Insights and Opinions

Jumpstarting the Conversation: LA Must Harness Its Life Science Potential

Who would have guessed that Los Angeles’ life science industry was percolating with so much energy?

Well, those of us in the trenches of LA life sciences know. But based on the dearth of news coverage and overall conversation about the area’s many biotech happenings, most people are unaware of the abundance of new healthcare technologies and startup activity happening right around them. Here are some insights gained from the recent First Look LA event, the annual “sneak peek” investor showcase of local startups and spinouts that span the life science spectrum:

  • LA’s mix of tech and life science is just what healthcare needs. Today’s disease targets are complex and need completely new solutions that cross the boundaries of drugs, devices, and technology.

  • Look beyond California to boost investment activity. The Los Angeles region is home to a research base as large as the technology clusters in Boston and Silicon Valley, but without the same density of venture capital firms. Audience discussion with Speaker Christopher Rand, co-founder and partner of TriStar Technology Ventures in Nashville, made it clear that rather than relying solely on the obvious life science VC partners in San Francisco and San Diego, LA entrepreneurs should be looking countrywide. Not every VC requires portfolio companies to be an hour flight or drive away.

  • Solve a problem, connect with others, tell a story.” That was the succinct advice from keynote speaker Lesley Stolz, Ph.D., who orchestrates business collaborations with entrepreneurs through her role as senior director of transactions at Johnson & Johnson’s California Innovation Center, located in Menlo Park.

Events like First Look L.A., held last month at UCLA, are changing that—bringing much-needed investor attention and conversation to the novel life science ideas born right here at the area’s universities and research institutions.

Let’s harness the energy from First Look L.A.’s 2016 event and keep the conversation going. LA’s biotech industry is teeming with potential, and now’s the time to harness it. We can’t let our life science gems slip away to other markets.

Dina Lozofsky is Executive Director, Biocom LA, which participated in the recent First Look LA event, organized by the Los Angeles Venture Association (LAVA), in partnership with Los Angeles-area scientific and biomedical research organizations. First Look L.A. is an annual “sneak peek” investor showcase of local startups and spinouts that span the life science spectrum. Before joining Biocom, Dina was the Associate Director for Licensing and Business Development at UC Santa Barbara’s Office of Technology and Industry Alliances. While at UC Santa Barbara, Dina designed, launched and led a program to mentor and support startup companies formed around UCSB technology. A key outcome of this program was to raise awareness and visibility of the high quality startups being spun out of UCSB. Dina is also a member of the board of the LA Venture Association, an organization focused on education and networking opportunities for Los Angeles start-up, emerging growth and late stage venture-funded company executives.