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Happy 2nd Birthday SDBN! How Should We Celebrate?

Posted by Mary Canady October 13th, 2010 .
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San Diego Biotech Network 2nd Birthday

It’s hard to believe it, but two years ago in November of 2008, we had our first SDBN event featuring Sapphire Energy at Rock Bottom in La Jolla. We soon outgrew that venue and have found a nice home at Tango del Rey, a one-of-a-kind location in PB which we feel is amenable to networking. To facilitate interaction, we’ve also tried to keep the cost of the events as low as possible, and to have interesting events which draw a nice crowd.

We started the SDBN to foster communication between biotech professionals and companies locally, and it is here to serve your needs in this area. We are very grateful to all of the wonderful people who have participated in these two years, let’s celebrate by hosting an event for you in early December. We polled you in late 2009 to learn about what you wanted in 2010, and perhaps this is a good time to get your pulse on what you want and need from the SDBN. Let’s ‘crowdsource’ our this event by voting and getting ideas from you. To get you started, here are some ideas we’ve kicked around for the event:

  • Social Media Panel or Presentation
  • Virtual Biotech Company Panel
  • Ultra Quick Pitch, Open to All (5-10 minute presentations, consultants, co.’s, etc.)
  • A Party, Plain and Simple
  • Insert Your Idea Here

Here’s how to cast your vote. I’ve listed the choices as comments below, vote for your favorite (click on the thumb below your choice). Have a new idea? Leave a comment below with your idea, and it will be ‘in the running’ as people will be able to vote on it too. Let’s use the honor system, and realize that if we get a lot of requests for a company to sponsor, that the company will need to defray some of the costs of the event.

To share this post easily, cut and paste: Happy 2nd Birthday SDBN! How Should We Celebrate? http://sdbn.org/celebrate

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SDBN Volunteers Needed for Coastal Cleanup Day September 25th

Posted by Mary Canady September 6th, 2010 .
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California Coastal Cleanup

We all hear about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, an ‘island’ estimated to be twice the size of Texas containing plastic and other waste. How can we help to prevent more trash from reaching our oceans? California Coastal Cleanup Day is September 25th, and we have a great opportunity to help clean up trash inland before the rainy season carries it to the ocean.

Coastal cleanups started in 1984 on the Oregon coast, and now includes California volunteers from all coastal counties, with 80,000 participating last year and 10,000 in San Diego county. This year, the SDBN has been asked to participate in the Ruffin Canyon area in Serra Mesa. Please join us 9-12 on September 25th, and for those who are interested, we’ll find a nice watering hole to have lunch at and network afterward. We’ll also take and share photos, and I’ll bring a memento for each of you who participate. Sign up on the website and also let me know you’ll be participating using SDBN’s volunteer form, or drop me a line if you have my email address.

To prepare for the event, be sure to wear long sleeves and pants, a hat and sunglasses, cover any exposed area with sunscreen, and bring a filled reusable water bottle (we will also have water on site). This year, event organizers are asking volunteers to bring reusable items to help minimize the use of disposable items. Please consider bringing buckets, garden gloves, and reusable bags. I’ll be sending more information before the event. Hope to see you there–as a group we can make a big difference!

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Speaking of pipelines, what about the education pipeline? #oss2010

Posted by Dr. Gunn August 3rd, 2010 .
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This is a post from the Open Science Summit, a weekend of talks and discussion about this emerging research approach. Disclosure: Mendeley Research Networks is a sponsor of OSS2010.

Friday had a short series of talks on applying microfinance and crowdfunding models to doing science. David Vitrant from Fund Science, David Fries from SciFlies, and Jason Blue Smith from EurekaFund spoke in this session. The idea behind microfinance is to provide a alternative channel for funding high-risk research that doesn’t fit in the traditional funding channels such as federal grants or wouldn’t be eligible for foundation money. Crowdfunding is similar – it’s basically a type of targeted fundraising that brings in small amounts from many donors, tapping into people who don’t generally think of themselves as philanthropists, but want to see results more tangible and immediate than donating to a large non-profit.

One interesting speaker discussed how they developed small kits, somewhat similar to the chemistry sets I remember playing with as a kid, but focused on biology. They made the point that biotech needs to mind not only their development pipeline, but also the talent pipeline of skilled workers available to do the development. Now, I know what you’re thinking…”we’ve got excess talent in biotech right now. Experienced people are begging for jobs that are beneath them!” If you really think your company is at the point of diminishing returns in hiring smarter people, then why is R&D spending going up every year while the number of new drugs entering the market remains flat?

The three smart people who spoke here are raising money through microfinance and crowdsourcing to bring the ability to do biotech research to schools and interested small groups. What they’re doing is great, but they’ll never be able to have the kind of reach and impact that a company like Invitrogen or Merck could, if they were to start a similar initiative. I’m sure these large biotech and pharma companies are doing some sort of educational outreach, but do they know what these microfinance and open science people are doing and do they realize how effective reaching out to them could be in not only seeding the environment with smart scientists-to-be but simply getting their brand out there in the most favorable light?

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What’s BiotechCamp? A New Way to Share Ideas Is Coming!

Posted by Mary Canady July 11th, 2010 .
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Mary Canady BarcampSD 7 ‘Crowdsourcing Cat Herding’ from Mary Canady on Vimeo.

I presented at a local ‘unconference’ called Barcamp recently in San Diego. The event is great because it is unscripted and interdisciplinary, and we’d like to extend the model to biotech and life science, with the goal of having a ‘BiotechCamp’ in San Diego soon. Check out the presentation, and if you have any ideas, please feel free to add them to the wiki we’ve set up at http://biotechcamp.org. We have a team of about ten now who will be planning this event. As always, tell us what you think and stay tuned!

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San Diego Stem Cell Coalition to Fight ALS: CIRM Update

Posted by Mary Canady June 30th, 2010 .
One Comment

See photo credits below

Rat hippocampal neurons and astrocytes: See photo credits below

The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) granted a local interdisciplinary research team from UCSD, Salk, and Life Technologies $11.5 million for research aimed at finding a cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease. On June 23rd, CIRM hosted a public research update which I attended. The project is an excellent example of local research organizations and companies working together towards translating research into real cures, funded by California citizens who realize the promise of stem cell technologies.

The ALS team is led by Lawrence Goldstein, Ph.D., and Don Cleveland, Ph.D., from UCSD, and Samuel Pfaff from The Salk Institute. Drs. Goldstein and Cleveland spoke at the event, along with Life Technologies’ Mark Bonyhadi, Ph.D., UCSD’s Martin Marsala, MD, and Lucie Bruijn, Ph.D, from the ALS Association. Goldstein and Cleveland gave a great introduction to the project and explained that ALS is caused by the death of motor neurons, and that the cells’ environment is very important to their survival. Astrocyte cells have a very intimate relationship with motor neurons, and disease progression is predicted to be slowed if healthy precursors are introduced. As Goldstein and Cleveland explained, the ‘neighborhood’ of motor neurons is very important in determining their well being, and healthy astrocytes are the equivalent of neighbors who don’t have parties and mow your lawn for you. The team plans to create and transplant human astrocyte precursors (hAPs) from human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) into human spines. Begining with rodent models, they predict that the first clinical trials could take place in 2014.

Dr. Mark Bonyhadi from Life Technologies then explained how they will help create and analyze the hAPs and develop the processes to prepare them for FDA submission. Life Tech’s long history with high quality cell media and wide-ranging protein and cell analysis tools makes them a perfect partner. Dr. Martin Marsala described the preclinical animal studies that will be performed, and indicated that they have worked with a company called Neuralstem previously to show that spinal cell transplantations can be successful.

Dr. Lucie Bruijn from the ALS Association talked about the fact that there is only one drug available for the disease, and that other stem cell efforts are underway which will help develop the transplantation methods in parallel (Side note: normally drug discovery research is highly secretive, but do publicly funded efforts benefit from removing this veil?). ALS clinical trials are tracked on their website.

The research presented was inspiring, but the clear highlight of the event for me was to hear from ALS patient Dan Desmond. As a veteran, he is unfortunately part of a group that has a higher prevalence to contract the disease, the cause of which is only 10% genetic in nature. From his wheelchair, Dan told us about the progression of the disease, his carpe diem attitude, and he thanked the researchers for their work. Dan received a well-deserved standing ovation at the end of his courageous speech.

Hearing directly from patients is perhaps an unexpected benefit of moving basic research towards a more translational model, where curing disease is viewed as a near-term goal. As described by Dr. Goldstein, CIRM has challenged researchers to rethink assumptions and timelines to come up with solutions to fast-track therapeutics. CIRM is clearly ‘stepping up to the plate’ (pun intended) to make Prop 71′s goals of making California a leader in stem cell therapies come to light. This exciting project pairing our local institutions is a fantastic example of the synergies. Have you thought about who you could work with locally? (Hint: come to our events for ideas…)
Photo by GEHealthcare on Flickr under a Creative Comments License

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