Awards + Honors
TSRI racks up the awards
The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) received several awards and accolades in August. The journal Nature ranked the institute as the most influential research institute in the world based on research quality, patent applications, and broad scientific influence. UC San Diego ranked 14th. The top-ranked study at TSRI was from the lab of Floyd Romesberg, Ph.D., which found that a single-cell organism could maintain an additional two synthetic DNA “letters,” in addition to the four natural ones, referred to as A, T, G, and C. This breakthrough was exclusively licensed to local biotech Synthorx to translate the technology into new medicines. (Watch Romesberg’s TEDMED talk, where he explains the science behind expanding the genetic alphabet and what it means for the future of medicine.)
TSRI’s additional awards went to individuals. Keary M. Engle, Ph.D., an assistant professor of chemistry, received the NIH’s Outstanding Investigator Award. With the award comes a grant to support his research into finding cheaper and less toxic methods to make more complex molecules that could be useful in new drug discovery and other products. Staff Scientist Kathryn Hastie won the Spicer Young Investigator Award.
Reports + Research
Biotech means business for San Diego
Biocom released a report detailing the economic impact of life science companies in California. In San Diego, more than 1,200 life science establishments provide nearly 50,000 jobs and support 133,000 jobs. These establishments generate $33.6 billion in economic output. The report further detailed average wages, educational attainment, and NIH funding.
The San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation also released their quarterly economic impact report, which included a breakdown of the economic impact of the genomics industry. Ranking second in the nation, the San Diego genomics industry accounts for more than 115 companies, 10,000 jobs, and $5.6B in annual economic impact. In fact, Illumina just expanded again. The quarterly report also called out the top venture capital deals, which went to TP Therapeutics and Epic Sciences, both in precision medicine.
Opioid sensor technology gets NIH grant
What if you could sense opioids in patients who are in recovery immediately, rather than waiting for a blood or urine sample? Last week, an NIH grant was awarded to Qualcomm Institute’s CARI Therapeutics to develop a biosensor that does just that. The hope is that the sensor can detect relapses quicker than a blood or urine test and deliver treatment interventions in time to prevent overdoses.
Gene editing is adapted to target RNA
Smart money bets CRISPR/Cas9 will win a Nobel Prize this year, but of course we don’t know until October. Earlier this month, researchers from UC San Diego showed that a new version of CRISPR could be used against RNA. It’s early-stage research, but promising as there are no approved therapies to delay disease progression.
Not up on CRISPR/CAS9? Here’s a video on gene editing. If you already understand what DNA is, start at 1:16.
Podcast: Get the lead out
Podcasts are back, and if you have an hour, listen to this one. It explains why we have unleaded gasoline in our cars. There’s also a chat with a couple of local scientists.
It’s Happening Here
Venture Summit, hosted by San Diego Venture Group, is billed as the largest annual gathering of VCs in Southern California. The keynote will be given by Bill Maris, founder and first CEO of Google Ventures. Maris recently closed on $150 million on his own “general purpose” VC fund, called Section 32.
Biocom’s DeviceFest & Digital Health Summit will hold its 10th Annual Conference with topics ranging from a regulatory update and finding funding to therapy compliance and behavior modification.
San Diego: Life. Changing. Night @ Petco Park. Help the San Diego EDC tell our city’s story across the globe. They have 15,000 tickets at $20 each for the September 19 evening game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Sounds like three of my favorite things (that start with a “B”): baseball, beer, and biotech.
Client disclosure: Epic Sciences, Synthorx