Eastern L.A. Biotech Park Could Create ‘Explosion of Employment’

June 15, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

The competition for biotech investment is escalating, and President C. L. Max Nikias wants to make sure Los Angeles emerges a winner.

“Los Angeles finds itself falling behind in the race for the future of this increasingly important industry,” Nikias said at an event that brought together community, business and university leaders.

The president envisions a Biotechnology Park in eastern Los Angeles, at the USC Health Sciences Campus. The development could provide thousands of construction and biotech jobs.

“We will see an explosion of employment in many areas, and we will watch this community emerge as an attractive area for large companies and small business start-ups, all searching for new employees to help them grow and expand,” the president said.

Nikias emphasized the Los Angeles basin’s biotech assets, including USC hospitals, research institutions and more than 5,000 university graduates in biotechnology-related fields each year.

USC President C. L. Max Nikias calls for swift action as biotech race intensifies.

USC President C. L. Max Nikias calls for swift action as biotech race intensifies.

“Now we see an unparalleled opportunity to keep this intellectual capital right here in our region,” Nikias said.

Jobs, education and health

The event at the Eli and Edythe Broad CIRM Center for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research focused on the educational, employment, health and business benefits of a Biotech Park.

Speakers included Vice President Tom Sayles of University Relations, Vice President Earl Paysinger of USC Civic Engagement and Keck School of Medicine Dean Rohit Varma.

“Building this biotech part adjacent to our campus is an exciting opportunity,” Varma said. “We have an entire population around us that is ethnically diverse, and we have a deep history of educating and fostering physicians who look for ways to bring science from the bench to the bedside and the community.”


Multi-level opportunities

According to a recent Biocom report, biotechnology creates $317 billion in annual economic activity in California. Los Angeles captures about 13 percent of that, according to Biocom, which attributes more than a million high-paying California jobs to biotech. It’s estimated that each research job in biotech creates four jobs in support roles.

Seddie McKenzie is a manufacturing technician at Grifols Biologicals, an El Sereno company that partners with USC in expanding biotech opportunities. McKenzie began her biotech career after earning a certificate in biotechnology at Los Angeles Valley College.

“There are multiple people I work with now who went through the same steps I did, they started at Grifols with a certificate as well.” McKenzie said, after leading an informational session on employment and training opportunities in biotechnology.

McKenzie just earned a bachelor’s degree and will pursue a graduate degree next, on a biotech career and education pathway she believes is open to all.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for people to get some work experience and decide what they want to do with their lives,” she said. “If they decide ‘I do love this, I do want to create a career with this industry,’ it can be a stepping stone.”


Explore How You Can Succeed in Biotech Future at Local Summit

September 29, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

The Biotech industry is not limited to some “crazy scientist locked up in a room or lab,” says Martha Escutia, vice president of government relations at the University of Southern California.

There is a wide range of career options and job opportunities in the field, and USC wants to inspire Latino parents and students to begin exploring them, says Escutia, a native of East Los Angeles and former state senator.

On Saturday, in partnership with the Los Angeles Community Colleges, USC is hosting “Preparing for the Biotech Decade.” a bilingual summit aimed at demystifying STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and the Biotech/Bio-Med fields.

These fields offer good paying jobs in a lot of different areas, from lab technicians to marketing and communications, logistics and administrative positions, points out Escutia, noting that the USC Health Science Campus in Lincoln Heights is helping to fuel development of a strong bio-med corridor in L.A. County.

It’s important that Latino students and their parents in the city and county’s Eastside begin to think about these careers so they can start planning early, Escutia told EGP, adding that there will also be information available to adults looking to make a career change.

Student wears protective eye ware while conducting an experiment at Bravo Magnet High School. (Photo by Gus Ruelas/USC)

Student wears protective eye ware while conducting an experiment at Bravo Magnet High School. (Photo by Gus Ruelas/USC)

Saturday’s summit will be held at East LA College from 8:30 a.m. to 12 noon and will include panel discussions and workshops with a variety of experts in the fields. There will also be a resource fair where people can get information on job openings, college requirements and programs, high school classes as well as re-training opportunities for adults. All of the events are free and open to the public and will be available in both English and Spanish.

If you ever dreamed of meeting a real life astronaut, this is your chance. Former astronaut, Lieutenant Colonel, USMC Ret. Carlos I. Noriega is one of two special guest speakers Saturday, the other is Dr. Dian Ramos, LA County’s Medical Director for Reproductive Medicine.

Noriega will discuss the road that led him to eventually logging more than 481 hours in space, including over 19 EVA hours in three spacewalks.

Ivan Alberto Trujillo-Priego is a PhD candidate attending USC and will be one of the panelists speaking Saturday. He told EGP he hopes his story inspires and motivates students to follow in his path.

“I don’t know why, but there is something that stops us as Latinos from getting into the science field, maybe because of the lack of resources or due to the lower incomes,” he said. “Biotechnology or science, for that matter, is not for an elite group, and not something alien. We do have the potential and the same capabilities that everyone else has to do it,” he said, referring to the lower number of Latinos in the field.

While he was born and raised in Mexico, in some ways Trujillo-Priego has benefited from the same opportunities available to his higher income non-Latino counterparts in the U.S. He comes from a family of engineers and attended private schools, and his interest in the sciences was encouraged from an early age.

Math was intuitive to him, he says, but adds he still had to work hard to qualify for the internship program at USC, which presented its own challenges due to his limited ability with the English language.

Yet, he was undeterred.

“People from Mexico are sometimes afraid to come to the US to study because we think we won’t be good enough. However, once I came here I realized that I was very well prepared and sometimes at a higher level than the other students born here,” he said.

Trujillo-Priego told EGP he wants to disprove the myths that Latinos are not cut out to be scientists. As an international student, who struggled with language barriers, he hopes to further his research on infant development, helping those suffering from motor disorders.

Even if students don’t have access to laboratories at home, as he did growing up, Trujillo-Priego says students have other resources available and he suggested they download apps – that are often free – on their smart phones, or check out videos online to strengthen their skills. He also encourages high school students or undecided undergrads to become research volunteers at collage laboratories like those at USC. Lastly, he urges families to attend the free community events in their neighborhoods to learn not only about opportunities in science but in other fields as well.

“[Parents], try to give information to your children, push them but don’t do it too much so they don’t feel obligated. Encourage them because sometimes you just need a little push to know what is possible,” Trujillo-Priego said.

It’s a view echoed in part by Escutia, who said parents’ shouldn’t be afraid that something may be too hard for their child. “We need to raise expectations,”” she said. “We can’t be afraid to encourage them to take the tougher path, to work hard, to take more challenging classes,” she told EGP, adding that parents’ need to understand that the work they put in today will pay off in the future.

“These are the jobs of the future, we have to be ready for them.”

To learn more about the summit, go online to http://biotech.usc.edu/biotechdecade/


Solis Touts CSULA, Eastside As Biotech Opportunities

July 9, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Los Angeles lags far behind big California cities like San Francisco and San Diego when it comes to attracting biotechnology and science industries to the region, but on Wednesday, L.A. County Sup. Hilda Solis was at Cal State L.A. singing the praises of the campus and the greater East Los Angeles area as viable investment opportunities for the full spectrum of bio-related industries.

Joining Solis at Cal State L.A. was U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Jay Williams, who like Solis is a proponent of leveraging the bioscience industry to promote economic development.

According to Solis’ office, the two discussed the possibility of a future biotech corridor that would stretch from Cal State L.A. to the Los Angeles County+USC medical center in Boyle Heights, an area represented by the supervisor and former labor secretary.

Los Angeles County Sup. Hilda Solis (pictured in red) toured the Cal State LA campus Wednesday along with U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Develoment Jay Wiliams, (center).  (EGP Photo by Eddie Ruvalcaba)

Los Angeles County Sup. Hilda Solis (pictured in red) toured the Cal State LA campus Wednesday along with U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Develoment Jay Wiliams, (center). (EGP Photo by Eddie Ruvalcaba)

The biotech corridor would bring thousands of jobs to East Los Angeles, as well as promote cutting-edge research, the supervisor’s office said in an email.

“As former U.S. Secretary of Labor, I am committed to job creation and the biotech corridor is part of that vision,” said Solis, whose Supervisorial First District stands to gain from new jobs that will come as a result of this project.

Williams and Solis were given a tour of Cal State’s laboratories by President William A. Covino who talked about the University’s successful efforts to prepare students to excel in Ph.D. programs in STEM-related disciplines. They met students who are conducting research under the direction of professors Howard Xu and Cecilia Zurita Lopez.

Breana Luna, who is pursuing a master’s degree in biology, talked about Cal State L.A.’s role in fueling her interest in science.

“I’m sure your family is proud of you. Congratulations,” Williams told Luna.

Solis pointed out that Cal State L.A. plays an important role in training future researchers who will help the bioscience industry thrive in the area.

The university is at the center of the regional effort to expand bioscience businesses in the LA region and is in the process of building a bioscience incubator on its campus being paid for in part with a $3 million grant from the county.

According to Cal State, the incubator will provide laboratory space to private startup ventures to fuel their growth.The university said faculty and students will collaborate with the companies to share expertise that will benefit the university and the private sector community.

Cal State L.A. has applied for a $3 million grant from the Economic Development Administration of the U.S. Dept. of Commerce, the agency headed by Williams. The federal grant would be used to construct a new building for the incubator on the 175-acre campus.

To date, local companies have pledged to hire 300 new workers once the incubator is built. The university anticipates construction will be completed by the end of 2016.

“Employment in the field of biotechnology is important. These specialize jobs represent our future economy,” said Solis. “We need to prepare our young students so that they can seamlessly take on these research jobs.

“But, this biotech corridor will also bring construction jobs to East Los Angeles, and it will provide entrepreneurial opportunities for small businesses in the area.”

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