Carlsbad

Biotech by the Beach: Life Sciences Companies Move from the Bay Area to Carlsbad

Carlsbad’s high quality of life and rich pool of skilled workers are attracting cutting-edge life sciences companies from other industry hubs.

Carlsbad is an important part of the San Diego region’s top life sciences cluster, said Joseph Jackson, co-founder of Bio, Tech and Beyond, a science and technology incubator that leases lab space to a variety of startup tenants.

“It is one of the better managed cities in the region,” Jackson said. “That is why it keeps attracting blue chip and innovation companies.”

The city has worked hard to make Carlsbad a welcoming place for life science companies and the high-paying jobs they create, said Jackson, who came to Carlsbad from Silicon Valley in 2013. The city leased Jackson a 6,000-square-foot building on Faraday Avenue to serve as a start-up incubator. 

Tenants hard at work at Bio, Tech, and Beyond.

Since then, tenants at Bio, Tech and Beyond have created more than 200 new jobs, Jackson said. The incubator has helped make Carlsbad one of the pillars of the San Diego region’s life sciences industry.   

A new biotech company

One of the new arrivals to Carlsbad’s life sciences community is Lineage Cell Therapeutics, a clinical-stage biotechnology company that develops novel cellular therapies. 

The company manufactures retina cells to help people with macular degeneration, said CEO Brian Culley. It also manufactures cells to promote recoveries from debilitating spinal cord injuries.

The team at Lineage Cell Therapeutics proudly ringing the NYSE bell.

It was Culley who pushed for the move to Carlsbad as a cost-saving measure. A North San Diego County resident, he had no desire to relocate. The affordability of leased space and the close proximity to other top life science companies enabled him to make a compelling case for moving to Carlsbad. 

Lineage Cell Therapeutics’ Salk Avenue office currently houses 10 employees. It relocated from Alameda in the San Francisco Bay Area, although the company continues to employ people there as well as in Israel, Culley said. He described the Carlsbad office as “the heart and brain” of the company.

“It was really easy to find an ideal space for our needs,” he said. 

Another bonus was finding that labor costs in Carlsbad are much more affordable than in the pricey San Francisco Bay Area. Culley said his Carlsbad employees appreciate the lighter traffic and the local work-life balance. A soccer player, he said he already has connected with other local enthusiasts. One of the places he likes to play is Aviara Community Park. 

“It’s a delightful community,” he said. “It provides everything you need.”  

The power of microchips

In a garage in South Carlsbad, Ana and Octavian Florescu have started a company that seeks to use the power of microchips to run analytical blood tests. 

In Diagnostics is housed in their garage, but the couple also leases a lab bench from Bio, Tech and Beyond to have access to additional equipment. Their goal is to develop quick and inexpensive tests for monitoring patient wellness. The couple has raised $3 million to bring their technology to market. Their prototype will start with veterinary tests. 

Octavian is a former microchip designer for Qualcomm who earned his Ph.D. from UC Berkeley. He and Ana launched their business last year, after moving to Carlsbad from the San Francisco Bay Area. 

Octavian working in the lab at Bio, Tech, and Beyond

“We chose Carlsbad specifically because the work-life balance seems to be really good,” Octavian said. “We had a baby in May of 2018 and our second son two weeks ago. Carlsbad is one of the most family-friendly places we have seen.”  

The couple enjoys the coastal lifestyle – Octavian is a surfer and likes the convenience of living a short drive from the beach. 

Now preparing to expand their business, the couple plans to lease 5,300 square feet of space near McClellan-Palomar Airport, beginning in 2020. They also plan to begin hiring between five and 10 people. 

“We’re excited to grow our team and look forward to connecting with local talent,” Ana said. “We’re also very interested in connecting with local veterinarians interested in testing out our prototype.”

The collaborative nature of this thriving coastal community is yet another attraction to life science companies. As the region continues to thrive as a booming innovation center, Carlsbad will contribute to the ecosystem’s growth by attracting and growing both large and small cutting-edge companies.  

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