By BRENT REINKE This area is very fortunate to be home to one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, Amgen. However, despite its presence in Thousand Oaks for over 25 years, we have not witnessed the growth of a life sciences industry in this region spawned by scientists and executives who have previously left Amgen to start their own ventures. There are many opinions and explanations which have been given for the lack of the development of such industry in this area. Yet, rather than focus on why such industry has not previously developed, the more relevant and exciting story is the very unique and real opportunity available to this region to finally change that situation. Through prompt and proper efforts, the misfortune of the recent layoffs at Amgen can be turned into a huge positive for this area to finally create and build a vibrant life sciences industry. Three basic elements are needed to create a successful life science venture: (1) experienced management, (2) funding; and (3) commercializable IP. As a consequence of the Amgen layoffs, a significant pool of very experienced and talented executives and scientists is now available in this area to either start or join new life science ventures. Importantly, many of these individuals and their families have strong ties to this area and are therefore very motivated to remain here. Prominent Bay Area venture capital firms have already expressed their interest in identifying and funding companies which are comprised of management teams and scientists who previously worked at Amgen. Lastly, between the development of new IP by these scientists and accessing the active technology transfer programs available at Cal Tech, UCSB, UCLA, USC and other universities, commercializable IP will be available for these new ventures. Although the executives and scientists interested in starting new ventures may have tremendous industry experience, the task of starting and growing a new venture will involve numerous issues and necessitate skill sets which may be foreign to many of them. Accordingly, of equal importance to having the basic elements for launching and growing a life science venture is the establishment of an “ecosystem” in the region comprised of investors, organizations and professionals experienced in assisting life science ventures. The importance of this ecosystem in providing resources, educational information, advice and networks to these new entrepreneurs cannot be overemphasized and will be a vital component towards fostering and supporting a new life sciences industry. Although aspects of this ecosystem currently exist in the 101 Corridor, significant efforts will need to be made to further organize and develop the ecosystem by bringing together the necessary “players”. Realizing the importance of this ecosystem led to the development last year of The BioTech Forum which provides educational and networking events for executives, scientists, entrepreneurs and investors involved in the life sciences industry. With continued focus and effort, the necessary ecosystem can be developed and will play an integral role in assisting the new ventures which will be started by former Amgen executives and scientists. Our region has been presented with a unique opportunity to turn the misfortunes of the Amgen layoffs into a new regional life sciences industry. However, failing to act quickly on this opportunity will cause many of these former Amgen people to relocate to areas such as Boston, San Francisco and San Diego in order to secure new job opportunities. To lose this exceptional talent pool and the economic benefits which would result from the creation of numerous life science ventures would be incredibly unfortunate. The necessary resources need to be promptly committed to assist in the development of new local ventures which will provide job opportunities, thereby retaining both this invaluable talent pool and the significant potential economic benefits which will be generated from a new regionally based life sciences industry. Brent Reinke is a corporate partner in the Westlake Village office of Musick Peeler & Garrett, co-founder of The Biotech Forum and chairman of the Gold Coast Business Forum.
Turning Misfortune into Opportunity