Daily Business Report — Sept. 3, 2014
Above: Mapp Biopharmaceutical CEO Kevin Whaley addresses media and the public at a Scripps Research Institute event. (Photo by Katie Schoolov/KPBS)
San Diego Biotech Lands Up to $42 Million
To Speed Work on Ebola Drug Development
A U.S. health agency has awarded San Diego-based Mapp Biopharmaceutical new funding to speed up work on an experimental Ebola drug.
The Department of Health and Human Services announced on Tuesday a $24.9 million contract aiming to help Mapp accelerate development and testing of ZMapp over the next 18 months. The contract could be extended to a total of $42.3 million.
“As part of the project funded today, Mapp Biopharmaceutical will manufacture a small amount of the drug for early stage clinical safety studies and nonclinical studies needed to demonstrate the drug’s safety and efficacy in people,” according to an HHS statement.
ZMapp was provided to seven patients in West Africa’s ongoing Ebola outbreak. Two recipients died, but others have recovered. More positive signs were published in a study last week in which 100 percent of primates given ZMapp beat Ebola, even when treated five days after being infected with the virus.
Researchers still can’t say the drug works in humans, and Mapp’s CEO Kevin Whaley has said only clinical trials could determine its effectiveness. Mapp has said supplies of the drug are exhausted, and that making more could take months.
“While ZMapp has received a lot of attention, it is one of several treatments under development for Ebola, and we still have very limited data on its safety and efficacy,” said Dr. Nicole Lurie, U.S. Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response. “Developing drugs and vaccines to protect against Ebola as a biological threat has been a long-term goal of the U.S. government, and today’s agreement represents an important step forward.”
California Wins Latest High Speed Rail Battle
California may be one step away from selling bonds for its High Speed Rail project.
The California 3rd District Court of Appeal on Tuesday refused to grant a rehearing in a case challenging the use of bond funding to build High Speed Rail. The decision is a win for the state, which is counting on selling bonds to help fund the project.
The plaintiffs have already announced they will appeal this latest ruling to the California Supreme Court. If the court declines to hear the case, California could begin issuing the bonds. The administration’s Department of Finance says they would be sold on an as-needed basis.
The project includes non-bond funding as well. The current fiscal year budget allocates $250 million for the project, with additional funding in future years.
— Capital Public Radio via KPBS
Cal State San Marcos to Receive $1 Million
Gift to Support Former Foster Youth
Jan and Esther Stearns have announced plans to donate $1 million to name the Jan and Esther Stearns Center for ACE Scholars, home to a one-of-a-kind program at California State University San Marcos that provides support to former foster youth pursuing their college degree.
Their gift will provide current use funds for center operations and programs as well as establish the ACE Scholars Services Endowment, providing ongoing support into perpetuity.
The Stearns said they recognize that most foster youth want to go to college but have numerous barriers preventing them from successfully entering and graduating from an institution of higher learning. According to recent surveys, there are 500,000 foster youth currently living in the United States and approximately 4,000 of these young people are in the university’s service region. Even though 70 percent of foster youth desire a college experience, most age out of the system only to find themselves ill-prepared and unsupported for success: 65 percent become homeless, 20 percent are arrested or incarcerated, and less than two percent graduate from college.
“I have been especially impressed with CSUSM’s commitment to serving first-generation and underrepresented college students,” said Esther Stearns, who is also a member of the University’s Foundation Board. “People come here for opportunity. I’ve talked to students whose lives have been changed through education—and that change has a ripple effect that impacts their entire family and our community.”
SDSU Device Detects Concussions
San Diego State University biomechanics researchers have developed BTrackS, a device that measures an athlete’s balance to help determine whether he or she has suffered a concussion. Manufactured by Balance Tracking Systems, BTrackS is a portable medical device that measures the postural sway. Injured athletes stand on the board with their eyes closed while the device provides objective data related to the athlete’s balance, to then be compared to data when the athlete was healthy. The device was developed by Balance Tracking Systems founder, Daniel Goble, with the help of SDSU’s Zahn Innovation Center.
The BTrackS device is currently used at 10 colleges and high schools in San Diego. By the end of the semester, Goble hopes to triple the number of school’s using BTrackS.
Cathy Pucher, executive director of the Zahn Innovation Center, said BTrackS was one of the first businesses to come out of the Zahn Innovation Center. All students, faculty and staff must apply to work with the incubator and Pucher said Goble’s idea of affordability stood out in reviewing his application.
“We all know concussions are becoming a major problem and people are limited by the cost of the equipment today,” Pucher said. “(Goble) is removing that cost barrier and making the equipment more accessible to more people.” Although BTrackS is currently on the market, the Balance Tracking Systems team is constantly making improvements. Brian Gehriny, the engineer for BTrackS and a graduate of the electrical engineering master’s program at SDSU, is responsible for building the device and designed the original series of prototypes and the unit that is in production today. “We’re always doing updates,” Gehriny said. “We find what is going to fail, make it stronger and replace it with something else.
— The Daily Aztec
ResMed’s Newest Ventilator Devices Now Available
ResMed’s revolutionary Astral 100 and 150 devices are now available in the United States. The Astral platform is ResMed’s newest generation of portable and lightweight life support ventilators. The ventilators are easy-to-use and offer mobility for patients suffering from neuromuscular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and other adult and childhood respiratory disorders. The Astral life support ventilators weigh seven pounds, feature eight breathing modes, and include an eight-hour internal battery. Patients can now spend more time outside the hospital while still being treated safely.
Tully Rinckey Opens San Diego Law Office
New York-based Tully Rinckey, one of the largest federal employment and military law firms, has opened its first West Coast law office in San Diego, at 501 West Broadway Downtown. The San Diego office is headed by Tully Rinckey partner Steven L. Herrick.
The San Diego location is the firm’s seventh law office. In the D.C. metropolitan area, Tully Rinckey has locations in Washington, D.C. and Arlington, Va., and in upstate New York, the firm has locations in Albany, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo.
The firm’s federal sector law team is headed by several former government attorneys, including Neil A.G. McPhie, a former Merit Systems Protection Board chairman; Cheri L. Cannon, a former panel member of the Air Force Board for Correction of Military Records and a deputy general counsel at the Pentagon; and Larry D. Youngner, a former Air Force Judge Advocate’s General Corps (JAG) chief of staff and director. T
San Dieguito River Park Names Interim Director
The agency that oversees the San Dieguito River Park on Tuesday named Mark Ochenduszko as its interim executive director. He will succeed the retiring Dick Bobertz on Oct. 1 as the head of the San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Authority.
“Mr. Ochenduszko brings tremendous experience to the position,” said county Supervisor Dave Roberts, the chairman of the park’s board of directors. “I look forward to working with him as we continue to improve this great, regional asset.”
The authority is responsible for creating a trail system running from Volcan Mountain, near Julian, to the beach at Del Mar.
About 45 miles of the planned 70 miles of the primary trail have been completed, according to the authority. An additional 20 miles of trails, which shoot off the main pathway, have also been established.
Ochenduszko was previously the city manager for Campbell, Coronado and Cypress, and was an interim city manager for Del Mar.
— City News Service
StemCutis Names New CEO
StemCutis LLC, a biotechnology company that develops cosmetic products and dermatology therapies, has appointed Ike Lee as president and CEO. Most recently, Lee serve as co-founder and CEO of Alopax Bio-Consulting. He also has managed several stem cell companies in the United States, Belgium and Korea, and served as president and CTO of AnC Bio, CEO of CHA Biotech and co-founder and CSO of Cardio3 S.A.
StemCutis is an operating company of Stemedica Cell Technologies Inc.
Douglas Wilson Companies Hires Senior Manager
Douglas Wilson Companies has hired Michael Brekka as senior managing director of real estate development to pursue principal development opportunities throughout the West Coast and Southwest. Brekka has more than 25 years experience in real estate, construction and architecture, and has held leadership roles managing design and development for: The Vail Resorts Development Company, Shea Homes, Intracorp Urban Developers, The Corky McMillin Companies, The Oliver McMillan Company, and numerous architectural firms. As a licensed architect, he has developed and designed projects ranging from complex mixed-use developments in resort communities to residential infill projects.
Nathan Fletcher Starts Foundation to Help Veterans
Former State Assemblyman and Marine Corps veteran Nathan Fletcher on Tuesday announced the launch of a new foundation to help U.S. veterans returning from war.
The Three Wise Men Foundation named in honor of Fletcher’s cousins, brothers Jeremy, Ben and Beau Wise. Jeremy and Ben were both killed in action in Afghanistan; Ben remains on active duty in the Marine Corps.
This group aims to raise awareness of the problems facing U.S. veterans returning from war and provide direct support to organizations and programs that help them transition from combat to civilian life.
“It’s a tragedy that between as many as 50 veterans kill themselves every day in America, often as a result of untreated psychological trauma inflicted by combat,” Fletcher said. “If we truly honor those who gave their last full measure of devotion, it’s our duty to ensure that those who survive combat can also survive the transition home.
Fletcher said the foundation’s first event will be held on the deck of the USS Midway on Oct. 18 followed by similar events nationwide on Veterans Day weekend. Proceeds from the events will directly benefit returning veterans by providing access to the help and services they need to help address suicide among our nation’s heroes.