San Diego companies combat COVID-19 in creative ways

This piece is shared from San Diego: Life. Changing.’s blog:

Amidst uncertain times, we’re grateful for the San Diego life sciences companies responding to COVID-19 in the biggest ways–developing tests, innovating vaccines, and more. But many San Diego companies are stepping up to help in less conventional ways. Here are five:

1. Seven Caves Distillery

Seven Caves Distillery, located off Miramar Road, is one of several local distilleries using its facility to manufacture hand sanitizer and get it in the hands of the people who need it most – restaurant and health care workers. In partnership with Bill Rogers of Liberty Call Distilling, owner Geoff Longenecker has helped source ethanol from fellow distilleries – enough to make more than 200 gallons of sanitizer.

2. Orucase

A bicycle accessory manufacturer…helping the COVID-19 effort? It’s true: Clairemont Mesa-based Orucase, which makes sturdy travel cases for cyclists, has modified its manufacturing line to make face masks for medical workers on the front line. The company aims to manufacture 500,000 per week, and can ship immediately.

3. Dr. Bronner’s

Vista-based Dr. Bronner’s recently announced it is allotting a reserve of 2% of all hand sanitizer production to donate to at-risk communities and the organizations that serve them. The company has already shipped donations organizations serving unhoused and low-income populations in San Diego, New York City, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Additionally, Dr. Bronner’s donated boxes of soap and hand sanitizer to Vista’s Public Safety team to help keep them healthy while they keep our region safe.  See more on Dr. Bronner’s here.

4. Nanome

Nanome, a VR startup in Miramar, has been using its immersive technology to help scientists around the world model potential therapies for COVID-19 in virtual reality. Recently, the company’s drug discovery specialist and a biomedical modeler for Australia’s national science agency CSIRO used this tech to investigate the way the virus uses its spike protein to attach to human cells. By using Nanome’s technology, the scientists were able to run simulations and manually interrogate key parts of the model. While scientists recently solved the structure of COVID-19, there are gaps in the knowledge that Nanome believes its technology could help fill.

5. Highland Valley Vineyards

Escondido’s family-owned Highland Valley Vineyards has committed to donating 20% of its proceeds to the San Diego Food Bank through at least mid-May. With this effort, the winery hopes to help the Food Bank support the increased need for food assistance brought on by COVID-19 related employment losses. Individuals interested in supporting a local family business and a great cause can purchase carry-out bottles on Saturday and Sundays, from noon to six, or via the online storefront featuring all of the wines and shipping to 38 states. Learn more at Innovate78.

These are just a few of the many San Diego companies stepping up to help in creative ways. Know a great company that deserves recognition? Tag @SDlifechanging on Twitter or Instagram to let us know.

For more COVID-19 resources, visit our COVID-19 page.


San Diego Business Journal: Message from EDC President and CEO Mark Cafferty

Originally published on March 29 in the San Diego Business Journal, this is the first of EDC President and CEO Mark Cafferty’s weekly columns:

As I write this, I can only hope for everyone reading that your families and loved ones are both healthy and safe. The impact of COVID-19 in all corners of our community has been devastating and has changed our lives in numerous ways.

Things have certainly changed for our team at San Diego Regional EDC over the last few weeks, so I write today to share our unique perspectives.

As an economic development organization, EDC plays a unique role in serving the business community. We recognize that so much of this is uncharted territory for all of us. But as always, it is important to step back and look at what we know and focus on where we are needed most.

Our regional collaboration is an asset recognized around the world and I am certain it is going to be a key reason why San Diego emerges from this global health crisis stronger than ever. There is no doubt we will be facing challenging weeks and months ahead. Accurate and timely communication will be critical to our business community.

In that vein, our team has spent the last two weeks making outreach calls to our nearly 200 investors–the companies that underwrite our work. These companies range from regional giants such as Qualcomm, Sempra and Illumina, to shipbuilders like NASSCO, to hospitals/healthcare providers like Scripps, Sharp and Kaiser Permanente who are on the front lines of this crisis, to small and family owned business like Brown Law Group, Ace Parking and Jerome’s Furniture. Some of them are busier than ever and some are struggling in unprecedented ways. Yet one resounding thing we have heard from all of them is that they want to know how they can help fellow San Diegans. Some of them have made donations to the San Diego Foundation’s COVID-19 Community Response Fund and others have offered their manufacturing floors to produce critical resources.

Resources for the Business Community

While our team is still trying to get our hands around everything that is happening right now, and we certainly don’t have all the answers, EDC has quickly pivoted to provide companies with a comprehensive list of resources that we feel can best meet their needs right now. And while these continue to change and expand by the day, I wanted to take a moment to point a few out:

City of San Diego – Economic Relief Package

Businesses in the City of San Diego may be eligible for the Economic Relief Package, which provides approximately $4 million in reduced fees. It includes a Small Business Relief Fund, where businesses can apply for grants and/or low-interest loans, as well as an extension of business permits and business tax-deferral options. I know some other cities in the region are working on their own relief packages as well.

Small Business Administration–Economic Injury Disaster Loan

The San Diego and Imperial Small Business Development Center can provide no-cost guidance through a company’s recovery process. Businesses can apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan, which may provide up to $2 million of financial assistance. SBA also has immediate $25,000 bridge loans available (less paperwork) for small businesses with an existing relationship with the SBA. To apply for these programs, visit SDIBDC’s website and click “request counseling.”

South County EDC – South County Restaurant Loan

South County Economic Development Council is offering $5,000 no-interest loans to eating establishments in South County. Apply here.

San Diego Workforce Partnership – Layoff Transition Services

For businesses in the tough spot of dealing with layoffs or furloughs, San Diego Workforce Partnership has unemployment insurance information, tax assistance, a work-sharing program to avoid layoffs, financial planning, remote career services and more. If you are pivoting operations to address COVID-19 solutions, San Diego Workforce Partnership may also be able to provide funds to train workers. Fill out this form to get started.

Advancing San Diego

Thanks to a $3 million grant from JP Morgan Chase & Co, EDC and regional partners have launched Advancing San Diego–a program that drives economic inclusion by addressing talent shortages. Advancing San Diego is offering fully paid software engineering internships for companies with fewer than 100 employees. Over the past week, we have pivoted this program to provide remote internships. Companies can apply to host a fully funded intern here.

According to the Brookings Institution, 73 percent of San Diego’s economic growth is going to come from small businesses. However, we know that businesses of all sizes are struggling to adapt, and are searching for programs that provide support at all levels.

We have refocused our efforts on finding resources to assist businesses through this significant economic change and are working even more closely with our partners at San Diego Workforce Partnership and the United Way of San Diego County who will continue to provide resources and support to impacted workers.

Understanding the Regional Impact

At EDC, we frequently say “everything we do begins and ends with research.” We know we cannot grow and help our economy if we do not have the means to measure and track our efforts. And right now, accurate data and information is more important than ever.

To that end, San Diego and Imperial Small Business Development Center, San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and San Diego Regional EDC are working together to assess the impacts of COVID-19 on San Diego’s economy.

We are asking businesses to fill out a short survey so we can better understand how we can help in the days, weeks and months ahead.

The survey has been open nearly a week, and the responses have been eye-opening. Yes, companies are struggling and there have been layoffs, but amidst all the struggle, there have been some bright spots. I will share some of this data and anecdotes with you in the coming weeks.

Good News Ahead

With a research institution named after the inventor of the Polio vaccine and numerous contributions in fighting global health crises such as Ebola and HIV, San Diego has developed a reputation for bringing life-changing treatments to the world.

Right now researchers in San Diego are working 24/7 to find a vaccine and/or cure. We have local companies like Arcturus Therapeutics and Inovio Pharmaceuticals that are focusing on developing life saving vaccines, and others like Mesa Biotech, Epitope Diagnostics and Thermo Fisher Scientific that are developing and distributing test kits to healthcare workers around the globe. These workers have been showing up every day, ready to serve our residents and forge ahead, and I know I stand with the entire business community in expressing my unwavering gratitude to them all.

Back in 2011, as San Diego was climbing out of the recession, our board members were going around the table discussing all the positive things happening in our region. Our current chair – Janice Brown – suggested at that time that we compile all of the highlights into a newsletter, and from there, our publication known as “Good News of the Week” was born. With the rare exception of holidays, we have not missed a week since. Although it will take on a different and appropriate tone with regards to all that is happening now, you can expect to see Good News from EDC in the weeks ahead.

Our local outlets, including the Business Journal, are important work to keep us informed.  We need to be reminded of the numerous wins in our community now more than ever. We need to support them.

Moving Forward

When I started at EDC a little more than 8 years ago, our board challenged our team to reframe how San Diego thinks about economic development…and we have. We have built a team that believes in our mission and lives our core values of collaboration, integrity, accountability and inclusion. In the weeks ahead, as we all strive for some level of economic stability, we will be thinking again of how to reframe our value proposition and how we can best serve San Diego businesses now and in the future.

I know we are all going to get through this. Things will certainly get worse before they get better, but things will get better.

In the meantime, let’s all continue to do our best to stay in touch with each other and take care of each other. I remind myself daily that it is who we are during these moments that will shape who our children are in the future and who we will forever be in the eyes of those who count on us.

Stay safe, stay inside and stay strong.

Positivity amidst pandemic: North County companies rise to the challenge

This piece is shared from Innovate78’s blog:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” – Mr. Rogers

North County’s business and entrepreneurial community is banding together during this time to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic. From soap donations to assistance navigating remote work, Innovate78 has aggregated a handful of positive business stories along the 78 Corridor during this time of crisis.

Dr. Bronner’s (Vista)

Dr. Bronner’s donated 10 boxes of hand sanitizer and 30 boxes of soap to the City of Vista Public Safety Team to help keep them protected from germs while they are keeping the City safe.

Fire Chief Ned Vander Pol and a few members of his team.

In light of the sky-rocketing demand for hand sanitizer, Dr. Bronner’s has committed to donating 2% of its total hand sanitizer production for the duration of this pandemic.  Dr. Bronner’s is making that donation to non-profit organizations that are supporting people in need and at-risk, including those experiencing homelessness.

Bitchin’ Sauce (Carlsbad)

MetroConnect alum Bitchin’ Sauce has been donating tubs of sauce to local food banks and first responders. In addition, they are making sure to take care of their employees by giving additional sick leave and paid time off, on top of what is already offered by the new Families First Coronavirus Act. While at work, they are taking all suggested precautions by distancing employee work stations, spreading out the timing of employee breaks, and offering remote work when available.

Coomber Wines and Essentials (Oceanside)

Coomber Wines and Essentials quickly shifted its business model and has not had to cut any employee shifts. The interior of the winery is temporarily closed, but by utilizing a grab and go window, curbside pick-up, and same day delivery they are busy as ever.

Pivoting even further, they are working with restaurant partners to put together a “Dinner for Two” package, available for same day delivery which, of course, comes with a bottle of wine of your choice. Coomber wine club member can also receive a bottle of wine for just 5 cents, in lieu of the 8 tastings normally received in the tasting room.

San Diego Code School (Escondido):

The San Diego Code School is not only educating the next generation of coders and developers, but its founder, Mike Roberts, is helping businesses adapt to online tools they have never used before. Mike is an accomplished Software Engineer and has used and onboarded a variety of online tools for businesses. He is assisting businesses who have traditionally never had to use these tools (tools like Zoom, GoToMeeting, etc.) get up to speed as quickly as possible so that they don’t miss a beat.  He frequently uses these tools for San Diego Code School and is volunteering his time to help others in the community transition into the online world.

Creative Electron (San Marcos):

Not many manufacturing and production businesses are able to adopt a “work from home” policy, but Creative Electron has found a way to continue production and maintain social distancing. In an effort to keep business as usual, Creative Electron has moved machines and production lines into employee garages. The machines were transported to the garages of employees last week and production schedules have been kept on track. Employees typically work on one specific machine per day, so after the initial moving and setup, it has been a seamless transition from going to the office every day, to just going to their garages every day.


Local Innovate78 entrepreneur, Patrick Hadley, is volunteering his time and expertise to help local businesses in any way he can. An experiential marketer by trade, he has a wealth of knowledge relating to all aspects of small business. He is available to offer support and advice as businesses navigate through tough decisions either with staff/payroll, overhead expenses or dealing with vendors, banks, credit cards, etc. Patrick is a member of the Forbes Agency Council, has spoken and lectured at numerous industry events and was named one of the most important people in design by San Diego Magazine. He can be reached at

For more North County COVID-19 resources, visit Innovate78’s website.

Four SD companies on the forefront of the coronavirus battle

With a research institution named after the inventor of the polio vaccine, and the region’s contributions to fighting global health crises such as Ebola and HIV, San Diego has developed a reputation for bringing life-changing treatments to the world.

As the coronavirus progresses to a global pandemic, the life sciences industry, governments and NGOs are racing to bring treatments and tests to scale.

Here are four San Diego companies at the forefront of bringing COVID-19 solutions to market:

  1. Arcturus Therapeutics – One significant challenge with manufacturing vaccines is the size of the dose needed to inoculate a patient. Leveraging self-replicating RNA technology, Arcturus says it can inject smaller doses because it creates an antigen that continues to replicate in the body. If successful, this may also mean goodbye to booster shots. The La Jolla-based company is now identifying partnerships to bring the vaccine to market. 
  2. Inovio Pharmaceuticals – This company is already sprinting ahead in its quest to deliver a DNA-based vaccine. Inovio has racked up a combined $14 million in grants between the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Inovio’s core research lab is based out of San Diego.
  3. Mesa Biotech– As COVID-19 spreads, people are clamoring to get rapid diagnostic information. San Diego-based Mesa Biotech is undergoing clinical trials in China, where individuals will be able to get lab-quality test results in approximately 30 minutes.
  4. Thermo Fisher Scientific – Leave it to the world’s largest manufacturer of laboratory equipment to develop a testing solution. With the FDA’s approval, Thermo Fisher will produce a test kit that can diagnose within four hours, with the potential to diagnose as many as 5 million people in a week. Thermo Fisher says all 75,000 global employees have been involved in its COVID-19 response, which includes employees in its Carlsbad operation. 

We know there are additional San Diego companies out there, and we willcontinue to elevate this conversation in the weeks ahead.

In the meantime, we have put together this page with guidance and resources to help San Diego businesses navigate these unprecedented times.

If you are a San Diego business and we can help in any way, please contact us


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