Initial View of the LA Biology Startup Scene

2 minute read

I’ve been telling people my goal is to start a company at some point during my Ph. D, and since I’m going to be in LA for the foreseeable future, I did some intense DuckDuckGo-ing to examine the state of LA’s biotech scene for startups. LA is big, fancy, dirty, and alive – but I did not expect it to have a strong biology industry. I was wrong, a lot is going on here, and it’s all just beginning. This feels like a time where LA’s biotechnology ecosystem is about to boom.

One of the biggest boons to biotech in LA is the support of LA County. In the last few years, the county has invested resources into incubator spaces, a startup investment fund, a 15-acre “biotech” park, apprenticeship programs, and more. This investment accompanied by the large talent pool being generated by the universities in the LA County suggests an incoming wave of regional innovation in biology and medicine. Partners like the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA are already merging university research and industry, and Amgen has backed the LA Counties effort as a founding sponsor of LABio.

Beyond just this initiative there are pre-existing networks and spaces already in LA. I wanted to highlight a few I came across during my research below.

Incubator Spaces

Wet lab and biological companies require unique environments to grow relative to other industries. In the last few years, several wet lab spaces are opening up that enable companies to do R&D with the proper equipment. Current options include Hatch near the USC Health Science campus and the LA Biospace Incubator in association with Cal State LA. Lab Launch also has lab spaces available in Monrovia and Chatsworth.

Networking Organizations

Biotech Connections LA (BCLA) seems to be one of the most active LA-based groups attempting to encourage networking between those in the local industry. Other groups like Biocom with offices in LA host events routinely as well. One of the big issues with actively networking in LA is that LA is large and congested. BCLA has to split events between UCLA, USC, downtown LA, etc., such that people are still pretty geographically confined.

Some Startups in the Area

Data Found using CrunchBase

Basepaws: Genome sequencing for pets ( currently focused on cats)

  • Raised ~$350k so as of 2017

Aesculatech: Biomedical startup with a medical device to cure dry eye syndrome

  • Raised ~$120k from convertible note round 2019

Neural Analytics: Biomedical company focused on applying data science to brain health

  • Raise over $70 million, currently in Series C as of 2019

Synova Life Sciences: Created a device to non-enzymatically process adipose tissue for clinical use

  • Raising a seed round in 2019, currently over $150k

Many of these companies seem to have some affiliation with UCLA, USC, or CalTech which speaks to the potential for more incoming startups as graduates begin to take advantage of the initiatives taking place in LA County.

Further Reading:

Biotech explodes in LA County, tackling everything from sickle-cell anemia to spider-free silk

LA County Biology Economic Initiative Overview

Amgen backs Los Angeles as new Golden State bio hub