Past, present, future: San Diego women make life sciences strides

Mar 31, 2021 - Heather Dewis

Women have always been at the heart of our region’s innovation, scientific discoveries, and healthcare efforts. From San Diego’s finest healthcare systems to research teams with far-reaching impact, we don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say: women are the past, present, and future of San Diego’s life sciences innovation.

A foundation for healthcare

In 1890, Sister Mary Michael Cummings and Sisters of Mercy opened a five-bed dispensary in downtown San Diego. In 1924, after recovering from a broken hip in a poorly equipped La Jolla sanitarium, Ellen Browning Scripps founded Scripps Memorial Hospital and Scripps Metabolic Clinic. After a long history shaping regional health, the two merged in 1995 to become Scripps Health, which oversaw San Diego’s first successful liver transplant program, the region’s first comprehensive breast care center, and more.

Ellen Browning Scripps was also responsible for the establishment of numerous San Diego institutions, including the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, and Scripps College.

Learn more about Ellen Browning Scripps’ impact – and the life-changing work of modern-day Scripps Health.


Meeting the moment

Co-founded by Dr. Hong Cai in 2009, a former principal investigator at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Mesa Biotech was known for its point-of-care molecular diagnostics that enabled decentralized testing at central laboratory standards. When COVID-19 hit, the company transitioned to develop COVID-19 tests – ultimately receiving FDA Emergency Use Authorization for its 30 minute Accula COVID-19 test. Mesa’s rapid testing technology has since been used to clear NFL players for safe gameplay.

Learn more about Mesa Biotech, which was recently acquired by Thermo Fisher Scientific.


A life-changing, life-saving future

What does the future of health and life sciences look like? According to San Diego startups like LunaDNA and Truvian Health, the future looks a lot like close control of and easy access to your health data.

Truvian Health, which is developing an automated benchtop FDA-cleared system to deliver data to patients, was co-founded by Dena Marrinucci Ph.D., a life sciences entrepreneur with a passion for introducing diagnostic technologies. As COVID-19 and growing digital efforts jointly usher in an age of telemedicine, Truvian aims to make it easy for patients to access their data and have critical conversations with doctors. The company recently raised a $105 million Series C round, which will be used toward accelerating efforts to prepare the product for a submission to the FDA and for commercialization.

And LunaPBC, co-founded by former Illumina Vice President of Applied Genomics Dawn Barry, is developing LunaDNA™, a community-owned platform for health research. LunaDNA allows anyone to join the community, share their health data, and receive ownership shares in the organization, ushering in a new era of personal data ownership.

Learn more about Truvian Health and LunaPBC.


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