Can LA County Get Local Biotech Startups to Stick Around?

Rachel Uranga

Rachel Uranga is dot.LA's Managing Editor, News. She is a former Mexico-based market correspondent at Reuters and has worked for several Southern California news outlets, including the Los Angeles Business Journal and the Los Angeles Daily News. She has covered everything from IPOs to immigration. Uranga is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism and California State University Northridge. A Los Angeles native, she lives with her husband, son and their felines.

Can LA County Get Local Biotech Startups to Stick Around?

Los Angeles County wants to be a biotech powerhouse.

Last week it committed a $15 million matching fund loan to MarsBio, a venture fund that will invest in bioscience startups.

"It's a big signal to the community that L.A. values innovation here," said Llewellyn Cox, general partner at MarsBioVC. "This is a different way of doing economic development. It's much more cost effective, making surgical efforts to spur industry,"

The funds are part of a wider strategy by the county to invest in the sector with the aim of creating more jobs.

Next year, the 20,000 square foot LABioSpace is set to open. Funded through the county, federal funds and private donation the incubator will house lab space dedicated to bioscience research and collaboration and is designed to house up to 25 companies. And another "innovation hub" backed by the county and private funds called BioScienceLA is expected to open next year in Culver City.

Although biotech generates billions of dollars for the region, it's taken a backseat to Hollywood. Yet, their ambitions are soaring and include curing cancer, treating coronavirus and ending debilitating diseases.

Dave Whelan, executive director of the nonprofit BioScienceLA that aims to foster the next generation of startups, said he hopes it will inspire other entities to invest.

"This is a long in the works, overdue show of broad support from the public sector to invest in early stage startups," he said.

Cox said the county's efforts were part of the reason MarsBio was born. A few years ago, when the county released a request for a bid, he was working on creating more lab space for entrepreneurs and was struck by the dearth of resources for biotech startups.

"It struck me that every corner you turn, the advice was go to San Francisco," he said. "It drove me mad. There is no reason the county on the scale of Los Angeles should ever have to outsource talent."

But they were. He recalls attending a conference several years ago when then USC's president Max Nikias bragged about 25 new biotech companies created at the school. The only problem was that none of them stayed in Los Angeles.

Losing those company meant losing billions of dollars and talent. But there's also signs that a new generation will stay.

L.A. researchers attracted $1 billion in research funds from the National Institute of Health last year, more than any county in California, according to Biocom, an industry research group. The year before, a former Amgen executive and Kleiner Perkins partner launched Westlake Village BioPartners, a new venture firm with a $320 million fund focused on investing in life sciences.

"This investment fund is part of our deliberate strategy to grow the L.A. County bioscience eco-system of start-ups and tech entrepreneurs so that we're at the forefront of job growth and innovation," said Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

"As the home to a number of world-class universities, and one of the most diverse and talented populations in the world, bioscience is a critical component of Los Angeles County's future. We expect it to outpace all other sectors even during this current crisis as it did during the Great Recession," he added.

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Henrik Fisker Says Tesla Price Cuts Haven’t Fazed Ocean Rollout

David Shultz

David Shultz reports on clean technology and electric vehicles, among other industries, for dot.LA. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Outside, Nautilus and many other publications.

A Fisker electric vehicle.​
Courtesy of Fisker

Last week in the dot.LA newsletter I wrote about Tesla’s decision to slash prices by as much as 20% on their vehicles and how the decision might impact Southern California’s EV startups. I called the price cuts a “tough pill to swallow” for Fisker in particular since they would make many of Tesla’s price points more competitive with Fisker’s first production model, The Ocean.

The Ocean is currently undergoing homologation, but Henrik Fisker, the company’s CEO, confirmed to dot.LA that the company hopes the process to be completed at the end of February. From there, it could take several weeks to ship the SUVs from Austria to the United States.

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Spencer Rascoff

Spencer Rascoff serves as executive chairman of dot.LA. He is an entrepreneur and company leader who co-founded Zillow, Hotwire, dot.LA, Pacaso and Supernova, and who served as Zillow's CEO for a decade. During Spencer's time as CEO, Zillow won dozens of "best places to work" awards as it grew to over 4,500 employees, $3 billion in revenue, and $10 billion in market capitalization. Prior to Zillow, Spencer co-founded and was VP Corporate Development of Hotwire, which was sold to Expedia for $685 million in 2003. Through his startup studio and venture capital firm, 75 & Sunny, Spencer is an active angel investor in over 100 companies and is incubating several more.

​Diankha Linear
Diankha Linear

On this episode of Office Hours, Community CEO Diankha Linear joins host Spencer Rascoff to discuss her foray into the startup world and the strategic approaching to scaling up.

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Decerry Donato

Decerry Donato is a reporter at dot.LA. Prior to that, she was an editorial fellow at the company. Decerry received her bachelor's degree in literary journalism from the University of California, Irvine. She continues to write stories to inform the community about issues or events that take place in the L.A. area. On the weekends, she can be found hiking in the Angeles National forest or sifting through racks at your local thrift store.

LA Tech ‘Moves’: Dreamscape, LinQuest and PetDX Gain New CEOs

“Moves,” our roundup of job changes in L.A. tech, is presented by Interchange.LA, dot.LA's recruiting and career platform connecting Southern California's most exciting companies with top tech talent. Create a free Interchange.LA profile here—and if you're looking for ways to supercharge your recruiting efforts, find out more about Interchange.LA's white-glove recruiting service by emailing Sharmineh O’Farrill Lewis ( Please send job changes and personnel moves to


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