Executive Profile in BOSS Magazine: CLSA: Mission Driven to Cultivate Life Sciences Innovation in CA

Original Executive Profile & Content published at BOSS Magazine
May 2017 Edition

Exclusive Offer for CLSA Members: Interested in being featured in BOSS Magazine free of charge? Please contact Will Zasadny, Director of Communications at
CLSA is a supporting nonprofit for the life sciences sector that focuses on biotechnology, pharmaceutical, medical device and diagnostics companies, research universities and institutes, investors, and service providers throughout the Golden State.

California’s incredible diversity in climate, geography, and race makes the state one of the most unique in the country. The state’s economy, the largest in the U.S., is just as diverse.

From tourism—which supported a record 251 million visitors and more than one million jobs in 2014—to Silicon Valley—the tech hub of the U.S.—California is on the cutting edge of just about everything.

The business environment in California garners an incredibly strong life sciences sector. There are more than 3,000 life sciences companies in the Golden State, employing more than 287,000 people and generating $147 billion in revenue.

With hubs in San Francisco, San Diego, and Los Angeles, California boasts one of the most influential life sciences communities in the world.

But past performance does not guarantee future results. This concept is the gasoline that fuels the California Life Sciences Association (which works to educate and unite business leaders, policymakers, academic researchers, patient advocates, investors, and many other players to ensure the sector’s future success.0

Combining Cultures

President and CEO Sara Radcliffe joined the organization in late 2014, when the California Healthcare Institute (CHI) and BayBio merged to become CLSA.

Radcliffe understands advocacy. Her position as Executive Vice President for Health at the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), and her time with Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) prepared Radcliffe for this undertaking.

“Leading CLSA was an intriguing proposition for me,” says Radcliffe. “BayBio and CHI had amazing achievements from their over 40 years of combined work on behalf of the sector, and it was up to me and my team to bring these two organizations together and make them one.”

San Diego-headquartered CHI concentrated on the policymaking side: helping local, state and federal governments devise sound policies and regulations to support and invigorate the sector. San Francisco’s BayBio was more focused on the business side: purchasing groups and other discount programs, science education, career support and public outreach.

Over the past three years, Radcliffe has united these functions into a significant and respected California-focused legislative and business nonprofit. CLSA has ramped up its business support, providing entrepreneur services, partnering events, and networking opportunities. The organization also offers technical training, career development, and other member benefits, in addition to robust public policy advocacy representation at the federal, state, and local levels.

“We realize that we have to meet sector people where they live,” says Radcliffe. “We are constantly asking ourselves: What does the CEO need to be successful? The procurement officer? The lab tech? And on and on. We try to customize our business services so that everyone has a home.”


Equally important, CLSA is committed to advancing sound public policy that supports California’s life sciences sector and ensures patients have access to groundbreaking medicines, diagnostics, and devices.

When the device tax was hurting small companies and stunting their ability to hire, expand, and innovate, CLSA joined forces with other organizations to lobby Congress to have it suspended. CLSA strongly supported the 21st Century Cures Act, which allocated more funding for the National Institutes of Health and the Food & Drug Administration to enhance research and accelerate the drug pipeline. Recently, CLSA activated its broad membership to bring awareness to and oppose the proposed 20 percent budget cuts to lifesaving medical research and development at the NIH.

CLSA also works on the state level in Sacramento, and in cities all over California, to help policymakers understand the nuances that can either help the sector expand or cause it irreparable damage. But more than anything, CLSA’s advocacy goals center on protecting patient access to care and promoting lifesaving medical innovation.

“The life sciences sector is an incredibly diverse and complex ecosystem,” says Radcliffe. “There are drug, device, and diagnostics companies, universities, research institutes, contract research organizations, wholesale suppliers; the list is virtually endless. Pull a string in one direction and the entire web vibrates.”

To help policymakers and stakeholders of all stripes understand the life sciences, CLSA provides a steady stream of industry intelligence and information, such as their annual California Life Sciences Industry Report, which takes the pulse of the sector’s economic and therapeutic impact in California.

CLSA Pres. & CEO Sara Radcliffe

The bottom-line mission for CLSA is ensuring that California’s life sciences community has the freedom to innovate and improve patient care.

“California companies have around 1,200 drugs in the development pipeline,” says Radcliffe. “Some of these are for rare disorders that have no treatments, or common disorders that need better treatments. With four fully staffed offices up-and-down the state and another in Washington, D.C., CLSA is laser focused on providing life sciences organizations the support they need to develop safe and effective therapeutics that help more patients.”

To learn more or join CLSA, visit or connect with us @CALifeSciences.

View the full profile at BOSS Magazine.

Editorial Note: CLSA members interested in being featured in BOSS Magazine free of charge may contact Chad Miller, Executive Director, who can be reached at 760-206-3196 or