create / 2014

Lets Build a Life Science Incubator in Los Angeles!

Lets Build a Life Science Incubator in Los Angeles!

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by Lab Launch

We will establish a Life Science Incubator and coworking facility that will support the next generation of biotech startups in LA


Please describe yourself.

Solo actor (just us on this project!)

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.

We will establish a Life Science Incubator and coworking facility that will support the next generation of biotech startups in LA

Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?

  • Central LA
  • East LA
  • South LA
  • San Gabriel Valley
  • San Fernando Valley
  • South Bay
  • Westside

What is your idea/project in more detail?

Our goal is to create a business incubator for life science-themed startups. We plan to create a co-working space that provides affordable research space, offices, and business support to the scientist entrepreneurs of LA.

With support from LA2050, we will create and grow a startup incubator that is tailored to the specific needs of the Life Science industry. This facility will offer affordable, high-quality lab space for research, as well as traditional Office-and-Internet business incubation space. We also aim to provide technical and financial support to biotech startups to ensure that they remain in Los Angeles to create jobs and grow our local high-tech economy.

What will you do to implement this idea/project?

We will gradually build out our support for LA area biotech startups as we progress along a five-year development plan. Initial work will focus on identifying a site, opening coworking office and laboratory space, and leveraging further support to reach our goals from philanthropy, investments, and professional services. As this project develops and grows the number and diversity of tenant companies, we plan to develop more hands-on support to new Life Tech businesses in the form of business acceleration and investment opportunities through our partners.

With support from LA2050, our outline plan to create and grow LA’s first early-stage Life Science incubator is as follows:

Stage 1 (Year 1) – We will identify locations for the incubator facility, and begin working with developers on a plan for the coworking space. At first, we will concentrate on opening office-style incubation space that can be ready to rent within one year of initial funding. This will allow us to welcome our first batch of startups from Digital Health and other virtual biotech spaces. Following office space, we will prioritize making shared meeting space available for local science education, citizen science groups, biotech investor networking, and other community-building purposes for the Life Science industry.

Stage 2 (Years 2-3) – Once office and meeting space is operational and generating facility income through tenancy, we will focus on opening “wet lab” research space (8,000-10,000 square feet), allowing the first biological research-intensive tenants to start up in the incubator. In addition to shared equipment and space, the incubator facility will provide services such as group purchasing, warehousing, and storage, to support the tenant companies and allow them to minimize their costs during their early-stage growth. We will also work with our partners, local business professionals, and investors to create a business accelerator program that will provide investment and support for new high-growth Life Science businesses in LA.

Stage 3 (Years 3-5) – Once the incubator is fully operational with tenant companies, we will focus on growing the base of tenant companies with a goal of expanding operations to a permanent facility (40,000+ square feet) this is designed specifically to house a growing number of startup businesses, provide quality training and education space, and a hub for investment and business startup activity for Life Sciences in Los Angeles.

How will your idea/project help make LA the best place to CREATE today? In 2050?

Life Science technologies are predicted to be among the leading growth industries of the 21st Century. Innovations in healthcare are leading the way to future generations of drugs and health products that will treat illnesses earlier and more effectively, prolonging and increasing the quality of human health. From healthcare to biofuels, to biosynthetic materials, to providing affordable and nutritious food, to creating sustainable habitats for space colonization, the life sciences are central to the opportunities of the coming decades.

Los Angeles is home to several world-class research universities, and thousands of talented young scientists. The Los Angeles metropolitan area is consistently among the top 5 employers in all categories of the Life Sciences nationwide. However, there is no entry-level business incubation space for biotech startups, and the few facilities that exist for more mature, growth-stage companies are consistently at or near full capacity. As a result, many scientists and inventors from Los Angeles are moving to other areas that are perceived as more supportive, such as San Francisco and San Diego, to start their biotech businesses.

Creating an open, affordable space in Los Angeles for Life Science startups, along with business support and access to investors and advisers, is essential to stop and reverse this trend. Our facility will allow research discoveries from Los Angeles’ universities to stay in LA, grow into successful businesses, employ staff from the LA area, and lay down a strong foundation for the economy of the 21st Century.

By 2050, some of the early startups that were supported by our incubator will have grown into large, successful businesses, employing thousands of people across Los Angeles. The Founders of these successful companies will become the next generation of investors, as they use the profits from their success to invest capital into the next generation of innovation. Through this community of innovators in Life Sciences, we will be able to anchor a self-sustaining cycle of success and innovation in biotechnology, here in Los Angeles.

Whom will your project benefit?

Our focus for this project is creating startups in an industry that is currently dramatically underrepresented in Los Angeles. Several groups are therefore likely to benefit from the creation of this incubator facility and its support for Life Science startups:

Students and Faculty from Los Angeles Universities – The most direct and immediate benefit will be to the scientists and trainees of our area’s many institutions of higher learning. Innovators from our local universities and colleges will be able to access facilities and support to create businesses from their technologies, without leaving the area. Our open meeting space will allow for better networking with other scientists from across LA, as well as investors, business partners, and grantmakers.

Citizen Scientists and Inventors – This project will allow people from across the LA area to access scientific expertise, technical advice, and professional networks to assist them in developing their ideas into practical technologies. As a central location for the life sciences in LA, individuals with limited knowledge of the industry will have access to collaborations and partnership with seasoned professionals and experts under the same roof.

Life Science Industries in Los Angeles – Development of a more vibrant and productive biotech startup environment in Los Angeles would diminish the attraction of rival cities for LA’s startups. As a result, the industry as a whole would benefit in LA, with more jobs being created locally by the startup businesses, providing a broader and deeper pool of professional opportunities for biotech professionals in our area.

Communities of Los Angeles – Our goal is to create an incubator that will allow a large number of biotech startups to be successful and grow locally. As these companies grow, they will need staff – a key feature of biotech is that it requires technical precision and adherence to strict safety protocols. In other words - biotech needs skilled labor: investment in the life sciences will create well-paying, professional jobs that will help reinvigorate our middle class.

K-12 Students – By creating an innovation hub for life sciences in LA, we also provide a central repository of local expertise for our industry. Meeting space(s) will be available for teaching, training, and other educational activities. Our coworking space will enable high-achieving students to safely perform research projects that school facilities cannot support.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

The following groups/businesses are confirmed as partners in this project, and have committed to provide advice and support for our efforts as follows:

Southern California Biomedical Council (SoCalBio) – The trade association for life sciences in Southern California will provide access to investors and professional services for the startups launched through our incubator. Their regular investors’ events will provide a venue for our tenant companies to pitch their businesses and raise capital, as well as network with other industry professionals. The development of an incubator with coworking and open meeting space will provide groups such as SoCalBio dedicated biotech-themed space to hold meetings and events for industry and investors.

LA Biohackers – This citizen science group maintains a small shared laboratory space in downtown LA for small-scale experiments and group projects. The creation of a permanent biotech startup incubator would provide space for growth of their technologies and discoveries, as well as a venue for them to develop public open-access classes in biotechnology – an activity that they are currently unable to perform due to space constraints in their current location. Our partnership with the LA Biohackers will provide community outreach and independent development of public-centered education programs, while providing independent innovators with a permanent home in Los Angeles to grow their technologies into sustainable businesses.

Pasadena Bioscience Collaborative – This life science incubator in Pasadena currently supports 18 companies across three separate locations. The PBC will offer us experienced advice about running a life science incubator, and access to an existing base of investors and supporters of the Life Sciences industry from the San Gabriel Valley. Our collaboration will be mutually beneficial by expanding available space for startups, providing a link between the LA Basin and San Gabriel Valley biotech communities, and enhancing access between innovators and investors across the LA region.

X-PRIZE Foundation – the Sr. Director of Life Science competitions for the X-PRIZE Foundation is a co-founder of this project. Our partnership will create access to publicity and competition opportunities for LA biotech startups and innovators, and our coworking space and incubator facility will form a central role in the area’s responses to new X-Prize challenges in the Life Sciences.

How will your project impact the LA2050 “Create” metrics?

  • Concentration of manufacturing activity in LA
  • Federal research grant funding
  • Patents per capita
  • Jobs per capita
  • Number of high-growth startups
  • Venture capital investment
  • Measures of cultural and global economic influence (“soft power”) (Dream Metric)
  • Recruiting and retention rates at local higher education institutions (Dream Metric)
  • Percentage of graduates from local higher education institutions that remain in LA County 5 years after graduating (Dream Metric)

Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.

“Number of High-Growth Startups” – Our main focus is to create high-growth startups. The life science industry is one of the fastest-growing and most innovative industries of the 21st Century. We aim to make Los Angeles the center of this growth.

“Jobs per Capita” – In addition to jobs created directly by our incubator facility, our startup tenants, and businesses graduating from the incubator will need to hire staff from the Los Angeles area as they expand and grow.

“Patents per Capita” – By providing a venue for life science startups to incubate and grow locally, more discoveries, patents and other intellectual property assets will be created, and remain in the LA area.

“Venture Capital Investment” – A key long-term goal for our facility is to host an investment group, or an acceleration fund, to support and develop our tenant companies. The attractiveness of a biotech industry-focused facility and its resident community of innovative life scientists will create new opportunities for Venture Capital to invest in LA-based biotech startups and people.

“Federal Research Grant Funding” – Our facility will provide the support and shared equipment necessary to allow startups to apply for Federal R&D Awards, such as SBIR/STTR small business grants from the National Institutes of Health.

“Concentration of Manufacturing Activity in LA” – As life science startups become established in our incubator, they will need to hire staff and build manufacturing facilities to actually make their products. By keeping these young companies in the LA region during their incubation phase, they are far more likely to stay in the area as they grow and expand.

“Recruiting and Retention Rates at Local Higher Ed.” – Students increasingly look at institutions of higher education with an eye on opportunities to start their own company post-graduation. The presence of a supportive incubator facility and community of scientist-innovators will be a powerful new draw to students for our local Universities.

“Percentage of Grads from Local Higher Ed. Remaining in LA 5Yrs Post-Grad.” – By building a life science incubator in LA, we will allow entrepreneurial life scientists to found their startups here in LA, rather than move to San Francisco/San Diego, where there are already such facilities to support their businesses. This incubator will allow LA to retain more of its best students in the life science after graduation at local institutions.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project.

Our mission is focused on creating an environment that will foster the creation of high-growth startup businesses. Our metrics of success will therefore be focused both on the success of the incubator facility itself, and on the success of the incubator’s startup tenants.

Specifically, we aim to collect and measure the following metrics to evaluate our success:

1) Number of Startups launched. 2) Number of LA area jobs created by a) our facility b) our tenant startups 3) Total Private Investment in a) our facility b) our tenant startups 4) Total Public Funding (i.e. State/Federal Research Grants) in a) our facility b) our tenant startups 5) Public valuation of companies that have graduated from our incubator

What two lessons have informed your solution or project?

The first lesson that led us to this project is data from the Life Sciences industry itself: Los Angeles is one of the top 5 cities in the USA by employment for the life science industry, but lags well behind other cities that have smaller biotech footprints, including San Francisco, San Diego, and Boston, in terms of entrepreneurial activity. The reason for this is that, although these other cities have smaller overall biotech workforces, they have both facilities to incubate early-stage startup businesses, and an activist investor community in the life sciences – made up primarily of individuals who were once themselves startup entrepreneurs in those cities.

We learned that if Los Angeles is to lead the world in biotech, then we need to create a supportive community for life science entrepreneurs here in LA.

The second factor that has guided us is the trend of urban development in Los Angeles. Collaboration is key to innovation, but due to its sprawling nature, Los Angeles has historically suffered from a lack of interaction between its institutions of higher education and research. We view the development of rapid transit across LA as a game-changer in this regard; the growing light rail system will soon connect the major research universities and research institutions in Pasadena/SGV (CalTech, City of Hope), East LA (CSULA, USC-HSC), Downtown (USC), the Westside (UCLA), and South Bay (UCLA-Harbor, CSULB). As this system develops, it creates opportunities for easier access to facilities and people in these centers for collaborators from across LA. We envision that a coworking incubator space in the general area of downtown LA will serve as a hub to link together all of the LA centers of excellence, and drive collaborative innovation across the region.

Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.

With support from LA2050, we will have sufficient startup capital to begin moving forward on this project. We will be able to employ an initial staff to begin the first stage of our project plan. The specific goals for this one-year initial program are:

1) Identify and rent a temporary coworking office space for “digital health” and other “virtual biotech” tenants to establish incubator activity, and begin assisting startups in this space. 2) Identify a site for a permanent incubator facility with research labs. Partner with developers & investors to begin the process of planning renovation & construction. 3) Bring together a network of investors & advisers that will commit to supporting the incubator and its tenant startups going forward. Work with partners to establish an investment fund or angel group that will be available to provide intimate business growth support (i.e. an accelerator program) and investment to the biotech startups in our incubator.

With $100,000 in startup funding from the LA2050 competition, we believe that these aims are very achievable for our project. A key focus for our team will be to build on this award by reaching out to the broader philanthropic community, industry partners, and State/Federal grant agencies for further funding. With a professional staff and publicity created by the LA2050 competition, we believe that we can leverage a substantial amount of funding that will be necessary to drive this project to full completion.

Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?

A common concern to all business incubators is how the incubator itself can be self-sustaining, while offering high-level service to its tenants. Businesses that have been successful in this space share two key characteristics: they have support from the local community, and strong links to active and involved investors.

We plan to work with a broad network of advisors from both public and private sectors, local investment groups and institutes of higher learning. We intend to provide high-quality support to life science startups in LA, wherever they come from, and whatever their path to the market. Therefore, we will work with our partners across the region to identify opportunities for the development of our companies, while being mindful of the differing needs of the various communities we will serve.

By developing an investor-led accelerator program, and/or seed fund as the final stage of our multi-year strategy, we intend to create a long-term, sustainable endeavor through equity investments in our most promising startups. Income generated through these investments will form the basis of long-term sustainability for our activities in Life Science incubation.

What resources does your project need?

  • Money (financial capital)
  • Publicity/awareness (social capital)
  • Infrastructure (building/space/vehicles, etc.)
  • Community outreach