outdoor play spaces.

At USC’s Health Sciences Campus, we also dedicate ourselves to the community by committing ourselves to its future. For instance, through the university’s STAR program, more than 600 local high school students have worked with USC scientists and engineers on consequential research. One hundred percent of the program’s participants have gone on to college, and many will go on to become leaders in the field of biotech.

We believe in the children of our immediate community, and we believe in the prospects of biotech to benefit our entire community. A biotech park adjacent to USC’s Health Sciences Campus would create up to 3,000 new construction jobs and almost 4,000 new permanent jobs.

The city and county can count on many institutions besides USC to participate in this noble cause, including Caltech, East Los Angeles College, Los Angeles Trade Tech, the LAUSD, and Cal State L.A. I should point out that more than 1,000 Cal State L.A. students have come to USC in the last decade to pursue advanced degrees in the sciences, medicine, and occupational and physical therapy.

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.

Thank you, and Fight On!