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LA's Life Sciences Hubs Will Be Spread Out Just Like The City Itself


Los Angeles' life sciences market is never going to be a single centralized hub, and that will be part of its strength.

That's according to panelists at Bisnow's Los Angeles Life Sciences event at the HATCHspaces-developed future home of Armata Pharmaceuticals in Del Rey earlier this month. LA's life sciences ecosystem is shaping up to be decentralized, like the city itself, and that's OK, panelists said.

No one needs to pick a place and say it will be "The Life Science Neighborhood," HATCHspaces co-founder Allan Glass said. Instead, there are now and will continue to be lots of nodes throughout the city and region where the industry thrives. 

“I don’t think anyone sat down in San Diego and said, ‘Hey, we’re going to build a life sciences city.’ It just happened organically,” said David Oh, HOK principal and regional leader of science and technology. Oh is already seeing organic growth in LA and views the gaps between the existing nodes as an opportunity for expansion.

Areas where the life sciences industry is already established and flourishing include El Segundo, Thousand Oaks, Pasadena, Santa Monica and Culver City, according to an October report from Cushman & Wakefield. 

“LA is not San Francisco, Boston or San Diego, but we are already one of the largest life science clusters in terms of economic output, the number of Ph.Ds that graduate from our local universities, the number of startups that come out of Los Angeles universities and grow here,” HatchSpaces co-founder Allan Glass said.

“So really, the opportunity is to look at that existing workforce and try to adapt LA’s real estate landscape to what they need," Glass said.  

The greater Los Angeles area has 8.5M SF of life sciences real estate, far less than top markets like Boston, which has 32.4M SF, or San Diego, with 21.2M SF. But LA does have potential there in the form of a bevy of "aged and obsolete industrial flex and office space [that] provides a hardy supply of renovation opportunities to meet the growing demand," an October report from Cushman found.

Despite LA's growing life sciences ecosystem, it's undeniable that LA loses some companies and workers to the top three life sciences hubs: Boston, San Francisco and San Diego. 

The area is home to top science institutions including California Institute of Technology in Pasadena and the University of California-Los Angeles. Annual degree completions in life sciences fields have grown over the past decade, from about 6,800 in 2010 to more than 14,500 in 2020, according to Cushman. 

One way to stem that flight is to develop leadership talent here, California State University-Los Angeles Director of Incubator Development and Programming Howard Xu said. Xu oversees a program at CalState LA called LA BioStart aimed at giving high-level life sciences talent the business acumen they need to start their own companies.

“The goal is to develop our own C-Suite leaders locally so that the companies they start will stay here,” Xu said.