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Biotech Incubator Lets Clairemont Students Tackle Real-Life Problem — Hepatitis A

Clairemont High School student Maggie Johnson and her teammates brainstorm a ...

Photo by Megan Burks

Above: Clairemont High School student Maggie Johnson and her teammates brainstorm a solution to San Diego's hepatitis A outbreak, Nov. 29, 2017.

The county and city have deployed hand-washing stations, tents and nurses armed with vaccines to stop the spread of hepatitis A in San Diego. Now, Clairemont High School students are putting their heads together to develop new ways to counter the virus.

The exercise is part of a San Diego Unified effort to connect students to the region’s biotech sector.

This week, juniors in the school’s health and business academies are visiting BioLabs in La Jolla, a communal space where biotech entrepreneurs work on launching their companies. They are getting facetime with these professionals and first-hand experience pitching ideas to actual investors for feedback.

But not just any idea. Students heard from public health officials about the region’s hepatitis A outbreak that has killed 20 and sickened 553. They were given an hour to develop strategies to address the problem.

Annette Moreno and her teammates proposed handing out packaged meals along with vaccines to limit transmission through contaminated food. San Diego officials have warned charity groups that informal food handouts to the homeless could help spread the virus; El Cajon has outlawed the practice.

RELATED: El Cajon Fights Homelessness, Hep A With Tough New Regulations

“Working through this entire plan step by step, covering everything like costs and partnerships for a real company and for a real plan is really cool,” Moreno said. “I definitely think we could use it after high school.”

Fernando Jaimes and his team pitched deploying trucks with tents, hygiene supplies and vaccines.

“To know this, it’s going to help me out in the future, because I want to be an entrepreneur,” Jaimes said.

Another group proposed antibacterial gloves that can grip weights to combat the spread of germs in gyms.

Students also heard from a panel of biotech entrepreneurs.

Reported by Kris Arciaga

Special anti-bacterial gloves and packaged meals for the homeless are just two ideas Clairemont High School students pitched this week to stop the spread of hepatitis A.

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