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Daily Business Report-Aug. 7, 2015

Daily Business Report-Aug. 7, 2015

‘SDG&E’s on-going effort to stick ratepayers with the cost of wildfires it caused is outrageous,’ said Jacob, who represents some of the areas ravaged by the fires nearly eight years ago.  (File Photo)

Dianne Jacob Fired Up Over SDG&E Plan

To Stick Customers with Wildfire Bill

City News Service

County Supervisor Dianne Jacob ripped San Diego Gas & Electric Thursday for the utility’s plans to factor some of the payments it made to settle lawsuits over the 2007 wildfires into the rates it charges customers.

SDG&E unveiled the proposal to collect $367 million from ratepayers earlier this week when parent-company Sempra Energy issued its quarterly earnings report. The figure is not final, and will be determined before the utility files a formal request with the California Public Utilities Commission this fall, according to spokeswoman Stephanie Donovan.

Jacob, who has been critical of SDG&E policies the past few years, announced her opposition in a statement to the media.

“SDG&E’s on-going effort to stick ratepayers with the cost of wildfires it caused is outrageous,” said Jacob, who represents some of the areas ravaged by the fires nearly eight years ago.

“It’s especially offensive to those who lost their homes and even loved ones in the 2007 firestorms and are now being asked to help pay for the utility company’s mistakes,” Jacob said. “My hope is that state regulators stand up for San Diego County residents and reject SDG&E’s proposal.”

Several fires ravaged San Diego County in October 2007, two of which were touched-off by SDG&E equipment, and one of which SDG&E gear was partly responsible. According to Donovan, utilities are liable for damage caused by power lines, and the company has paid out well over $2 billion to conclude litigation.

The company had $1.1 billion in liability coverage, and recovered $824 million from third-party contractors and Cox Communications, according to its filing. That was still $494 million less than the cost of settling the 19,000 claims.

“The remaining costs of the settlements — that is, what is over and above what we’ve paid out from SDG&E’s liability insurance and recoveries from third parties — are costs of providing service, and as such, they’re costs SDG&E is allowed to recover in rates,” Donovan said.

“It’s understandable that those who suffered losses in the fires and their neighbors are angry and may not agree,” Donovan said. “We do hope they realize we have done everything possible not only to achieve reasonable settlements, but also to offset the amount of costs we would seek to recover through rates.”

Like little Pac-Mans

Like little Pac-Mans

Little ‘Pac-Man’ Bacterium

May Help People Quit Smoking

Scripps Research Institute Professor Kim Janda (center), Graduate Student Song Xue (left) and Research Associate Joel Schlosburg were authors of the new paper.

Scripps Research Institute Professor Kim Janda (center), Graduate Student Song Xue (left) and Research Associate Joel Schlosburg were authors of the new paper.

A new study from scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) explores a bacterial enzyme that might be used as a drug candidate to help people quit smoking. The research shows that this enzyme can be recreated in lab settings and possesses a number of promising characteristics for drug development.

“Our research is in the early phase of drug development process, but the study tells us the enzyme has the right properties to eventually become a successful therapeutic,” said Kim Janda, the Ely R. Callaway Jr. Professor of Chemistry and member of the Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology at TSRI.

The new research, published online ahead of print on August 6 in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, offers a possible alternative to current smoking cessation aids, which are shown to fail in at least 80 to 90 percent of smokers. The idea behind an enzyme therapy would be to seek out and destroy nicotine before it reaches the brain—depriving a person of the “reward” of nicotine that can trigger relapse into smoking.

For more than 30 years, Janda and his colleagues have struggled to create such an enzyme in the lab, but they recently ran across a potential enzyme found in nature—NicA2 from the bacteria known as Pseudomonas putida. It turns out this bacterium—originally isolated from soil in a tobacco field—consumes nicotine as its sole source of carbon and nitrogen.

“The bacterium is like a little Pac-Man,” said Janda. “It goes along and eats nicotine.”

 SDSU RoboSub Defiance

SDSU RoboSub Defiance

SDSU Engineers Shine

At RoboSub Competition

By Hallie Jacobs

The San Diego State University Mechatronics Club trumped more than three dozen teams at the annual Robosub Competition, held July 25-26 in Point Loma.

The competition — which advances the development of Autonomous Underwater Vehicles by challenging engineers to perform realistic missions in an underwater environment — showcased high schools and colleges from around the globe.

Competing against high-caliber engineering schools, including the California Institute of Technology, Washington State and the University of Iowa, SDSU’s Mechatronics Club was able to score the most points by successfully navigating through an underwater obstacle course.

‘We didn’t know what to expect going into it, but once they announced the second place team at the awards banquet, we knew we were going to win,” said Maryann Ibrahim, a senior computer engineering major. “It was an amazing feeling because this is the first time a team from San Diego has ever made it to the finals, or won first place in the 18 years this competition has taken place.”

The sub — which the team affectionately dubbed ‘Defiance’ — got its name because the team was initially wary of how well it could perform.

“Going into the competition it seemed like everything was stacked against us,” Ibrahim said. “We didn’t have all the materials we needed; we didn’t have a lot of time to test it in the water; we were almost disqualified because our sub was close to the weight limit. We named the sub Defiance because we wanted to defy our expectations and prove that we could win.”

And that they did.

Thanks to software designed by Austin Owens, a senior mechanical engineering major and president of the Mechatronics club, the Robosub was able to successfully identify challenges presented by the obstacle course through superior image processing technology.

“This is helpful for us to gain real-world experience,” Ibrahim said. “With this type of technology available, it will allow engineers and scientists to map the terrains of unexplored regions of lakes and oceans, search and safely disarm mines in the water, or collect data of various oceanic properties over the course of weather changes and time.”

See video

Photo by Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publications

Photo by Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publications

2015 Research Funding at UCSD

Again Surpasses Billion-Dollar Mark

Research funding for 2015 at the University of California San Diego has again surpassed $1 billion — the fourth time in the last six years the campus has achieved that milestone, the Office of Research Affairs announced.

Total UC San Diego research funding for the fiscal year which ended on June 30 was $1,012,200,459, down from $1,057,066,247 in 2014.

The university brought in research funding of more than a billion dollars in 2010, 2012, 2014, and this year, with 2011 and 2013 numbers falling just short of the billion-dollar mark.

Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla said the strong performance can be credited to the creativity of the institution’s faculty. “Members of our faculty — as well as our postdoctoral scholars and our students — are eager to tackle the biggest questions, the hardest problems, in their fields, and their ideas attract impressive nationwide support.”

Vice Chancellor for Research Sandra A. Brown reiterated that the ability of university teams to garner support for research is noteworthy in a time of reductions in many areas of federal and state funding.

“Our success indicates both our research teams’ incredibly hard work and the importance of the avenues of research we’re exploring,” Brown said. “Funding agencies and industries recognize the powerful return on investment our researchers produce for the benefit of society.”

The funding supports research in many branches of medicine, the sciences, the arts, the humanities, oceanography, engineering, the social sciences, supercomputing, and other fields – research that UC San Diego is internationally recognized for translating into innovations, medical breakthroughs, jobs and new businesses in San Diego and California.

Stone Brewing in Partnership

To Produce Collaboration Beer

San Diego-based Stone Brewing Co. and BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse announced a limited release of a collaboration beer — Temple of Stone IPA — which will be available in all of BJ’s restaurants beginnng Monday.

Temple of Stone IPA will remain on tap through early September, or while supplies last. The collaboration IPA was brewed with malted wheat, new hops and elderflower.

“The use of wheat enhances the complex hop profile,” the companies said in a statement. “Two new hop varieties — Jarrylo and Belma — contribute fruity hop flavors that resemble blackberry and strawberry, while mellow floral notes of elderflower cover the palate.”

Pathway Genomics Limited Time

Pricing for Pathway Fit Genetic Test

San Diego-headquartered Pathway Genomics has announced a limited time $99 pricing for the Pathway Fit genetic test. The test analyzes more than 75 genetic markers known to impact metabolism, exercise, and energy consumption use within the human body. Using this analysis, the test creates a personalized nutrigenomic profile that provides individualized information to physicians and their patients in order to help them understand how genetics and lifestyle may impact their diet nutrition and exercise, said Pathway Genomics in a statement.

San Diego No Longer ‘Enron by the Sea,’ Auditors Say

City News Service

A report released Thursday on San Diego’s financial condition showed that the city has left the derisive “Enron by the Sea” description far behind and is much better off than other municipalities with similarly sized populations.

The City Auditor’s Office used 10 standard measurements of a public entity’s financial condition to document San Diego’s rise since 2005, a year when some mayoral candidates talked about declaring bankruptcy.

The results of the measurements, which display a government’s ability to finances its services on a continuing basis, were compared to Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Jose and three cities in Texas — Austin, Dallas and San Antonio.

“The city of San Diego’s overall financial condition — in the areas of financial position, revenues, and debt — has improved markedly over the last 10 years, especially when compared to other cities of similar population size,” the auditors wrote in their conclusion. “Our audit results show that San Diego is in a stronger position today than it was 10 years ago.”

According to the auditors, ratios for debt coverage, multiple revenue sources, solvency and liquidity were strong in 2014, and the other ratios scored well when compared to the other six cities. Eight of 10 ratios had positive trend lines, with liquidity showing marked improvement over the past decade.

In a chart showing scores for each of the 10 measurements, San Diego’s financial picture came out twice as good in 2014 as its closest competitor among the benchmark cities.

San Diego lagged in one measurement, the change in net value of its capital assets, like city-owned buildings. Recent reports have shown the city falling far behind in needed maintenance and repair.

Personnel Announcements

Suzanne LaTour Takes Presidency of Women’s Foundation

Suzanne LaTour

Suzanne LaTour

Suzanne LaTour has accepted the position of president of the board of directors of the San Diego Women’s Foundation for the upcoming year. LaTour joined the foundation in 2003 and has been an active member ever since.

LaTour was a board member of the Downtown YMCA for several years and served on the Advisory Committee for The San Diego Foundation’s Philanthropy Department. She also worked with San Diego’s Adult Literacy Program and Habitat for Humanity, and has been a member of LEAD San Diego and the San Diego Leadership Trust.

With more than 21 years of experience, LaTour is part of a professional wealth management team at Merrill Lynch,

The foundation also announced three new board members: Kate Fries, Mary Rose Mueller and Suzanne Varco.

Primero Systems Promotes Steve Press

Steve Press

Steve Press

Primero Systems Inc. announced the promotions of Steve Press to president and German Porta to CTO. The company said Press and Porta will play pivotal roles as the company looks to add marketing automation to its suite of world-class solutions.

Press has been involved in Primero’s software development process for almost two decades. His responsibilities have encompassed the system design, development and resiliency of extensible, mission-critical customer applications.

Press is the  principal designer of the company’s commercial web CMS product, Webtreepro.

Lisa Martens Joins Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton

Lisa Martens

Lisa Martens

Lisa M. Martens has joined the Del Mar office of Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP as a partner in the firm’s intellectual property practice group. Martens joins from Fish & Richardson.

As a trademark and copyright specialist, Martens’ practice focuses on the protection and enforcement of brands for clients ranging from start-ups and emerging companies to Fortune 500 corporations.  She counsels clients in a wide variety of industries, including the biotechnology, food and beverage, healthcare, e-commerce, semiconductor, and retail clothing industries.

Martens has successfully litigated trademark, copyright, unfair competition, anti-counterfeiting, right of publicity, and false advertising cases in federal district courts.  She has substantial experience bringing and defending trademark actions before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Boardfalse advertising actions before the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus and domain name disputes before both the World Intellectual Property Organization and the National Arbitration Forum.

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We Want Your Opinions on San Diego’s Big Issues In the coming months, Probosky Research (one of California’s leading opinion research firms) will continue its partnership with SD METRO to survey San Diego residents about topics of interest to our readers. We’d like to throw open the door for suggestions for topics. What do you want to know? What do you think you know, but aren’t sure? What are you certain you know, but want to prove it beyond doubt? Ideally, we’d like to see questions that have to do with public policy.

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