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San Diego: Taking the Pulse of the Biotech Industry

May 30, 2019

By Angela Woodall, Healthcare and Environmental Reporter.

San Diego brings to mind images of sunny beach fronts and surfers for many. For others, the California coastal city is a biotech center worth billions of dollars in research funding and activity in biotech and life sciences, major drivers behind San Diego’s innovation economy. Reports over the years have consistently listed San Diego among the top three biotech centers, as the region is home to more than a thousand life science companies and more than 80 independent and university-affiliated research institutes.

The success of cities like San Diego at developing these industry hubs hinges on their ability to bring together the right mixture of land, expertise, policy, and opportunities. For one, companies need lab space and a steady stream of talent provided by universities and other research facilities. Serving as the homestead of many established research centers and institutions like U.C. San Diego, ranked ninth in the world in biomedical sciences, the county annually produces over 7,000 STEM graduates to contribute to the workforce.  Success also requires good relationships within the community and municipal support for favorable policies. Another component includes events like the DIA Global Annual Meeting, which foster the international exchange of actionable insights and bring together all the elements fueling the areas booming biotechnology industry.

Meetings like DIA and OCT Southern California gather together stakeholders from regulatory agencies, sponsors, CROs, and just about any sector that is part of the pharmaceutical and biotechnology community. Putting them within each other’s orbit opens the way to new connections and ideas that revolve around advancing medicines and technologies. Sponsors frequently present new data here, and CROs launch ventures of their own. 

Conferences and industry often grow alongside each other. For example, DIA’s timeline overlaps with the development of San Diego’s life sciences and biotech infrastructure. The organization coalesced more than a half-century ago in the aftermath of the thalidomide scandal. At the same time, as the story goes, San Diego’s biotech industry was taking root, first with research institutions such as the Salk Institute, Scripps, Sanford Consortium, and U.C. San Diego, followed by the development of Torrey Pines Mesa as a physical center of science and research.

Recognizing the opportunity presented by startups looking to make medical breakthroughs, patent attorneys, headhunters, venture capitalists, and public relations agencies followed. Many events also followed the developing hub such as Outsourcing in Clinical Trials Southern California and the Cell and Gene Meeting on the Mesa – both of which PRC Clinical attended. Following the trend, PRC Clinical also hosted their own event at the Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine, ClinPulse San Diego, an expert panel and networking event series focusing on the drivers of change in clinical trials. As the 4th event in the series, the expansion of ClinPulse to San Diego gave PRC Clinical the ability to leverage its repeated presence at local conferences and better serve pharmaceutical, biotech and regenerative medicine developers in Southern California.

The turning point arrived in 1978 with the founding of Hybritech and today San Diego is home to giants like Illumina, Genentech, Pfizer, Takeda, and GlaxoSmithKline. While California dominates as a whole, San Diego ranks at the top with the San Francisco Bay Area and Boston in terms of the percentage of biotech/life science employment, real estate, and NIH funding.

Indeed, NIH funding in life sciences in San Diego County totaled more than $830 million in 2016 and the funding continues to flow. Precision medicine is one sector but investment groups are also looking to finance the software, hardware and industrial technology that serves the life science industry. In February this year, according to a local news report, biotech executive and local startup leader Greg Mckee launched a new $50 million VC fund to invest in companies that fuse technology with life sciences, such as startups using data analytics or machine learning to improve clinical trials or other problems in health care.

This story highlights how the early years set the stage by investing not only in local up-and-coming ventures but also by developing the necessary connective tissue to put San Diego on the biotech map. Whether it is exhibiting at DIA 2019, hosting an event series that gathers subject matter experts to discuss long-term trends in biotechnology, or supporting clinical studies with San Diego sponsors – PRC Clinical is proud to contribute to the region’s growth as a nearby neighbor in the Bay Area. As an executive whose local real estate firm reports on the industry put it, “San Diego’s definitely in the forefront and I think will be for years to come, based on the personnel and the scientific infrastructure here in town.”


More Information

Every year, PRC Clinical attends these major events to present our Clinical Trial Management services to promising sponsors, drug developers, and connect with established industry professionals. After a great DIA 2019, PRC Clinical will be returning to OCT Southern California this year in San Diego. The California CRO seeks to introduce more Sponsors to their Clinical Trial Management services, facilitating drug development processes and regulatory pathways. If you are interested in meeting with PRC Clinical Chief Executive Officer Curtis Head, and Senior Business Development ManagerJoshua Elvert, please contact Joshua Elvert at


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