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Strong Social Connections Needed for Biotech to Grow in Los Angeles

CLAREMONT, Calif., Sept. 16 /PRNewswire/ -- Stronger connections among businesses, universities and, most importantly, people are necessary if the biotechnology industry is going to survive and thrive in Los Angeles, according to a new study by Professor Steven Casper at Keck Graduate Institute (KGI).

While Boston, San Diego and San Francisco have thriving biotechnology clusters, regions like Los Angeles, Chicago and New York City have failed despite the presence of strong research universities and the availability of venture capital, two keys factors in the development of biotechnology clusters.

Casper, KGI's Henry E. Riggs Professor of Management and director of the Master of Bioscience program, concluded after an 18-month study that what's missing in those cities is a rich social network connecting scientists, entrepreneurs, managers and venture capitalists who are in the business of starting companies.

"Government can make the marketplace of ideas transparent and open," says Casper. "Local governments can offer tax incentives. But government can't create social networks."

After reviewing data on deal-making, alliances and career moves in his study ("The Marketplace for Ideas: Can Los Angeles Build a Successful Biotechnology Cluster?"), Casper developed three possible scenarios in which biotechnology clusters might take root and grow in Los Angeles:

  • Los Angeles area biotechnology firms could tie into the rich social network within the biomedical device industry that exists in Orange County, similar to what biotechnology industries in San Francisco did with the Silicon Valley's semi-conductor industry.
  • Caltech in Pasadena could serve as a catalyst for the biotechnology industry much like MIT has done in Boston. But while Caltech is the most likely university, it has no business school, there is no medical school in the vicinity and its mission is less entrepreneurial.
  • Los Angeles could take advantage of the biotechnology start-ups that are developing along the Hwy 101 corridor to the north. Amgen, the most successful company in the region with about 8,000 employees, is located in Thousand Oaks. However, Casper found the turnover rate at Amgen is half the industry norm. As a result, the occasional start-up has a hard time attracting talent.

Casper's research was funded by an $84,000 grant from the John Randolph Haynes and Dora Haynes Foundation.


Educating the future leaders of the bioscience industry, Keck Graduate Institute (KGI) offers an interdisciplinary graduate education through its Master of Bioscience (MBS) degree program and its PhD program in Applied Life Sciences. Using team-based learning and real-world projects, KGI's innovative curriculum seamlessly combines applied life sciences, bioengineering, bioethics and business management. KGI also has a robust research program concentrating on the translation of basic discoveries in the life sciences into applications that can benefit society. KGI is a member of The Claremont Colleges, located in Claremont, California.

Keck Graduate Institute of Applied Life Sciences is dedicated to education and research aimed at translating into practice, for the benefit of society, the power and potential of the life sciences.

SOURCE Keck Graduate Institute
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