PLEASANTON -- A Renaissance is underway in science, and the Tri-Valley -- by virtue of its proximity to the Silicon Valley and its two national laboratories -- is the modern-day Florence.
That analogy formed the central theme of the Sixth Annual Innovation Tri-Valley Forum, a gathering in Pleasanton on Wednesday of Lawrence Livermore and Sandia/California lab officials, medical professionals, investors and entrepreneurs who discussed ways that startups could benefit from the area's available resources.
"We always look for partners," said Betsy Cantwell, director for Economic Development at the Livermore lab. "Technology transfer has been a part of the lab's DNA for 20 years."
Cantwell said the lab has produced 20-30 regional "spinout" companies in the last decade, including HealthTell in San Ramon, and Fathom, a 3-D printing company based in Oakland.
Panelist Rich Stump, co-founder of Fathom, said working with the lab has allowed his company access to high-performance computing, enabling it to solve complex geometric problems.
"Technology is changing very rapidly, and partnering with the labs can help overcome a number of challenges," Stump said.
Malin Young, director of the Biological and Materials Sciences Center at Sandia National Labs, said her center's work with portable medical devices and vaccine delivery systems has resulted in spinoff companies, such as Sandstone Diagnostics, a Livermore startup founded by former Sandia scientist Greg Sommer.
Sommer is developing a simple male fertility test based on the SpinDx technology he helped create at the lab.("We're able to bring lab-accurate tests that people can do at home," Sommer said. "It's a big step for men."
The Tri-Valley's presence in medical innovation was evident in the second of the day's forums at Ruby Hill Winery, on utilizing technology to provide quality medical care.
Lynn Fischer, CEO of Title 21 Software in San Ramon, said her company wants to shift doctors from paperwork to computers to improve care. Technology, Fischer said, could reduce the number of medical errors and allow doctors more time to treat patients.
"We're changing people's behavior, and change is tough," Fischer said. "Those people who love paper, you have to convince them the benefits of technology outweighs (the old methods)."
Dr. Rahul Parikh, a physician at Kaiser Permanente in Walnut Creek, is developing technologies to better connect patients with doctors through patient portals, video visits, mobile apps and email.
"For patients, to be able to email is an amazing boon," Parikh said. "For doctors, to pull up X-rays from another hospital is remarkable."
Other panelists spoke of using big data and computer models to predict effects of new drugs and treatments. Enakshi Singh, a product manager at SAP, is part of a team researching human genomics to find preventive methods of care.
Scott Gregerson, CEO of ValleyCare Health System, said his company is using high-tech to help design a distributed type of health care, allowing patients access at a lower cost.
"The next innovation is moving away from a hospital-centric world," Gregerson said. "We have to move health care out of the buildings we work in now and into the community."
Through the forum and future partnerships, Innovation Tri-Valley CEO and Livermore Valley Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Dale Kaye said she hopes the national labs, entrepreneurs and investors can form an "innovation ecosystem" in the region.
"Today is supposed to be about medical innovation and to illuminate what we have here in the Tri-Valley," Kaye said during the conference at Ruby Hill Winery. "It has a brand all its own when it comes to entrepreneurship."
Contact Jeremy Thomas at 925-847-2184. Follow him at Twitter.com/jet_bang.