Explaining Southern California's economy

Building the biomedical future in Orange County

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Matthew DeBord

TechPortal Orange will provide space and access to services in an incubator environment. The location at the UC Irvine Medical Center campus provides startups with the opportunity to work with high-level medical talent.

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Matthew DeBord

TechPortal Orange occupies space on the second floor of a building at the UC Irvine Medical Center campus. Startups in residence at the incubator will also have access to additional labs.

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Matthew DeBord

Jacob Levin, PhD, Assistant Vice Chancellor of Research Development at the UC Irvine Office of Research. He has been instrumental in setting up the TechPortal Orange incubator.

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Matthew DeBord

This is where cutting-edge biomedical research will be transformed into commercial applications.

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Matthew DeBord

The "wet" lab area has room for 14 individual companies. More complex equipment is located elsewhere in the building. The overall space is 3,100 square feet.

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Matthew DeBord

Each 150-square-foot lab area has bench space for 4 researchers, as well as instruments for cell culture, microscopy, biochemistry, and molecular biology.

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Matthew DeBord

Valves! Biomedical research may be high-tech, but there are still some elements that are sooooo 20th century.


There's a problem in the venture capital world. The amount of venture funding flowing into startups has been reduced by the financial crisis, but VCs are still looking to make money off new technology businesses. Biotech is another story. A mobile application or social networking website can turn to gold far quicker than a biomedical play. 

"[Information] technology has faster exits than biomedical," said Dr. Jacob Levin, Assistant Vice Chancellor of Research Development at the UC Irvine Medical Center. "The burden of the FDA approval process isn't there. It can take eight years to get a new technology or treatment approved."

According to Levin, the dreaded "valley of death" — the point at which a startup moves from early stage funding to more serious investment, commercialization, and revenue — for biomedical is "expanding." This is a major challenge in Southern California, where biotech is often viewed as the region's answer to Silicon Valley's tech juggernaut.

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Eurozone crisis: Italy's 7 percent disaster

It's looking more and more like the Euro is toast. It's game over for Greece, and now Italy's bond yields have moved above 7 percent. Why is that such a big deal? Allow CNN to explain:

The 7% level is significant because that was the mark Ireland and Portugal crossed shortly before receiving bailouts from the European Union and International Monetary Fund. Ireland's actually rose above 8%, while Portugal's breached 9%. And yields for Greek bonds touched the 10% mark.

Italy's overall financial picture isn't especially terrible — people there have not borrowed themselves into a personal hole. It's just that the country's public finances are in tatters. And the third largest economy in Europe can't be in tatters. My Twitter feed isn't optimistic, as the Storify grab below demonstrates.

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Storifying the Eurozone crisis

My colleague Tony Pierce, our new blog editor here at KPCC, has got me messing around with Storify, which he believes will lead us to a glorious future in social media and blogging. I have to say, I think I agree with him.

Anyway, the title (below) says it all, now that Italy looks like it might be the next victim of the euro's meltdown. What will save it? Silvio Berlusconi must step down, and a government of "technocrats" — sort of like management consultants, only they're with...the goverment — will fill the political void and fix Italy. Here's what a sampling of my @DeBordReport Twitter feed thinks.

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The Cal State faculty strike highlights every single problem with higher education

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Slobodan Dimitrov/California Faculty Association

Elected officials and members of the Screen Actors Guild supported a faculty and student protest of budget cuts at CSU Dominguez Hills. Rally organizers oppose an administration process underway that could lead to cutting entire programs or majors.

You can't say that faculty members in the California State University system aren't patient. Since they gained the right to collective bargaining in 1983, they've...never staged a strike. Until now. Next week, the union will strike at Cal State Dominguez Hills and Cal State East Bay, two of the 23 campuses that make up CSU, which sits just below the University of California system in the state's educational hierarchy.

This is from the LA Times:

The group is protesting a decision by Chancellor Charles Reed to withhold pay raises negotiated for the 2008-09 and 2009-10 academic years. The raises, which would total about $20 million in the first year, stalled when the state cut education funding.

Sounds fairly straightforward, but it isn't. Here's why:

  • Both CSU and UC are trapped in the budgetary morass that is California. They're already been hit with $650 million in cuts and will suffer even more pain if revenue projection continue to disappoint.
  • Tuition has been hiked by 23 percent. That sounds like a lot, but CSU is still a relatively good deal in higher education, with tuition and fees of around $6,000 per year. However, enrollment has been axed, by 10,000 students — so fewer kids have access to that good price.
  • The faculty wants "pay parity" — existing faculty would be paid at the same level as new hires, who are getting paid more. In this context, what's rankled the faculty is that high-level administrators are increasingly being paid more than their predecessors. The new CSU San Diego president will get $100,000 more than the guy who preceded him.

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Can Google Reader be saved?

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KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images

Google Plus challenging the social media dominance of Facebook and Twitter

Bloggers have traditionally been core users of Google Reader. We need the tool to keep track of the blogosphere and have a single interface through which all posts flow. However, outside the blogging world, Google Reader is being displaced by a deluge of social-media products, like Facebook, Twitter, and Google's own Google Plus.

Meanwhile, Google has been rolling out a comprehensive redesign of all its interfaces. Reader got sucked in, much to the displeasure of the blogging community. Nobody seems to like it, but then again, those nobodies are all old-fogey bloggers who ruled the realm in 2007 but are now ready to be put out to pasture. 

The biggest complaint is that all sharing is now being bent to the will of Google Plus. Gotta get those fossils out of the second George W. Bush administration!

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