Steve Casper LA biotech cluster study featured in Claremont Courier
Foundation Gives $84,000 Toward KGI Study
By Landus Rigsby
Claremont’s Keck Graduate Institute’s latest study involves an examination of Los Angeles from a biotechnical perspective. On June 13, the project received a boost when a Los Angeles-based foundation decided to lend financial support toward the study.
KGI was recently awarded an $84,000 grant from the Haynes Foundation for its latest endeavor titled, "The Marketplace for Ideas: Can Los Angeles Build a Successful Biotechnology Cluster?" that is scheduled to take place over the next 18 months.
“The goal of the project is to look at the issue of biotech clusters in Los Angeles---it’s a hot issue," said Steven Casper, associate professor and director of KGI’s Master of Bioscience program. "There is a marketplace for ideas that has not been developed in Los Angeles. So part of the focus is asking what can we do to grow in L.A.? It’s a good puzzle from an academic standpoint."
Mr. Casper is the leader of the special project that not only will examine Los Angeles but will also use San Diego’s cluster as a comparison model. The associate professor’s previous research includes comparative studies of new technology industries, the emergence of social networks within biotechnology clusters and the development of biomedical science in European countries.
“Professor Casper is a leading expert on biotechnology clusters---what makes them successful and what doesn’t," said Sheldon Schuster, KGI president. "His study will provide valuable information about Los Angeles’ biotech sector, but we also expect his research will suggest ways for the city to promote the expansion of this important facet of its economy."
Established in 1926 by John Randolph Haynes and his wife Dora Fellows Haynes, the Haynes Foundation is the oldest private foundation in the city and is a supporter of social science research for Los Angeles. The foundation awards up to $3 million in grants and scholarships to various institutions annually, in order to encourage research and study of the causes of social problems in Los Angeles.
KGI’s interest in the Los Angeles sector was what caught the attention of the Haynes Foundation, who found KGI’s proposal to be a worthy endeavor to support. The grant also marks the first time that KGI has received such an award from the organization.
“The focus of the foundation is Los Angeles and the areas around L.A.," said William Burke, administrative director of the Haynes Foundation. "On this one, we found it contained very worthwhile subject matter. We also concluded that the topic would benefit from academic exploration."
The historical aspect of the Los Angeles and San Diego biotechnology marketplaces will also be a focal part of the KGI study. With California being a significant hub of the biotech industry in the US and Los Angeles being one of the most recognizable cities in the state, Mr. Casper hopes to uncover why the Los Angeles region has not been more successful in the biotech field.
“Sixty-percent of the nation’s biotech industry is in California, with most of the activity taking place in San Diego," Mr. Casper said. "L.A. doesn’t have lots of companies that have gone from small to bigger like San Diego and San Francisco and we want to find out why. Amgen---near Los Angeles---is one of the biggest international biotech companies but it hasn’t led to a spiraling effect."
From the data gathered throughout the study, KGI will develop policy recommendations for turning Los Angeles into a "marketplace for ideas" and will also look to the city’s university science programs as resources to create a more productive biotechnology cluster. While KGI’s study will look to examine ways to improve Los Angeles, Mr. Casper also noted that the study will be beneficial for KGI as well.
“It’s important to us not to be seen as just a research powerhouse," Mr. Casper explained. "We’re interested in commercializing science."