October 2011

San Diego: a jewel for biomedical innovation

Hill_News_NIH_Tree_disectedThe Public Affairs Advisory Committee often talks about how the work supported by the National Institutes of Health forms a tree that supports branches promoting small business development, American innovation and job creation (see diagram). Crucially, the tree is watered by federal investment in biomedical research, and branches grow and expand only when congressional funding is both constant and plentiful. When ASBMB members descend upon San Diego for the Experimental Biology 2012 meeting, they will be visiting a living example of this illustration.

In the San Diego region, there are three major research institutions located within a mile of each other: the University of California, San Diego, the Scripps Research Institute and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. Together, they receive about $650 million annually from the NIH. With academic research flourishing, the biotechnology industry has quickly followed (see below), resulting in a staggering burst of innovation, investment opportunity and growth. Among the region’s impressive statistics are the following:

  • • More than $1.5 billion in venture capital investment in 169 biopharmaceutical firms since 1995
  • • Ten initial public offerings by biotech companies since 1998
  • • 33 publicly traded biotech companies with an aggregate market capitalization of nearly $25 billion
  • • 31 firms with more than 100 employees
  • • 54 firms belonging to the national Biotechnology Industry Organization

While not every town associated with a biomedical research institute can boast as impressive a résumé as San Diego’s, take a closer look around your own community and you probably will see some branches beginning to sprout.

Hill_News_SanDiego  Hill_News_SanDiego2 

University of California, San Diego

UCSD is in many ways the grandfather of biomedical research in San Diego, having opened its doors in 1960. In the mid-1970s, UCSD professor Ivor Royston started Hybritech, the first biomedical research firm in the San Diego area and one of the first private spinoffs from academic research (something that is now commonplace). Hybritech became an overwhelming success through its development of prostate cancer diagnostic tests and became the model for private-university partnership in the biomedical field. Hybritech alone is responsible for 50 private spinoffs started by its own employees.


Benjamin-CorbBenjamin Corb (bcorb@asbmb.org) is director of public affairs at ASBMB. 

found= true1505