Biotech explodes in LA County, tackling everything from sickle-cell anemia to spider-free silk

Biotech companies across Los Angeles County are unlocking new solutions for a host of as-yet-untreatable ailments, from sickle-cell anemia and rheumatoid arthritis to all varieties of cancers.

But, in response to consumer demands for sustainable, environmentally friendly products, they’re also developing lab-grown meat replacements, chemicals that don’t rely on petroleum to make plastic and alternatives to animal-derived textiles.

And money is rolling in from the new multibillion-dollar, highly targeted commercial markets, inspiring partnerships among researchers of all disciplines, community advocates and investors.

Scientists are no longer fleeing the county en masse for greener pastures in San Diego, San Francisco or other regions that have long catered to modern medicine and biotech development.

And venture capitalists are increasingly looking to Los Angeles County to invest in the creation of new medical treatments and technologies informed by life sciences. These promise to deliver individualized health care with new, personalized market approaches.

Among the examples:

• In El Segundo, biopharmaceutical developers Kite Pharma and Patrick Soon-Shiong’s Nantworks are working on highly anticipated cancer treatments that don’t sicken patients.

• Monrovia-based Xencor, a 20-year-old company that began as a startup by a Caltech graduate who had a new idea to manipulate immune cells to protect against all kinds of illnesses, is now worth about $1 billion.

• LA BioMed near Carson recently began aggressively working to commercialize its most promising research discoveries for the first time in its 65-year history. The biomedical research institute partnered with Larta Institute to develop a crop of commercial biotech startups. Basepaws, a company that analyzes cat DNA and provides detailed ancestry information, already has moved into a lab there.

• A group of USC engineers, scientists and biomedical…

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