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BROADS GIVE MILLIONS FOR BIOTECH HUB.

Byline: Naush Boghossian Staff Writer

With a vision of creating a biotech hub in Los Angeles, billionaire philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad announced Thursday that they are donating $25 million toward a stem-cell research center at the University of Southern California that one day could add 25,000 jobs to the region.

The $150 million Broad Institute for Integrative Biology and Stem Cell Research at USC's Keck School of Medicine is seen as a potential leader in the developing field, as well as an economic engine for Southern California.

``Unfortunately, we've lost too many scientists to other countries,'' Eli Broad said at a news conference to announce the donation. ``We've got to stem that tide and keep that educational capital in this country and the state of California.

``I hope that we will be an anchor of a new biotech corridor in Southern California. Hopefully, this cornerstone will lead to the creation of the biotech corridor.''

The 215,000-square-foot institute is envisioned adjacent to the proposed string of biomedical research centers and start-up medical facilities that would form Biomedtech Park at USC.

Broad said the institute and biomedical park have the potential to create 8,500 jobs in East Los Angeles, 16,000 additional jobs in Los Angeles County and 600 jobs at USC - more than 100 of them in stem-cell research.

Biomedtech park could generate $1.3 billion annually in economic activity and $75 million in tax revenue for local and state coffers, he said.

USC President Steven Sample said the institute will help raise Los Angeles' profile as a leader in biomedicine and technology.

``This institute will provide scientists from USC and other universities with the tools and resources to work collaboratively to find treatments for diabetes, cardiovascular disease and many other diseases and conditions,'' Sample said.

``It will help ensure that Southern California remains the world's epicenter for research in the life sciences and medical technology.

``Fifty years from now, people will look back at this current era as the golden age of research in the life-related and biological sciences. When future generations search for the turning point in medical research and the fight against disease, they will identify this time, this place and this institute.''

Medical researchers hope to develop stem cells to repair specific tissues or to grow organs. They also anticipate being able to use technologies derived from stem-cell research to treat cancer, spinal-cord injuries and muscle damage, as well as diseases such as diabetes, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

But research using embryonic stem cells particularly has generated controversy because it would require the destruction of a human embryo and/or therapeutic cloning.

The announcement comes nine months after Los Angeles lost out to San Francisco in its bid to house the state's stem cell institute. Broad worked with then-Mayor James Hahn on Los Angeles' last-minute bid, which was rejected as incomplete.

Jack Kyser, chief economist of the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp, said the loss of the statewide institute was a blow to Los Angeles' efforts to promote itself as a biomedicine rival to the Bay Area.

But he said Thursday's announcement was very good news and could help build Los Angeles' reputation in this industry that has huge growth potential.

Last March, the University of California, Los Angeles, announced it was creating the $20 million Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Medicine to conduct research on embryonic and adult stem cells that could lead to better treatments for HIV, cancer and neurological disorders.

``It will help spur UCLA to get their institute up and running and call attention to the fact that a huge amount of medical research is being done in the region,'' Kyser said, citing research at such hospitals as Cedars-Sinai and City of Hope.

``The perception is that if you want biomed, you go to the Bay Area, Orange County and San Diego, and our big problem is we don't have an identifiable cluster. But the Broad Foundation gift is certainly going to get a lot of people's attention, and it is definitely going to give USC the edge.''

Firms and research institutions in the biomedical field employ about 25,000 people in Los Angeles County and 185,000 statewide, Kyser said. By comparison, San Francisco County has 5,300 biomed jobs and neighboring San Mateo County has 14,800.

San Francisco was selected as the site of the administrative headquarters of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, created by voter-approved Proposition 71 in November 2004. The measure authorized $3 billion in bonds to support stem cell research - much of it using human embryonic stem cells - over the next 10 years.

CIRM provides funding to stem-cell scientists at universities, medical schools and research facilities, but does not have a research component as the Broad Institute would.

While the Broad Foundation donation provides seed money for the institute, USC must do more to lure researchers and to attract grant money, said Ahmed Enani, president of the Southern California Biomedical Council, a trade association.

``If we as a region want to turn ourselves into the headquarters for the industry, we have to put out sound research proposals, build centers and make sure we're doing good research and translating it into an outcome - i.e., companies and jobs,'' Enani said.

``It obviously beefs up the scientific infrastructure for doing stem cell research in the area, and this has the potential in the medium to long term for company creation in our region.

``It's just a small amount of money, but it's a step in the direction of creating the required scientific infrastructure to compete in this line of research.''

Naush Boghossian, (818) 713-3722

naush.boghossian(at)dailynews.com

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(1 -- 2) Eli and Edythe Broad accept applause Thursday for $25 million toward a stem-cell research center, top, to rise at USC.

Gus Ruelas/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 24, 2006
Words:977
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