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Innovation & Collaboration Take Center Stage In San Diego During Covid-19

Besides the immeasurable suffering and loss of life, there’s no doubt COVID-19 has deeply impacted our daily rituals and the global economy, halting travel and meetings, driving down stocks, and quarantining all of us. But, there is also a silver lining—one that has sparked more innovation and collaboration. And San Diego has been at the epicenter.

While many industries and regions have felt the grave impacts of COVID-19, San Diego’s innovative companies and research organizations have played a significant role in working to combat the deadly virus. Not only that, but our local government agencies and nonprofits have also risen to the occasion, putting into action several strategies to help keep local businesses afloat.

As lockdown ensued throughout the state, San Diego’s government entities jumped into action to offer assistance and access to resources to businesses. With close to 90% of San Diego’s business being small-to-medium-sized businesses, cities and the county transitioned to a crisis communications/economic development focus—from emergency loans by the City of San Diego, Carlsbad, and others, to grants funded by large companies like Qualcomm and Cox Communications, as well as the San Diego Foundation and Booz Allen Hamilton.

Shortly after, many companies started to pivot their business model to battle COVID-19 at the front lines, whether through using their manufacturing for mask/ventilator/protective equipment, or making hand sanitizer, test kits, digital dash boards, and more. Meanwhile, San Diego’s celebrated life science community spun up its virus testing and vaccine and antibody trials to work towards halting the spread of the virus and even a cure. Since then, more than a dozen (and counting) San Diego biotech companies have been working towards a vaccine. It’s no surprise, however, that San Diego’s biotech cluster, the third largest in the nation, has risen to the occasion. Below are a few examples:

  • Inovio, which is leading the development of DNA based medicines, has begun testing its DNA vaccine against COVID-19, which is an unprecedented development speed.
  • Another San Diego biotech, Arcturus, is working diligently to develop a COVID-19 vaccine in collaboration with Duke-NUS Medical School, which is expected to be in clinical trials this year.
  • Thermo Fisher Scientific’s next-generation sequencing technology is being used to rapidly identify which strain of the virus is present in patients.
  • General Atomics is working on developing technology to detect respiratory diseases.
  • Local university scientists and researchers are also leading the charge for combating coronavirus, including identifying key proteins to develop a cure for COVID-19, using 3D printing to build ventilators, testing known drugs that may inhibit the virus, and more.
  • San Diego’s collaborative spirit is also soaring. One thing I have learned about this community is that collaboration and helping one another is ingrained in our region’s DNA. And that holds true during the COVID-19 pandemic. There have been countless companies, entrepreneurs, and organizations who have gone above and beyond to help their fellow San Diegans. For example, Nader Khalil, CEO of Paeau, designed an easy way for small businesses to share gift cards with customers online. Meanwhile, San Diego State alumnus Joel D’Elon has offered a free health app during coronavirus quarantine to help boost positivity and productivity at home. Then there’s CureMetrix, which is offering a no-cost implementation of its AI-based mammography solutions for radiologists to help them prepare for the surge in mammograms that will come as they go back to work.

Organizations like the San Diego Food Bank have also stepped up to provide meals for hundreds of thousands of people who are suffering from food insecurity as a direct result of the COVID-19 lockdown. Thousands of community members have donated and volunteered to assist in the San Diego Food Bank’s endeavor.

With San Diego’s innovation and collaboration prowess in full swing, it’s no wonder Mayor Kevin Faulconer introduced #SanDiegoStepsUp, a campaign to illustrate San Diego’s compassionate spirit during the coronavirus pandemic and to celebrate those who are going above and beyond to help their community.

While we aren’t quite sure what the landscape will look like when many of us return to work, one thing’s for certain and that’s San Diego’s innovation economy will continue to thrive, thanks in part to the support of local governments, companies, and entrepreneurs, as well as the innovative, creative, and collaborative minds that call our region home.

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