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Economic Study Ranks San Diego Near Top in Genomics Innovation

Xconomy San Diego — 

An economic impact study of San Diego’s emerging genomics industry counted 115 genomics-related companies operating in the region that directly employ over 10,000 people, and drive about $5.6 billion worth of annual economic benefits throughout the area.

“San Diego is really end-to-end in genomics, from start to finish,” said Kirby Brady, who oversaw the study as research director of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp. (EDC). “What that means is that we’re doing it all here, all the pieces of that ecosystem, and we’re doing it well.”

After previewing a glimpse of the study’s findings last month, Brady provided highlights of the final report Monday at the BIO International Convention in San Diego. Brady (far right in the photo above) was joined by EDC president and CEO Mark Cafferty (at the lectern), Susan Tousi of Illumina (NASDAQ: ILMN), which underwrote the study, and U.S. Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego.

As a distinct regional hub for the emerging genomics industry, San Diego ranked second overall in the study among the nation’s top 10 genomics markets, Brady said.

The rankings were based on a combination of factors that include innovation, talent, and growth. The study ranked Boston as the nation’s top region for genomics and San Francisco as No. 3. But it’s worth noting that the study followed the convention of the U.S. Census Bureau, and split the Bay Area into two Standard Metropolitan Statistical Areas—San Francisco and San Jose—and ranked San Jose’s as No. 4 in genomics.

While aspects of the study are obviously self-serving, Brady and other local economic development officials contend that genomics is becoming increasingly important in precision medicine here, with doctors using genome sequencing to help determine a customized course of care. At the San Diego Rady’s Children’s Institute for Genomic Medicine, Brady said, doctors are “sequencing to save lives.”

graphic from EDC "Cracking the Code" study used with permission

The genomics industry study used such metrics as innovation, talent, and growth to compare the top 10 life sciences hubs in the United States. Based on a composite score, San Diego ranked No. 2.

The EDC also prepared a genomics timeline as part of the report. Some other highlights of the EDC study:

—San Diego ranks No. 1 in the United States for genomics patents, generating 371 patents between 2014 and 2016. “From that intellectual property, you’re actually seeing the evolution and the genesis of that next generation of startups,” Brady said. “They are licensing this property, licensing the ideas, turning that into the next technology and the next new therapies.”

—San Diego is a hotbed for talent in genomics, annually conferring 1,968 genomics-related degrees in biochemistry, cognitive science, and bioinformatics. The study found 2,939 genomics-related job postings in 2016.

—End-to-end genomics: From basic research at academic institutions to translational medicine and clinical applications, the study says the genomics industry in San Diego reflects every stage in the genomics value chain. Two industry heavyweights are based in the area: Illumina and the Carlsbad, CA-based Life Science Solutions Group of Thermo Fisher Scientific (NYSE: TMO). They both make genome sequencing technology.

—According to extensive executive interviews and a full-scale survey of life sciences employees, an unusual spirit of collaboration exists among San Diego genomics companies and research institutes, the study found. Many chock this up to the density of life sciences companies and research institutes in Torrey Pines Mesa.

—Venture investments in genomics in the region totaled $292 million in 2016. Federal research funding (both grants and contracts) for genomics in San Diego in 2016 amounted to $37.5 million, according to the report.