Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Board Moves Forward with 'Biotech Incubator'




FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT:  Molina’s office at (213) 974-4111 (office) or (213) 598-5463 (cellular)




Iconic ‘Old General Hospital’ to House Biotech Start-Ups  


LOS ANGELES (April 20, 2010)—Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chair Gloria Molina announced that the county will move forward with plans to build a “biotech incubator” at iconic Old General Hospital in Boyle Heights.

“Each year, the county loses many great biotech entrepreneurs and future businesses because we simply do not have the space, the expertise, or the capacity to nurture and grow these businesses,” Molina said.  “The goal of this incubator pilot will be to prove both demand and opportunity.  If successful, this pilot project could grow into a true biotech hub for Los Angeles County, bringing together great projects from all our academic institutions, creating new jobs, and increasing revenues for county services.”

At today’s Board of Supervisors meeting—and on Molina’s motion—the Board of Supervisors directed the county’s Chief Executive Officer to begin negotiations with Momentum LA (a wholly owned non-profit corporation of Momentum Biosciences, LLC) to produce a dynamic biotechnology environment within the LAC-USC Medical Center and USC Health Sciences campus.  Momentum LA would create a small business incubator pilot program for start-up biotech firms—and, using a ten-year gratis lease, the program would be housed in the Old General Hospital building’s second floor, which totals 113,800 square feet and currently is vacant.

At today’s meeting, the Board of Supervisors also voted to support a separate motion by Molina to move forward with negotiations with the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) to establish a Health Careers Academy on the LAC-USC campus to be built and operated as a campus satellite by the community college district.

“There is no question that there is a need for expanded laboratory classrooms to accommodate the growing interest and need in the health field,” Molina said.  “Currently, there are long waiting lists for students in community colleges who want to take the next steps to improve their lives and to serve our diverse communities with culturally competent services.  As the public’s safety net care provider, we are also interested in ensuring a pipeline of highly trained individuals into all of our hospitals and providing opportunities for our existing staff to enhance their skills.”

LACCD recently contacted with the county to consider establishing a Health Career Academy at the LAC-USC Medical Center.  The community college district has requested use of approximately one acre of vacant land on a long-term gratis basis to develop approximately 40,000 square feet of improvements consisting of classrooms, laboratories, administrative office space, and subterranean parking.  The proposed project—in keeping with the community college district’s “green” sustainable building program—would develop a state-of-the-art facility expected to meet LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards.  Funding for LACCD construction projects has been secured through bond measures that were approved by voters in 2001, 2003, and 2008.

The county operates a health care workforce development program administered by the non-profit Worker Education and Resource Center (WERC).  It is anticipated that WERC would collaborate with LACCD to develop an education program dedicated to assisting county workers for health care professional careers and other challenging endeavors.  The potential implementation of increasing educational opportunities for county workers and community residents is the primary goal of this collaboration.   

            Over the last decade the biotechnology sector has grown dramatically.  Biotechnology companies have created more than 200 new therapies and vaccines—including products to treat cancer, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, and autoimmune disorders.  The Los Angeles region has all the necessary elements to sustain local growth in the biotech industry including a high concentration of research facilities; existing support structure; public and private financial resources; and a large, qualified employment base.  A 2007 study by Battelle Technology and the Association of University Research Parks found that every job in a university-linked incubator generates approximately three jobs in the economy and that less than ten percent of the incubator graduates leave the region.



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