San Diego science: how genomics is addressing the global pandemic

San Diego is ranked the among the top genomics markets in the nation, and we have world leaders in next-generation sequencing (NGS) in our backyard. With access to genomic experts and innovative companies who are paving the way for the future of medicine, our region has become a hotspot for transformative life-changing science.

On June 23, San Diego: Life. Changing., EDC’s talent attraction campaign, hosted a panel with scientists who are studying modern genomics to address COVID-19. This panel, titled “San Diego Science & the Global Pandemic: Genomics”, was the second event in a series of virtual panels. We made sure this panel was attractive to everyone, meaning whether you have a PhD or you are a freshman-year-biology-class drop out, the expert panelists broke down the science into layman’s terms to tell the attendees what they need to know about the future of precision medicine and COVID-19.

The panel was moderated by Kathy Lynch, Vice President, Global Government Affairs & Public Policy for Illumina, who plays a critical role in connecting San Diego science with global markets. She moderated a fascinating panel with two distinguished (and very local) scientists.

The first panelist, Gary P. Schroth, Ph.D., Vice President and Distinguished Scientist at Illumina, uses next-generation sequencing (NGS) to study genomics, gene structure, expression and regulation and applies this to projects in the fields of cancer, immunology, microbiology and infectious disease. Over the course of his career Dr. Schroth has been an author on more than 95 peer reviewed research papers and holds 19 U.S. patents.

The second panelist, Dr. James Lu, M.D., Ph.D. is the Co-founder & Chief Science Officer at Helix. Dr. Lu is responsible for the scientific teams which includes bioinformatics, laboratory operations, regulatory, quality, translational research and policy teams.

The panelists wasted no time before delving into the panel, always being cognizant that the majority of their audience did not have a science background. The topics included an overview of NGS, the history of COVID-19, how COVID-19 strains differ from one another and how the strains evolve and travel differently, testing capabilities for the region, as well as other related issues.

Through the panel, it was clear that location in the San Diego region is a top choice for genomics companies and talent. Illumina was founded here 22 years ago and the region has essentially been the heart of genomics renaissance. Many well-established companies are here, as well as tons of startups. The company density paired with the talent pool from local colleges, makes this area a hotbed of genomic activity. There is an immense amount of opportunity that breeds exceptional employees and competitive hiring practices, forcing companies to constantly up their game. 20 years ago if you were a molecular biologist, you wouldn’t have thought of San Diego as a place to start or grow your career – now, the area is at the top of your list.

As this work is all-consuming, during all hours of the day for the last six months, Dr. Gary Schroth joked that he “couldn’t remember what he used to work on” before COVID. This panel made it very clear that the genomics industry in San Diego is at the forefront of COVID research. San Diego is a hotbed of activity and a great place to start or grow your career in life science.

 

 

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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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