L.A.‘s newest attraction: A space for biotech startups to launch and grow
(Photo Credit: John Guenther)
California is undergoing an industrial revolution and Los Angeles is lagging far behind it. That's the view of Llewellyn Cox, CEO of Lab Launch. To fight the trend, the nonprofit will soon open LabLaunch-Monrovia, the first in a series of cutting-edge incubator facilities coming to L.A. to host and support biotechnology entrepreneurs at all stages of development.
“Los Angeles produces more bioscience graduates than any other city in the nation,” said Cox. “But when it comes to starting biotech businesses we fall off the cliff because there's no space here offering facilities for them. As soon as entrepreneurs get funding they take their money and leave town for a more supportive environment.”
And when they leave, they usually head straight for San Francisco or San Diego, two cities that offer the kind of support services biotech startups need to successfully launch, survive and thrive.
“They need basics like bio-safety hoods, minus 80-degree freezers that are typically 8-feet tall and weigh half-a-ton," said Cox. "But the most critical element lacking in Los Angeles is high-quality work spaces that are managed and clean.”
After all, scientists starting a new business want to focus on science, not the day-to-day minutia of running an office. “The advantage of shared lab space is that someone else takes care of things like making sure the electricity is paid and making sure hazardous waste is removed on schedule.”
Incorporated just last summer and scheduled to start its lease July 1, LabLaunch-Monrovia will be within 30 minutes of Caltech, USC, and City of Hope medical center, and located near a forthcoming Metro Gold Line station. It will actually go several steps further than its counterparts to the north and south of Los Angeles by setting up payroll services and employee benefits for its startups. “The dirty, little secret,” Cox proudly states, “is that they never have to learn this stuff.”
In fact, Cox recently proved his point after signing his first tenant; a startup that will need a clinical testing license to operate. “They won't have to apply for it because we'll already have it. It covers our entire facility.”
Keeping startups from leaving town isn't the only way Lab Launch's debut is working to boost Los Angeles' regional economy and its entrepreneurs. The company's support programs will include regularly scheduled group meetings featuring a variety of local experts; business owners and professionals who may not yet realize their services are needed.
“For example, we'd love to have someone come in and give a presentation on intellectual property law," said Cox. "It'll be free to our members and whatever seats are remaining will be open to the community for 5 bucks or so. We really want to be a benefit to the larger community.”