The Booming Industry of Bioscience

01/09/24 | 7 MIN READ

The bioscience industry in Orange County has grown consistently over the past decade. Bioscience is a fascinating industry directly responsible for many of the amazing medical breakthroughs in the healthcare industry over the past 20 years. The medical advancements and technologies created within the bioscience industry are responsible for saving many lives through the creation of everything from modern lab equipment to new and highly effective medications and cures for a range of diseases.

The bioscience industry includes many smaller industries under its name, which extend from pharmaceuticals and therapeutics to healthcare and life science IT. Each of these industries have contributed to the betterment of human life through extensive research and technology. While the bioscience industry is a growing one in many areas around the U.S., it is a booming industry in Southern California, particularly evident in Irvine and the rest of Orange County. In fact, the bioscience industry in OC boasts nearly 300 million in combined NIH and NSF grants, $46.7 billion in economic output, and over 141,000 jobs supported by the industry with a YOY growth rate of 4.4%. 


What Is Bioscience?

Bioscience is a fairly vast field as it covers living organisms, from microorganisms to human beings and beyond. It’s a fairly large branch of science which is then broken down into smaller segments of life science research. Bioscience includes an array of similar industries involving the development of biological solutions to improve, sustain, and restore quality of life for plants, animals, and humans around the world. There are many different types of businesses involved in bioscience -- for instance, some companies in the bioscience industry focus on agricultural biotechnology, which helps with the creation of everything from feed additives and plant-based feedstock to fungicides and fertilizers. Other bioscience businesses can include biofuels, environmental research and cleanup, pharmaceuticals, and medical devices.

The Bioscience Industry in Orange County

When it comes to Orange County, many of the bioscience companies based here work in the medical device and equipment industry. In fact, in the last year, most of the bioscience job gains came from medical laboratories as well as medtech manufacturing organizations. Businesses in the bioscience and medtech industry manufacture hospital equipment, surgical supplies, advanced imaging systems, laboratory equipment, and practically any item you might come into contact with at a doctor's office or in a hospital room.

A second large component of the research done in the bioscience industry centers around pharmaceuticals and therapeutics. Companies conducting this research focus on developing biological, botanical, and medicinal products to assist with the treatment and cure of many different health conditions and diseases. In OC, this segment of the bioscience industry has seen 6% year over year (YoY) growth.

Some of this research is relatively standard with a focus on improving medications already on the market. On the other hand, some research is highly experimental in an attempt to develop medications  to effectively treat chronic or long-term health issues. No matter the research, all of it is beneficial to the betterment of healthcare and patient care. It's also important to note that a substantial amount of this bioscience research  is conducted by local universities and colleges, which means some of the breakthroughs in the industry are being developed by teachers and even students. A few of the other areas of interest when it comes to the bioscience industry include medical product distribution, healthcare providers, and health and medical insurance carriers.

UC Irvine

A Local Focus on Bioscience & Academic Excellence

Because the bioscience industry is as popular as it is in Southern California, local colleges and universities have benefited greatly and have, in turn, helped to foster growth within the bioscience industry. Many doctoral recipients from local colleges and universities take jobs at local bioscience companies, creating a strong and ever-growing ecosystem in the Orange County area. Overall, academic excellence is one of the main drivers of bioscience research in California, which helps to generate new companies and new products, while improving care, and commercializing advanced technologies.

For example, the University of California, Irvine has played a large role in furthering bioscience research, technology, and business growth in Orange County over the past few decades as evidenced by the number of research grants and funding amounts they receive from organizations like the National Institute of Health (NIH). Grants provided by the NIH, and similar foundations, are designed to support invention, innovation, and growth in the bioscience industry.

During the 2022 to 2023 fiscal year, the University of California in Irvine received $653 million in research grants that will invariably fuel the development of more medical and technological breakthroughs in the coming years in research grants that will invariably fuel the development of more medical and technological breakthroughs in the coming years. This funding is a notable increase from the previous years. Some of the other institutes and groups that have provided funding to UC Irvine and other nearby research universities include the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the Small Business Technology Transfer funding, and the Small Business Innovation Research group.

Orange County Coastline

Bioscience Industry Leaders in Southern California

While there are dozens upon dozens of successful bioscience companies located in and around Southern California, there are several industry leaders that have helped to evolve and grow the bioscience industry.  Among them, perhaps one of the most notable, is Edwards Lifesciences.
They are a global leader in heart valves and hemodynamic monitoring, demonstrated by their continual advancements in these fields of health care. Edwards Lifesciences has garnered many awards and recognition over the years including being listed in:

  • Just Capital's 2023 Industry Leader in Environmental Performance
  • Newsweek's 2023 America's Most Responsible Companies
  • Barron’s 2022 Most Sustainable Companies
  • Wall Street Journal's 2022 Management Top 250
  • Forbes Magazine's 2022 World's Top Female Friendly Companies
  • JUST Capital's 2022 Top 100 Companies Supporting Health Families and Communities
  • Humankind Investments' 2022 Humankind 100
  • S&P Global's 2022 Sustainability Yearbook
  • ESG Book's 2022 Top 100 ESG Companies

From the creation of minimally-invasive procedures to the design of the revolutionary transcatheter heart valve, their company is always searching for ways to improve the world around them.

Some of  the largest and most influential pharmaceutical-related companies in Southern California include businesses like Amgen, Allergan, Medtronic, and Herbalife. the first of which employs more than 8,000 individuals in the Thousand Oaks area.

Similarly, some of the top diagnostics leaders (for medical testing) who are working to evolve the bioscience industry in Southern California include Beckman Coulter and Siemens Diagnostics, the latter of which focuses on in vitro diagnostics kits. While Edwards Lifesciences is easily the industry leader among medical device companies in and around Orange County, companies like Abbott Medical Optics and Medtronic have also worked hard to transform healthcare in California and across the world. The successes these companies have had in Southern California only serves to make the area more appealing to new bioscience companies searching for a base of operations.

Bioscience Lab

A Booming Industry Spurring Job Creation and Local Investment

While many industries have seen continued success within Orange County and the surrounding Southern California areas, the bioscience industry has been growing at an exponentially quicker rate than most others in the region.  There are also just under 300,000 bioscience 1.19 million employees in the life science industry in california. employees throughout all of California, which makes it the second largest tech industry in the state. The life science industry expanded employment by 6 percent, making it increase more rapidly than all other industries in California. Of these employees, the largest bioscience sector in regards to number of employees is the medical devices, instruments, and diagnostics sector, which boasts a total of 77,000 employees in California. As for Orange County specifically, they had a total of 63,684 life science employees in 2022, a four percent increase from the previous year. bioscience employees in 2017, which was an increase of nearly 2,000 employees from 2016.

Along with the fantastic growth in job creation exhibited by Orange County and surrounding areas, the booming bioscience industry has also spurred local investment in startups, which is evident by how much angel investors and venture capital firms invest in Orange County every year. Venture capital investments in California amounted to more than $35 billion in 2017, which increased to nearly $50 billion in 2018. The total amount of investments from venture capitalists in California makes up more than 50 percent of investments across the entire U.S. Most of the investments that are provided to biotech and medical device startups are given in the expansion stage of a startup.

When looking specifically at venture capital investments for digital health, startups in Orange County received $253 million in 2017. These investments have helped to improve the local economy over the past few years. Many of the startups in and around Orange County that have received venture capital investments have gone on to be highly successful, which provides the venture capitalists with fantastic returns. High returns mean that venture capital firms are more likely to continue investing in the bioscience industry around Orange County.

Another sign of health and growth within the bioscience industry is the high number of businesses that have recently been acquired in California. Within the bioscience industry, there were 130 mergers and acquisitions in 2018, the majority of which took place within the biopharmaceutical and medical device sectors. These acquisitions indicate that the local bioscience industry is a successful one wherein well-managed startups and smaller companies are being acquired by some of the larger corporations in the area, which helps to fuel the economy. A recent example of this type of acquisition is the acquisition of CASMED by Edwards Lifesciences earlier this year.

Local Medtech & Biosceince events at University Lab Partners Univserity Lab Partners hosts a number of events throughout the year, be sure to catch our next MedTech or Biosecience event!

Local Efforts to Further the Bioscience Industry

The bioscience industry is thriving in Southern California because of substantial local efforts from businesses, education, non-profits, and the government. . These efforts include everything from hosting regular industry events and networking events to providing academic programs that offer students an easy path into the industry once they've obtained a degree. If you're looking to get involved with the bioscience industry, a great way to get started is by attending local events or following the California Life Sciences Association, a large trade association representing the entire bioscience industry in California.

Their calendar of events will allow you to keep track of local CLSA networking events and workshops to will help you get involved with the bioscience industry. No matter where your interests lie in regards to the bioscience industry, you'll be able to find compelling events to attend.

Among the top universities to offer educational programs and tracks to help you to enter the bioscience field is the University of California Irvine. If you want to get started in biological sciences, they have a school dedicated specifically to the study of bioscience. The best undergraduate programs they offer to students who want to enter this industry include a biological sciences major, a biochemistry and molecular biology major, a human biology major, and a neurobiology major. Additional Masters and PhD programs are available as well.

You should also look into UCI Applied Innovation if you want to enter this industry or start a business of your own. For instance, the Student Startup Fund offers micro-grants to current UCI students engaged in entrepreneurial programs and competitions. The University of California in Irvine is just one of the many local schools making it relatively simple for a student to enter the bioscience industry in any way they see fit.

Ready to Pursue Bioscience? OC is Among the Best Places to Be!

There's no doubt that the bioscience industry is booming in Southern California with no signs of stopping anytime soon. With the increase in job growth, investment, and innovation -- it's safe to say that the industry is here to stay and will only foster further growth for the local economy and industry.

If you're looking to start your life science or bioscience business with a state-of-the-art wet lab  facility, apply now for Orange County's first wet lab incubator -- University Lab Partners -- located at the UCI Research Park!

Revised 01/09/2024


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