Here's Who is Developing COVID Vaccines in Los Angeles

Francesca Billington

Francesca Billington is a freelance reporter. Prior to that, she was a general assignment reporter for dot.LA and has also reported for KCRW, the Santa Monica Daily Press and local publications in New Jersey. She graduated from Princeton in 2019 with a degree in anthropology.

Here's Who is Developing COVID Vaccines in Los Angeles
Photo by Kristine Wook on Unsplash

Los Angeles biotech companies are in a race to create vaccines as the U.S. embarks on the largest public health initiative in generations.

On Friday, the FDA issued emergency authorization to Pfizer's COVID vaccine, paving the way for a massive mobilization effort across the country. Moderna has also submitted a vaccine, slated for review December 17.

But that won't bring an end to the need for vaccines.

"Let's face it, there are close to 7 billion people on this Earth, and most of them will need a vaccine," said City of Hope vaccine researcher Don J.Diamond. "No one company will want to devote the resources to vaccinating the world."


There are an estimated 237 vaccines under development globally, according to the Milken Institute's vaccine and treatment tracker. Most are still in early development; only 38 of them are in clinical trials. A majority of these vaccines will not make it to market.

Two vaccines are in phase one trials in Southern California. If those trials show the vaccine is safe, the companies will go on to test for effectiveness in phase two and three trials, which Milken estimates could take eight months.

California's first round of COVID-19 vaccine distributions could begin as early as next week, with 84,000 doses for healthcare workers on the frontlines with another shipment to follow later this month.

But experts are concerned that even with the FDA's approval and shipments on the way, the U.S. will not be able to meet its goal to get Americans vaccinated by summer.

Here's a look at the L.A. companies in the race toward that goal by developing new vaccines.

ImmunityBio

ImmunityBio

The El Segundo-based biotech company ImmunityBio is the furthest along. It started phase one trials of its vaccine at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach in October with 35 patients.

No adverse reactions have been reported in the 20 individuals that have received low doses of the vaccines, so far.

The vaccine, called hAd5, uses engineered adenovirus that targets "spike" and "nucleocapsid" COVID proteins to generate antibodies that the company hopes will provide long-term immunity.

The CEO of ImmunityBio, Patrick Soon-Shiong, a biotech leader and billionaire who owns the umbrella company NantQwest and the Los Angeles Times, told the news organization two months ago that the biggest challenge to using adenovirus is that it is a common cold virus. Many already have developed antibodies that could hurt its effectiveness.

His late-stage immunotherapy company had been working with adenovirus in its development of drugs for cancer and infectious diseases

The two-dose vaccine in development wouldn't require frigid temperatures that Pfizer's vaccine needs.

The company sees promise. Last month, it found that T cells gathered from previously infected patients showed indications that an immune response could be triggered by the vaccine.

"As the virus continues to spread at an alarming rate, it is important that we develop COVID-19 vaccines that not only provide the population with protection from new infection through antibodies that block viral entry into cells, but also establish a robust T cell immune response to clear the virus from infected cells," said Soon-Shiong said in a statement announcing the findings.

City of Hope

A team at City of Hope's clinical research center for cancer, diabetes and diseases announced last month it entered a phase one clinical trials. The vaccine aims to stimulate antibodies and T cells that can block the virus from entering susceptible cell types such as those in the lungs.

The first volunteer, a City of Hope employee, is scheduled to receive the first dose of the vaccine on Friday.

Researchers at the Duarte-based biomedical treatment and research facility developed a synthetic platform technology that hosts the SARS-CoV-2 spike and nucleocapsid proteins known as an MVA.

The MVA then replicates DNA within other cells that ultimately leads to the production of Sars-CoV-2 proteins that triggers an immune response.

According to City of Hope, synthetic MVA is a safely modified version of the poxvirus that's been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the prevention of smallpox and monkeypox. It's also included in the federal government's Strategic National Stockpile for lifesaving use during a public health emergency.

Like many other vaccines, City of Hope's would require two doses. It would need to be stored at 60 degrees celsius, not as cold as Pfizer's, but researchers are investigating whether it can be freeze dried and stored at room temperature. The trial is estimated to finish by the end of March 2021.

Capricor Therapeutics

Capricor Therapeutics

The Beverly Hills-based clinical stage biotech company is in the early stages of developing an exosome-RNA vaccine with Johns Hopkins University that uses tiny particles secreted by cells as a natural drug delivery vehicle in the body.

"As a cell-free substance, exosomes can be stored, handled, reconstituted and administered in a similar fashion to common biopharmaceutical products, such as antibodies and other recombinant protein drugs," the company said in a statement.

The 15-year-old company is known for developing exosome-based therapeutics to treat conditions including Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

Capricor said it has also begun phase two of a clinical trial of a therapeutic for patients at high-risk that are infected with the virus. The study is enrolling high-risk patients to examine the long-term cardiac consequences of the virus.


**This story has been updated.

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🚁 One Step Closer to Air Taxis in LA
Image Source: Joby Aviation

🔦 Spotlight

Joby Aviation, a pioneering electric air taxi company, has achieved a significant milestone by successfully flying a hydrogen-electric aircraft demonstrator for 523 miles with only water as a byproduct. This groundbreaking flight showcases the potential for emissions-free regional travel using vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, eliminating the need for traditional runways. The company's innovative approach combines its existing battery-electric air taxi technology with hydrogen fuel cells, paving the way for longer-range, environmentally friendly air travel.

For LA residents, this development holds exciting implications for future transportation options. Joby's technology could potentially enable direct flights from LA to destinations like San Francisco or San Diego without the need to visit conventional airports, offering a cleaner and more convenient alternative to current travel methods. The company's progress in both battery-electric and hydrogen-electric aircraft positions it at the forefront of next-generation aviation, promising to revolutionize urban and regional mobility.

Notably, Joby Aviation has already made strides in Southern California by securing an agreement with John Wayne Airport earlier this year to install the region's first electric air taxi charger. This strategic move sets the stage for LA to be among the initial markets where Joby will launch its electric air taxi service. With plans to commence commercial operations as early as 2025 using its battery-electric air taxi, LA residents may soon have access to a fast, quiet, and environmentally friendly mode of transportation that could significantly reduce travel times and traffic congestion in the region. In the not too distant future, LA might find itself in an identity crisis without traffic and excess smog 🤞🤞.


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Fuel Innovation: 7 Unforgettable Team Building Experiences in LA
Image Source: Discover LA

In today's competitive business landscape, team building activities have emerged as a crucial tool for fostering a positive work environment, enhancing productivity, and crucially, improving employee retention. Studies have shown that such activities help employees feel valued, with one report indicating that 93% of those who felt appreciated were more motivated at work. Importantly, team building events may improve retention rates, as employees who feel connected to their colleagues and company culture are more likely to stay long-term. With these benefits in mind, let's explore some of the most engaging and effective team building activities available in Los Angeles.

Pickleball

Image Source: Modern Luxury Angelino

Pickleball is a fantastic team bonding activity because of the easy-to-grasp rules and gentle pace make it perfect for everyone, regardless of age or fitness level. The game thrives on communication and teamwork, as players must collaborate and strategize to outplay their opponents, boosting team cohesion. Plus, the lively, fast-paced action sparks friendly competition and laughter, creating a fun and spirited atmosphere that brings everyone closer together. Los Angeles boasts numerous pickleball courts that are easy to rent if you have your own equipment. If you need additional assistance organizing your pickleball outing, there are plenty of full-service companies ready to handle every detail for you.

Resources: Pickle Pop, Corporate Pickle


Escape Room

Image Source: The Escape Game

Escape rooms are a great way to build camaraderie. They require participants to work together, combining their problem-solving skills and creativity to overcome challenges and puzzles. The immersive and time-sensitive nature of escape rooms fosters collaboration and communication. Additionally, the shared experience of tackling complex tasks and reaching a common goal helps build trust and foster positive emotions among colleagues.

Resources: The Escape Game, 60Out


Day Trip to Catalina Island

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Catalina Island is a perfect day trip for a team because it provides a break from the usual work environment, allowing team members to relax and connect in a new setting. Shared experiences during the trip, such as exploring new places and participating in fun activities, help build stronger relationships and foster a sense of camaraderie. There are numerous team-building activities such as an arboreal obstacle course, an island tour, scavenger hunts and more.

Resources: Catalina Island Group Activities


Top Golf

Image Source: Topgolf

Topgolf is an excellent team building event because it provides an inclusive, relaxed atmosphere that accommodates players of all skill levels, fostering personal connections and improving team morale. The unique blend of competition and entertainment creates an ideal setting for building trust, enhancing communication, and revealing hidden skills among team members. Additionally, Topgolf offers structured team building packages with guided activities, discussion prompts, and lessons on culture, change, collaboration, and strategy, making it a versatile and effective platform for strengthening relationships and boosting overall team performance.

Resources: Topgolf El Segundo


SoFi Stadium Tour

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A SoFi Stadium tour offers a unique, behind-the-scenes experience of one of the world's most advanced sports venues, allowing team members to explore exclusive areas like premium suites, team locker rooms, and the player tunnel together. The tour provides a shared, memorable experience that can foster camaraderie and spark conversations among team members, regardless of their interest in sports. Additionally, the stadium's state-of-the-art features and impressive architecture can inspire creativity and innovation, while the group setting encourages interaction and collaboration, making it an engaging and enjoyable activity for teams of various sizes and backgrounds

Resources: SoFi Stadium Group Tours


Corporate Volunteering

Image Source: L.A. Works

Volunteer work serves as an excellent team building activity by uniting employees around a shared, meaningful cause, fostering a sense of purpose and collective accomplishment. It provides opportunities for team members to collaborate in new ways, often revealing hidden strengths and leadership qualities that may not be apparent in the regular work environment. Additionally, engaging in community service can boost morale, enhance the company's reputation, and instill a sense of pride among employees, leading to improved workplace relationships and increased job satisfaction.

Resources: Habitat for Humanity, L.A. Works, VolunteerMatch


Corporate Improv Sessions

Image Source: Improv for the People

A corporate improv class encourages spontaneity, creativity, and quick thinking, skills that are valuable in the workplace. It promotes active listening and collaboration, as participants must work together to create scenes and respond to unexpected situations, fostering better communication and trust among team members. Additionally, the playful and often humorous nature of improv helps break down barriers, reduces stress, and creates a shared positive experience that can improve team morale and cohesion long after the event.

Resources: Improv-LA, Groundlings, Improv for the People

🎬 Paramount and Skydance Are Back On
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Happy Friday Los Angeles! Hope you all had a fantastic Fourth!!

🔦 Spotlight

Paramount and Skydance Media have rekindled talks to merge after negotiations abruptly halted in June. The proposed deal, contingent on approval from Paramount’s board, aims to combine Paramount’s extensive media holdings—including CBS, MTV, and Nickelodeon—with Skydance’s film expertise showcased in hits like "Top Gun: Maverick." This merger signals a potential transformation in the media landscape, positioning the new entity to compete more effectively amid challenges from streaming services and the decline of traditional cable TV.

Led by Shari Redstone, Paramount’s controlling shareholder via National Amusements, the deal represents a pivot towards revitalizing Paramount’s strategic direction amidst financial struggles and shareholder concerns. The involvement of major investors like RedBird Capital Partners and David Ellison underscores the financial backing aimed at stabilizing Paramount’s operations and addressing its $14 billion debt burden. Importantly, the agreement includes provisions to protect National Amusements from potential legal challenges, addressing previous hurdles that stalled earlier negotiations.

The deal also includes a 45-day period for Paramount to explore alternative offers, highlighting continued interest from other potential buyers like Barry Diller’s IAC and media executive Edgar Bronfman Jr. This flurry of activity underscores the significant stakeholders’ interest in Paramount’s future and its potential as a key player in a rapidly evolving media industry.


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  • Sidecar Health, a startup that offers personalized health insurance plans to businesses that allow members to see any doctor and pay directly at the time of service, raised a $165M Series D led by Koch Disruptive Technologies. - learn more

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