I’ve covered the 101 Corridor — the stretch of the 101 Freeway running roughly from the north end of Los Angeles County up to Santa Barbara — ever since I started socalTECH many years ago, and I’ve always been surprised that this area–which is heavily dominated by Amgen–has a very paltry number of biotechnology startups. Amgen, which is headquartered in Thousand Oaks, is the perfect kind of company to spawn an entire industry worth of biotechnology firms in the region. However, to date, there have been very, very few companies spun out or started by ex-employees of the company. I would hazard to say — based on Amgen’s size and influence in the industry — it has a less than stellar record of startup activity.
A few years ago, talking with many ex-Amgen employees, I heard many stories on why there aren’t more Amgen-related startups. They ranged from burnout — Amgen is known for a fairly intensive work environment with long hours and lots of responsibility–to litigation — I had heard from more than one potential startup how their plans for a startup were torpedoed by over-eager lawyers and unfriendliness to licensing any kind of IP. Plus, it appears that the company has done so well lots of employees have taken their stock options and simply retired, rather than jump into a startup. Even Amgen’s own venture capital arm – Amgen Ventures – is headquartered not in Thousand Oaks, but instead in San Diego.
However, it looks like Amgen’s recent financial difficulties and layoffs may be changing this, and the tide might be turning. A few people — including Brent Reinke of Gold Coast Business Forum/Musick Peeler & Garrett, and John Dilts of Maverick Angels — have kick-started an effort to bolster the regional biotech industry, in part to tap into the wealth of knowledge and employees out of the area.
They’ve just announced a The Biotech Forum, a conference coming up on March 27th, focused on connecting executives, entrepreneurs, investors, engineers, researchers and scientists in the area. The keynote of the forum will be from Beth Seidenberg, Partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and a series of panels that will also include venture capitalists from DFJ Frontier, Prospect Ventures, and others. It should be interesting to see how the efforts turn out.
(disclaimer: socalTECH is helping to sponsor this event.)