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Spotlighting the Tri-Valley's innovation economy

Uploaded: Sep 7, 2021
The Tri-Valley’s innovation culture has grown stronger since Lawrence Livermore and Sandia national labs started their Open Campus program about a decade ago.
That was spotlighted during the San Francisco Business Times’ annual look at the Tri-Valley that took place on Zoom 10 days ago. Panels featured the Innovation Tri-Valley Leadership Groups’ 2040 Vision, the housing challenges in the area and the two national labs and the private sector opportunities coming out of it.
The third panel featured new Lawrence Livermore Director Kim Budil, 10x Genomics co-founder and lab alum Ben Hindson and Sandia senior scientist Brooke Harmon. Budil noted just how rapidly the lab has been growing, adding near 3,000 people over the last five years as its budget has grown to $2.5 billion. Among the key projects that lab is tackling is how to use its expertise in modeling and super-computing capability to greatly accelerate the drug development pipeline.
That’s an area Harmon and her team have been collaborating with Lawrence Livermore on. She said she used to have to explain what she was working on, but no longer. “…we have been working to develop a platform technology that we can quickly pivot to any specific pathogen, but also make things that are more broad spectrum so they can work on a family of viruses.” She’s been working on monoclonal antibodies to make them more effective to target specific tissues and less expensive. The anti-bodies are the most important part of the immune system response.
Hindson, a native Australian, offered insight into his motivation, “We can have a good time and while we do it… at the end of the day what I care about it having an impact.” When asked for his headline in five years, he said 1,000 less cancer deaths and 10,000 less in 10 years because of the ground-breaking research done with 10x Genomics equipment.
Lab Director Budil shared that the University of California, which shares a management role with other firms, is preparing to renovate Hertz Hall, a facility in the Open Campus that once housed UC Davis’ Dept. of Applied Science. She earned her PhD there. It will be a UC system-wide resource and create another opportunity for cross-pollination between lab employees, academics and the private sector that already is in place at the manufacturing research facility.
The housing panel, as would be expected, noted that the Bay Area and California in general are falling woefully short of building enough units to keep pace with household formation.
Jordan Moss, the founder of Catalyst, offered their fresh solution to mid-market housing, affordable housing for essential workers such as first responders and teachers who make enough that they don’t qualify for any of the lower income subsidies. Their group partners with cities and buys existing Class A properties. The purchase is financed by municipal bonds and thus they can cut the traditional expense load by about half. That means they can reduce rents significantly, making it affordable for middle income groups.
The plan calls for the properties to revert to the city in the long term so it can either continue the middle income housing or sell it and put the funds back into other affordable housing projects. Moss estimates they’ll do about $2 billion in purchases this year. They’ve already purchased two properties totaling about 700 units in Dublin this year.

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