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18 November 2013

Profile: University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

Creation of a new innovation hub.

Author: Gregg Bayes-Brown, editor

A stone’s throw from Hollywood and Beverly Hills is the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) – an integral part of the University of California and the state itself.

Collectively, the campus is a major economic driver for southern California, contributing upwards of $12.7bn in economic impact to the state annually, and employing some 42,000 people.

A continually growing part of that impact stems from the work of UCLA’s technology transfer unit, the office of intellectual property and industry sponsored research (OIP). Together with UC San Diego and UC San Francisco, UCLA’s tech transfer efforts form the bulk of what the entire University of California feeds back into the innovation community. In 2012, it came second out of

UC’s 10 campuses in terms of total licensing income, bringing in $22.7m of the overall $119.2m – San Francisco came first with $37.2m – and led the way in terms of new company formations with 13 start-ups added to California’s ecosystem.

UCLA continued its upward trend into the fiscal year 2013. The OIP reported a marked increase year-on-year in startup activity, 17 compared with 13, total invention disclosures, 406 versus 343, and total active US patents in its portfolio, 852 against 675.

Recently, companies tied to UCLA have seen some big hits. Kythera Biopharmaceuticals, which is developing an injectable treatment for submental fat, otherwise known as a double chin, floated on the Nasdaq stock exchange in late 2012 and then followed it up with a big rise in share price a year later when it offered up a further 2.6 million shares in common stock. Pharmaceutical conglomerate Johnson & Johnson announced its intention to buy spin-out Aragon Pharmaceuticals for up to $1bn. Oral healthcare firm C3 Jian raised a $30m round. And Kite Pharma, a biotech spin-out looking to reprogramme the body’s immune system to target cancer, raised $35m, a deal that was named the Global University Venturing 2013 Investment of the Year.

Integral to the OIP’s success is its location. When it comes to the debate on where the next Silicon Valley-like hub will emerge in the US, the fiercely contested conversation tends to favour New York, the New England area, or southern California. However, the Los Angeles area would appear to be pulling ahead, as in 2012 the area overtook New England in attracting the most investment outside Palo Alto, San Francisco, and nearly twice as much as New York. LA combines this cash with a high calibre of technical talent, including the numerous engineering graduates UCLA itself spawns, and a deep entrepreneurial culture embodied into the spirit of the city.

It is this entrepreneurial spirit the OIP is looking to harness even more in the future. To this end, it recently established an entrepreneurs-in-residence (EIRs) programme to help bolster entrepreneurial efforts across the campus. As seen in other universities, EIRs can play a crucial part in mentoring academics in business thinking and highlighting how best to bring research to market.

In line with this crossover between university and industry, the UC board of regents has reorganised the governance of the OIP. Brendan Rauw, associate vice-chancellor and executive director of entrepreneurship at UCLA, said: “Under this new governance model, a non-profit corporation will be created and led by a board of directors comprised of individuals possessing extensive experience in bridging the worlds of academia and business. The board will manage the operations of the office of intellectual property and industry sponsored research. The university stands to benefit from their real-world experience in investment and management of risk.

“The board will also include in its membership UCLA academic senate faculty. These directors will not receive compensation for their services, nor will they have any disqualifying financial interests, and will be held to the same conflict-of-interest standards as the UC regents, the UC president and the governor of California.” OIP is also discussing the possibility of an internal venture fund to support its spin-outs. At present, UCLA is a part of the 50 or so partners who back the Osage University Partners $100m fund, but UCLA’s own fund could provide the OIP with a more direct way to support and grow its spin-outs.

Given the trajectory of both the OIP and the LA region as a whole, UCLA’s commercialisation success should be one to keep an eye on over the coming year.

Copyright Mawsonia Limited 2010. Please don´t cut articles from or the PDF and redistribute by email or post to the web without written permission.

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