San Diego genomics

At BIO, San Diego touts its genomics breadth

The southern California region carves out a special place for genomics within biotechnology


The annual BIO meeting brings out economic development authorities from across the US and around the world, all pitching their locales as the preferred place to site a new lab or biotech manufacturing facility. This year, host city San Diego put its own spin on this analysis, by segregating genomics as a distinct part of the industry. And, after running the numbers on venture funding, employment and business growth, the San Diego Regional Economic Development Authority announced that it is No. 2 in the US in this category (see chart), behind the Boston region (give the RDC props for being so forthright about its position!). The industry had an economic impact of $5.6 billion in 2016; attracted $292 million in venture-cap investment (plus $38 million in federal funding), employed over 35,000 (direct, indirect and induced), and graduated nearly 2,000 college-trained genomics workers (biochemistry, bioinformatics and cognitive sciences). It is No. 1 on “patent intensity”—genomics-related patents on a per-capita basis.

Genomics, the San Diego EDC defines, is “the study of the function and structure of genomes, which comprise the complete set of DNA within a single cell of an organism,” and as such differs from genetics, the study of heredity and the impact of individual genes. The genomics industry “is an interdisciplinary field that cuts across multiple industries: biotechnology research and development, biomedical device manufacturing, pharmaceutical manufacturing and healthcare information technology.” (When it comes to developing new drugs, it would seem, the distinction between genomics and genetics is a thin one, but we’ll give the San Diego EDC the benefit of the doubt.)

San Diego marks its genomics origins with the founding of Invitrogen in 1987, and has been boosted by Illumina, a leading genetic-sequencing technology provider, and the J. Craig Venter Institute; Dr. Venter being one of the leading lights in the genomics field. In 2016, the Scripps Research Institute won a $120-million NIH grant, later pushed to $207 million, to enroll 350,000 volunteers whose genomic profiles will be studied as part of the federal Precision Medicine Initiative.

The San Diego EDC report, “Cracking the Code,” is available here.