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Wednesday, Jun 7, 2023

Gold Coast BioCenter Could Be Active by Summer

Just a few years ago, Brent Reinke would have found it hard to believe that venture capitalists would fund life science enterprises in the Conejo Valley. “I would have told you it was extremely difficult. If you want investment, move to the Bay Area or San Diego,” said Reinke, a corporate law partner with Musick Peeler & Garrett and cofounder of the BioTech Forum and Gold Coast BioCenter. The BioTech Forum was started to facilitate the development of a life science cluster along the 101 Corridor by providing educational and networking events for those involved in the field. Reinke’s involvement in the forum led him to consider how a “bioaccelerator” such as the Gold Coast BioCenter could attract new life science companies to the area and develop existing ones. Reinke leads the effort to build the Gold Coast BioCenter with Wayne Davey of Abraxis BioScience. Davey and Reinke’s efforts have solidified in part due to Thousand Oaks bioengineering firm Amgen making cuts to its workforce in 2007. Many of the scientists affected by the layoffs have chosen to stay in the area instead of relocate. As a result, venture capitalists are willing to invest in local biotech startups, according to Reinke. “What we’ve seen lately is definitely a change in the mindset,” he said. “You’re seeing a definite interest in this area, a tremendous amount of intellectual talent already exists here, very bright and experienced executives that have come out of Amgen.” Negotiations are still taking place on the definitive lease for the 19,000-square-foot Agoura Hills facility where the BioCenter plans to make its home, but Reinke said that there will be a four- or five-year lease on the building, which he hopes is up and running by late summer. Reinke acknowledged, however, that the economic downturn makes this goal harder to accomplish. “We’ve had challenges in the current market environment with the tight credit market,” Reinke said. But, he added, “We’ve got a landlord who is very supportive and sees the vision for developing a life science cluster.” Realty Bancorp Equities is the landlord. The company owns shopping centers, office centers and industrial buildings. Doug Jacobsen, a Realty principal, told the Business Journal last year that he is excited to be involved with something as innovative as a life science center. “We’re not looking for more of the same. We really want to do something different, and we’re feeling the time is now.” Once the project is complete, a facilities person, executive director and administrative executive will be hired by the BioCenter to run the daily operations of the facility. An advisory board of life science industry veterans will also be formed. At present, marketing materials are being put together to spread the word about the facility, according to Reinke. Those interested in locating their firms in the center may take on leases as short as six months and as long as a few years or more. Features of the “bioaccelerator” include wet lab space, office space and conference rooms as well as a variety of resources for tenants, such as accounting services and contract research. The services available for new biotech companies played a big role at the BioTech Forum’s Jan. 15 meeting. Forum participants were given information about regional resources for biotech startups, including industry contacts. Exhibitors also presented potentially cost saving products and services to attendees. In the same vein, contract resource organizations (CROs) discussed how companies can reduce their costs by outsourcing their pharmaceutical research projects. Meanwhile, information was provided about organizations that provide information about funding sources from county, state and federal agencies, including National Institutes of Health and Small Business Innovation Research grants. There was even material for those seeking to be employed in the biotech industry rather than launch their own startup companies. All in all, Reinke has high hopes for the launch of the Gold Coast BioCenter. “We’re pretty confident that something will come together, and we’re definitely pursuing it to make it happen,” he said. The next BioTech Forum is scheduled for April 30.

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