Sacra-tomato, part two

UC Davis, one of the less prominent UC campuses located near Sacramento had a Life Sciences Summit. It was a conference about the working relationship between the university and the private sector to establish a growing biotechnology industry in the Sacramento area. It was about the science tools and talent the university has at its disposal, but—even more prominently—it was about how to collaborate with the school to do a biotech startup.

The first speaker, Waneta Tuttle, the founder or CEO of four biotech startups in Albuquerqe, NM, said something I agree with:

Research makes a difference in individual lives when it results in commercialization of innovative products.

I think this viewpoint is underappreciated by the ACS, its staff and volunteers. Research is great, but it doesn’t have much impact until it enters the health care system; and, like it or not, it gets there only after development by for-profit companies into products that can be put in the hands of doctors and hospitals.

When you go to an event like this you begin to get a sense of how much research and development is heading toward things that we might see in use in the near future via biotech companies. Cancer is absolutely the #1 area of research and of entrepreneurial activity. We raise research money but these companies are also raising millions—nay, billions—of investment dollars to produce the final products.

They featured speakers from four Sacramento-area companies, and three of the four are developing cancer diagnosis, detection or treatment products. Some of it is very exciting. For instance, a company called Bioluminate licensed NASA technology originally developed to probe for life on Mars. They have developed a probe now in clinical trials that can do five simultaneous measures indicative of cancer in real time. The probe is as small as a needle used in drawing blood and three times smaller than the needle used for needle biopsy. Nevertheless, five fiber-optic threads run to sensors in the shaft. They can insert the probe into a breast and watch the indicators of tissue change as they reach suspected malignant tissue. This could be more accurate and specific than mammography, less costly, less invasive, less painful than current aspiration, and give diagnostic data in real time.

I think it would be beneficial if ACS units or offices had greater knowledge about and involvement with the companies in their neighborhood who are doing product R&D related to cancer. I think it would be eye-opening.

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