Category Archives: Global Corporate U.

UC-San Francisco fires U.S. workers, hires abroad


It’s a story that would’ve added fuel to the anti-immigrant hysteria of the Trump campaign, but at its heart its all about a state firing its own citizens and replacing them with cheap labor.

Replacement workers ostensibly hired because of a shortage of American workers able to fill those positions from which American workers are being hired and replaced with cheap labor that happens to come from India.

It’s a story about libertarian chickens coming home to roost, the spawn of Proposition 13, the corporate tax giveaway sold to California’s as s savior of the homes of the elderly.

Proposition 13 was the long con, devised by Howard Jarvis, a man whose aim was to destroy government [we know because he told us so].

From the Los Angeles Times:

Using a visa loophole to fire well-paid U.S. information technology workers and replace them with low-paid immigrants from India is despicable enough when it’s done by profit-making companies such as Southern California Edison and Walt Disney Co.

But the latest employer to try this stunt sets a new mark in what might be termed “job laundering.” It’s the University of California. Experts in the abuse of so-called H-1B visas say UC is the first public university to send the jobs of American IT staff offshore. That’s not a distinction UC should wear proudly.

UC San Francisco, the system’s biggest medical center, announced in July that it would lay off 49 career IT staffers and eliminate 48 other IT jobs that were vacant or filled by contract employees. The workers are to be gone as of Feb. 28. In the meantime they’ve been ordered to train their own replacements, who are employees of the Indian outsourcing firm HCL Technologies.

The training process was described by UCSF managers by the Orwellian term “knowledge transfer,” according to Audrey Hatten-Milholin, 53, an IT architect with 17 years of experience at UCSF who will be laid off next month.

“The argument for Disney or Edison is that its executives are driven to maximize profits,” says Ron Hira of Howard University, a expert in H-1B visas. “But UC is a public institution, not driven by profit. It’s qualitatively different from other employers.”

By sending IT jobs abroad, UC is undermining its own mission, which includes preparing California students to serve the high-tech industry.

Chart of the day: Univ. of Calif. workers go hungry


From Food Insecurity Among University of California Employees, a report from the Occidental College Urban & Environmental Policy Institute

blog-foof
The Los Angeles Times reports:

Seven in 10 University of California workers in clerical, administrative and support services struggle to put adequate food on the table, according to a new Occidental College study.

The study, set for release Monday, found that 45% of 2,890 employees surveyed throughout the 10-campus UC system went hungry at times. An additional 25% had to reduce the quality of their diet.

The problems persisted even though most of those surveyed were full-time employees with college degrees and average earnings of $22 an hour.

Peter Dreier, an Occidental professor of politics who conducted the study with two colleagues and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 2010, said the results were startling.

“This is a systemwide problem; it exists on every campus,” Dreier said. “This is not a handful of people who happen to be down on their luck. They need a living wage so they can afford to feed their families.”

Nuclear waste blast: Nation’s most costly mess


We begin with an excerpt from a 24 April 2014 post:

Valentine’s Day was anything but happy for workers at the at the Department of Energy’s New Mexico Waste Isolation Pilot Plant [WIPP] near Carlsbad Caverns. At 11:14 p.m., alarms shrieked warning of a radiation release from an exhaust vent moving air out of the underground storage facility.

Part of the waste stored in the interim facility [no permanent repository has yet been approved as each site, in turn, proved vulnerable to leaks] hailed from the nearby Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where University of California  scientists work with others to build next generation nuclear weaponry.

What happened that day was an explosion caused by [really] organic cat litter used to fill out drums containing deadly radioactive waste.

The blast and subsequent fire released plutonium, the deadliest substance on the planet, and reminded us that in our hubris, we have yet to devise safe ways of containing the products of the military/industrial. academic complex.

And now we’re discovering that the Valentine’s Day disaster [previously] is the most costly yet in the nation’s always-troubled nuclear program.

From the Los Angeles Times:

Energy Department officials declined to be interviewed about the incident but agreed to respond to written questions. The dump is operated by Nuclear Waste Partnership, which is led by the Los Angeles-based engineering firm AECOM. The company declined to comment.

Federal officials have set an ambitious goal to reopen the site for at least limited waste processing by the end of this year, but full operations can not resume until a new ventilation system is completed in about 2021.

The direct cost of the cleanup is now $640 million, based on a contract modification made last month with Nuclear Waste Partnership that increased the cost from $1.3 billion to nearly $2 billion. The cost-plus contract leaves open the possibility of even higher costs as repairs continue. And it does not include the complete replacement of the contaminated ventilation system or any future costs of operating the mine longer than originally planned.

An Energy Department spokesperson declined to address the cost issue but acknowledged that the dump would either have to stay open longer or find a way to handle more waste each year to make up for the shutdown. She said the contract modification gave the government the option to cut short the agreement with Nuclear Waste Partnership.

It costs about $200 million a year to operate the dump, so keeping it open an additional seven years could cost $1.4 billion. A top scientific expert on the dump concurred with that assessment.

UC Berkeley purge: The chancellor has resigned


University of California Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas B. Dirks has handed in his academic robes, the victim of campus sexual harassment and other scandals as well as a petition campaign by faculty members.

And that’s after the spent $200,000 trying to polish his image [below].

From the Washington Post:

UC-Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas B. Dirks announced his resignation Tuesday, a week after Linda Katehi stepped down as UC-Davis chancellor. Both leaders had been embroiled in multiple controversies.

Dirks faced questions about whether Berkeley was too lax in response to sexual harassment allegations against faculty and how the school would surmount steep budget troubles. The Los Angeles Times disclosed last month that he was under investigation for possible misuse of public funds for travel and the personal use of a campus fitness trainer without payment. The Daily Californian student newspaper also reported that the university had spent $9,000 for an emergency exit near Dirks’s office as a security measure in case of protests. All of this undermined the three-year tenure of a historian and anthropologist who sought to rejuvenate undergraduate education at Berkeley and boost public support for higher education’s great public flagships.

“Definitely a significant number of faculty had lost confidence in him,” Robert Powell, a political scientist and chair of Berkeley’s faculty senate, said Wednesday. “The reasons vary depending on different people you talk to.”

Dirks, who took office in June 2013, said he plans to step down when a successor is ready to take his place. When he exits, his tenure as chancellor is likely to have been the shortest at UC-Berkeley in a half century. Edward Strong served in the job for four years, from 1961 to 1965, and Glenn T. Seaborg for three, from 1958 to 1961.

UPDATE: More details from the Los Angeles Times:

In recent weeks, however, pressure for Dirks to resign has escalated. A petition expressing loss of confidence in his leadership was recently signed by more than 45 distinguished professors, including former Academic Senate leaders, members of the National Academy of Sciences, department chairs and heads of research units.

“There was a whole series of really bad steps which shows he’s cut himself off and is unresponsive to the campus community,” said Michael Burawoy, co-chairman of the Berkeley Faculty Assn., who signed the petition.

However, Judith Butler, a professor of comparative literature, expressed concern that maneuvers like the petition occurred among a small group without open discussion by the full faculty. “The real question is who was this small group working in the summer and do they really represent the faculty?” she asked. “I’m not convinced.”

She declined, however, to give an assessment of Dirks’ effectiveness.

Former Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau called the news of Dirks’ resignation “a sad day for Berkeley.”

Butler, a faculty member we respect, raises an interesting point.

Who were the faculty members who wanted Dirks gone?

Dirks came from the humanities, unlike his predecessor Birgeneau, a physicist.

The University of California has been reshaping itself in the corporate model, which is why we have dubbed it Global Corporate University. The priority has been on seeking ways to create revenue by funding research for corporations to buy, both in the hard sciences [witness the Amyris debacle] and in the business school.

Was Dirks, who traditionally emphasized the importance of the humanities, a field that doesn’t produce all that lucrative intellectual property or churn out tomorrow’s business executives, a man out of place at Cal?

It’s worth pondering.

The university’s costly image spinning

We can’t read the full story in the subscriber-only San Francisco Chronicle story, but they do let you read the first paragraph, to which we’ve added another paragraph from the story we found in a news aggregator:

As UC Berkeley prepared to eliminate hundreds of jobs and take millions of dollars in loans to help balance its flagging budget, the campus also paid more than $200,000 to “improve the chancellor’s strategic profile nationally and internationally,” The Chronicle has learned.

The decision to pay outside consultants of the last year to burnish Chancellor Nicholas Dirks’ global image is seen by some faculty as the latest in a series of missteps — including his kid glove treatment of star employees who sexually harassed students and colleagues and his uneven handling of the campus; $150 million budget deficit — that led to Dirks’ decision to step down. The companies agreed to “increase exposure and awareness of Dirks’ vision for higher education, elevate the chancellor as a “key thought leader” and “form key partnerships” so that potential donors would understand his philosophy.

The news about the image polishing confirmed suspicions we raised in a blog 16 March post, reprinted in full below [emphasis added]:

The curious case of the missing monobrow. . .

Coming to Berkeley from Columbia University, where Nicholas B. Dirks had served as executive vice president and dean of the faculty of  Arts and Sciences, the new chancellor of the flagship campus of the University of California underwent an amazing transition.

Here’s the image the folks at Cal’s PR department sent out when 8 November 2012 when announcing his appointment:

BLOG Dirks

And here’s an image of Dirks captured from the apology video just posted:

BLOG Dirks after

So what happened to the monobrow, a furry feature evident in countless photos [for instance] taken before his transplantation to the Golden State from the urban wilds of the Big Apple?

And then there are the eyeglasses. In all but two of the images we found doing a Google image search, Dirks wore his specs at a genial, approachable half staff, yet in the apology video he gazes out from behind glass, the lenses interposing themselves between seer and seen.

And what’s the deal with the flowers, the white blooms often associated with funerals and death?

Maybe its our old anthropological training kicking in, or simply the observation skills honed during five decades of journalism, but our sense is that in coming to image-conscious California Dirks fell into the hands of media handlers.

Jack Ohman: Katehi One. . .


As noted yesterday, University of California, Davis Chancellor Linda Kathei [previously] submitted her resignation Tuesday after a scathing investigation report for the UC Board of regents determined that she had misled the UC President, former Homeland Security Secretary Janey Napolitano, about her lucrative side job as a member of the board for the for-profit DeVry University and downplayed her social media politicking.

But it took the Sacramento Bee editorial cartoonist to note the ironic timing of Kathehi’s skedaddling: It came on the anniversary of another famous resignation, also in disgrace:

BLOG Linda

And for any readers who might have missed it, here, via CBS, is the image that inspired Ohman’s graphic:

Amyris warns on funding, layoffs; aids military


Amyris Inc. [previously and extensively], the much-ballyhooed genetic engineering spinoff created by UC Berkeley with the promise, never fulfilled, of creating cheap, cleaning burning fuel from plant cellulose, has yet to make a nickle, and in it’s latest quarterly report for the Security and Exchange Commission has warned of money woes, possible layoffs, and research cutbacks.

But there’s one notable bright spot: The company is working to create genetically engineered microbes for the Pentagon.

First the bad news, from the Emeryville-based company’s latest Form 10-Q filing:

The Company has incurred significant operating losses since its inception and believes that it will continue to incur losses and negative cash flow from operations into at least 2017. As of June 30, 2016, the Company had negative working capital of $108.3 million, an accumulated deficit of $1,066.0 million, and cash, cash equivalents and short term investments of $2.5 million. The Company will need to raise cash from additional financings or strategic asset divestments as early as the third quarter of 2016 to support its liquidity needs. These factors raise substantial doubt about the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern. The financial statements do not include any adjustments that might result from the outcome of this uncertainty. If the Company is unable to continue as a going concern, it may be unable to meet its obligations under its existing debt facilities, which could result in an acceleration of its obligation to repay all amounts outstanding under those facilities, and it may be forced to liquidate its assets.

As of June 30, 2016, the Company’s debt, net of discount and issuance costs of $44.7 million, totaled $181.4 million, of which $80.0 million is classified as current. In addition to upcoming debt maturities, the Company’s debt service obligations over the next twelve months are significant, including $21.0 million of anticipated cash interest payments. The Company’s debt agreements contain various covenants, including certain restrictions on the Company’s business that could cause the Company to be at risk of defaults, such as the requirement to maintain unrestricted, unencumbered cash in defined U.S. bank accounts in an amount equal to at least 50% of the principal amount outstanding under its loan facility with Stegodon Corporation (or “Stegodon”), as assignee of Hercules Capital, Inc. As discussed below, the Company has received a waiver of compliance with such covenant through October 31, 2016. A failure to comply with the covenants and other provisions of the Company’s debt instruments, including any failure to make a payment when required would generally result in events of default under such instruments, which could permit acceleration of such indebtedness. If such indebtedness is accelerated, it would generally also constitute an event of default under the Company’s other outstanding indebtedness, permitting acceleration of such other outstanding indebtedness. Any required repayment of such indebtedness as a result of acceleration or otherwise would consume current cash on hand such that the Company would not have those funds available for use in its business or for payment of other outstanding indebtedness. Please refer to Note 5, “Debt” and Note 6, “Commitments and Contingencies” for further details regarding the Company’s debt service obligations and commitments. The Company also has significant outstanding debt and contractual obligations related to capital and operating leases, as well as purchase commitments.

In addition to the need for financing described above, the Company may take the following actions to support its liquidity needs through the remainder of 2016 and into 2017:

Effect significant headcount reductions, particularly with respect to employees not connected to critical or contracted activities across all functions of the Company, including employees involved in general and administrative, research and development, and production activities.
Shift focus to existing products and customers with significantly reduced investment in new product and commercial development efforts.
Reduce production activity at the Company’s Brotas manufacturing facility to levels only sufficient to satisfy volumes required for product revenues forecast from existing products and customers.
Reduce expenditures for third party contractors, including consultants, professional advisors and other vendors.
Reduce or delay uncommitted capital expenditures, including non-essential facility and lab equipment, and information technology projects.
Closely monitor the Company’s working capital position with customers and suppliers, as well as suspend operations at pilot plants and demonstration facilities.

Implementing this plan could have a negative impact on the Company’s ability to continue its business as currently contemplated, including, without limitation, delays or failures in its ability to:

Achieve planned production levels;
Develop and commercialize products within planned timelines or at planned scales; and
Continue other core activities.

Furthermore, any inability to scale-back operations as necessary, and any unexpected liquidity needs, could create pressure to implement more severe measures. Such measures could have an adverse effect on the Company’s ability to meet contractual requirements, including obligations to maintain manufacturing operations, and increase the severity of the consequences described above.

But the Pentagon came calling with cash

In a story we missed last September, the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Project Agency coughed up $34.5 million from the agency’s Living Foundries program.

And just what is that program?

Find out, after the jump. . . Continue reading

UC Davis Chancellor resigns after ethics probe


The chancellor of the University of California, Davis [previously], has quit her job in the wake of a scathing ethics investigation report.

In addition to enriching herself while serving on the public payroll, Linda Katehi was also the campus boss when one of her police officers, subsequently dubbed the “Pepper Spraying Cop,” unloaded an industrial sized can of pepper spray on peaceful; protestors during the Occupy movement days, earning her endless ridicule in the media.

From the Los Angeles Times:

UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi resigned Tuesday after a three-month investigation into whether she violated University of California rules on nepotism, misused student fees and lied about her role in social media contracts.

Her attorney, Melinda Guzman, announced the resignation, which UC President Janet Napolitano has accepted. Katehi will stay on as chancellor emeritus and a university faculty member.

Guzman said the investigation cleared Katehi of all charges.

“Linda Katehi and her family have been exonerated from baseless accusations of nepotism, conflicts of interest, financial management and personal gain, just as we predicted and as the UC Davis Academic Senate found within days of this leave,” Guzman said.

But a UC spokeswoman said the investigation found the chancellor had “exercised poor judgment, not been candid with university leadership, and violated multiple university policies.”

As the Times reported last month, “Katehi had taken paid board positions with the DeVry Education Group, which is under federal investigation for allegedly defrauding students, and John Wiley & Sons, a college-textbook publisher. Katehi had received permission for the textbook company position but not the DeVry board seat from the former and current UC presidents.”

UC Davis Police Lt. John Pike resigned after another scathing investigation, headed by William Bratton, the former police chief of both New York City and Los Angeles, but not before becoming a meme, complete with his own website, Pepper Spraying Cop.

Here’s one of our favorite offerings from the site:

BLOG Pepper

When a GMO bacterium almost killed the planet


We have long maintained that genetically modified organisms may be the most dangerous of all human creations, dwarfing in potential nuclear weapons, overpopulation, and all the other sundry horrors that haunt our nightmares.

And we’ve already come perilously close.

From The Big Picture:

How One GMO Plant Nearly Took Down the Planet…

Program notes:

The very same day that President Obama signed the DARK Act into law – the USDA confirmed that 22 of Monsanto’s unapproved GMO wheat plants were growing in a field in Washington State. No one knows how it got there – and that should raise alarm bells.

The universe beneath out feet

Stephen Nottingham is a biologist and writer. He has a doctorate in the field of agricultural entomology and is one of Britain’s most ardent advocates of agroecology [previously], the science of working with rather than against nature to produce the food and other plant and animal products that keep us and our civilization alive.

The fundamental element of agroecology is the earth itself, the soil that gives rise to most of those foods and goods, and if it is anything else, the soil beneath our feet is a vast and complex ecosystem, and must be considered whenever we release new genetic creations into our environment..

In his book Genescapes: The Ecology of Genetic Engineering, Nottingham writes:

Agricultural soil typically contains around 600 million bacteria, approximately three miles of mycorrhizal fungal hyphae, about 10,000 protozoa, and between 20 and 30 beneficial nematodes, in a teasponful. . .Elaine Ingham, author of the Oregon Klebsiella sstudy, has critized tests routinely performed by the EPA to evaluate genetically engineered microorganisms for environmental release, in which they use microcosms containing sterile soil. The results cannot provide any information about how the GMO will behave in the field, in terms of effects on soil ecology or on other organisms. In addition, no realistic data on exchange of genetic information between different bacteria can be obtained in sterilized soils.

Genetic exchange with GMOs is now a given

The genetically engineered organisms do exchange their artically manipulated genes with other organisms is a given, though one mightily resisted by the corporations which sell them.

UC Berkeley’s Ignacio Chapela, a friend of the blog, was fired because of his research showing that genes from Monsanto’s herbicide-resistant corn had infected the native corn varieties of Mexico, the nation which gave the world one of its major staple food crops.

His ouster followed a well-financed campaign by the company, using false fronts and academic shills.

It took a lawsuit to win Chapela tenure, and subsequent research has confirmed his findings.

Herbicide-resistant genes have also jumped into weeds, creating new breeds of so-called superweeds and prompting a search for ever more powerful plant killers.

Given that nature had countless billions of ready recruits, we can be certain of one thing: The arms race will never end as corporations seek to maintain their exorbitant profits and maintain their deadly grip on the planet’s food supplies.

Back to that Klebsiella planticola experiment

Dr. Ingham, a soil micobiologist and author of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Soil Biology Primer, was a professor at Oregon State University in 1992 when she supervised the experiments that discovered the deadly nature of the microbe just weeks before it was scheduled for approval for release.

Here’s what she wrote about the discovery, via San Francisco State University:

Field burning of plant residues to prevent disease is a serious cause of air pollution throughout the US. In Oregon, people have been killed because the cloud from burning fields drifted across the highways and caused massive multi-car crashes. A different way was needed to get rid of crop residues. If we had an organism that could decompose the plant material and produce alcohol from it; then we’d have a win-win situation. A sellable product and get rid of plant residues without burning. We could add it to gasoline. We could cook with it. We could drink grass wine-although whether that would taste very good is anyone’s guess. Regardless, there are many uses for alcohol.

So, genes were taken out of another bacterium, and put into Klebsiella planticola in the right place to result in alcohol production. Once that was done, the plan was to rake the plant residue from the fields, gather it into containers, and allow it to be decomposed by Klebsiella planticola. But, Klebsiella would produce alcohol, which it normally does not do. The alcohol production would be performed in a bucket in the barn. But what would you do with the sludge left at the bottom of the bucket once the plant material was decomposed? Think about a wine barrel or beer barrel after the wine or beer has been produced? There is a good thick layer of sludge left at the bottom. After Klebsiella planticola has decomposed plant material, the sludge left at the bottom would be high in nitrogen and phosphorus and sulfur and magnesium and calcium-all of those materials that make a perfectly wonderful fertilizer. This material could be spread as a fertilizer then, and there wouldn’t be a waste product in this system at all. A win-win-win situation.

But my colleagues and I asked the question: What is the effect of the sludge when put on fields? Would it contain live Klebsiella planticola engineered to produce alcohol? Yes, it would. Once the sludge was spread it onto fields in the form of fertilizer, would the Klebsiella planticola get into root systems? Would it have an effect on ecological balance; on the biological integrity of the ecosystem; or on the agricultural soil that the fertilizer would be spread on?

There’s a whole lot more, after the jump. . . Continue reading

Charts of the day II: The Amyris debacle continues


Amyris [previously and extensively], the company the University of California, Berkeley held up as a shining example of a campus-spawned startup and founded by a prof who was once the darling of the financial press, continues its descent into financial oblivion, with the stock selling for a mere 34 cents today, just one percent of its post-IPO high $33.85 on 28 February 2011.

Two charts track the stock’s plunge [which is bad news for French oil giant Total and the Singapore government’s sovereign wealth fund Temasek Holdings, the company’s largest shareholders].

The first chart comes from NASDAQ, the exchange which had listed the stock until the company filed a Notice of Delisting after shares plunged below the $1 level and turned the company’s offering into a so-called penny stock, presents the most genteel look at the plunge by using an algorithmic scale to tone down the bad news:

blog aMYRIS

The second chart, from the Financial Times, uses the more common sensical arithmetic scale:

BLOG Amyris 2

Either way, it’s bad news — for Amyris, for its shareholders, and for the University of California officials who are hell-bent on turning the greatest university system in the country into a tool of the corporation.

Amyris plunges to new record low, recovers


Amyris Inc. [previously], the UC Berkeley-spawned GMO start-up bankrolled by Bill Gates, Al Gore, and Arab oil sheikhs plunged to less than three shares for a buck before adding on six cents a share by the close of market Tuesday.

The record low of thirty-one cents a share was more than a hundred times below the post-IPO high of $33.85 less than five years ago.

The modest recovery was spawned by news that the company, which abandoned its goal of producing cheap fuel from plant cellulose in favor of turning out basic oils and compounds for cosmetics, had signed a new deal with perfume and flavor firm Givaudan to produce scents for perfumes.

The stock woes haven’t hut company founder and UC Berkeley bioengineer Jay Keasling, who sold his stock soon after the IPO, pocketing a eight-figure payoff, a sum that would be worth in the low six figures if he’d held on to his stock.

UC Berkeley-spawned Amyris shares collapse


The decline and fall of Amyris share prices, via NASDAQ.

The decline and fall of Amyris share prices, via NASDAQ.

Amyris Inc. [previously], the company started by UC Berkeley “bioengineer” Jay Keasling to create affordable fuels from using technology created to genetically engineer yeast to produce the most widely used antimalarial drug, hit an all-time low of forty-one cents per share today, down from the post-IPO high of $33.85.

Part of the reason is contained in a 20 June filing lodged by the company with the Security and Exchange Commission:

On June 14, 2016, Amyris, Inc. (the “Company”) received a letter from The NASDAQ Stock Market LLC (“NASDAQ”) notifying the Company that it is not in compliance with the requirement of NASDAQ Listing Rule 5450(a)(1) for continued listing on the NASDAQ Global Select Market as a result of the closing bid price of the Company’s common stock being below $1.00 for 30 consecutive business days. This notification has no effect on the listing of the Company’s common stock at this time.

In accordance with NASDAQ Listing Rule 5810(c)(3)(A), the Company has 180 calendar days, or until December 12, 2016, to regain compliance with NASDAQ Listing Rule 5450(a)(1). To regain compliance, the closing bid price of the Company’s common stock must be at least $1.00 for a minimum of 10 consecutive business. If the Company does not regain compliance during such period, it may be eligible for an additional compliance period of 180 calendar days, provided that the Company meets NASDAQ’s continued listing requirement for market value of publicly held shares and all other initial listing standards for the NASDAQ Capital Market, other than the minimum bid price requirement, and provides written notice to NASDAQ of its intention to cure the deficiency during the second compliance period. If the Company does not regain compliance during the initial compliance period and is not eligible for an additional compliance period, NASDAQ will provide notice that the Company’s common stock will be subject to delisting from the NASDAQ Capital Market. In that event, the Company may appeal such determination to a hearings panel.

The Company is currently evaluating its available options to resolve the deficiency and regain compliance with NASDAQ Listing Rule 5450(a)(1).

In other words, Amyris is now officially what’s called a “penny stock,” and stock valued at under a buck and restricted to trade on minor markets.

And while Amyris has promised and failed to deliver on its cheap fuel promises and shifted its development aims to tweaking its yeast to produce genetically engineered cosmetic chemicals, Bill Gates, an original investor from the company’s earliest days, gave Amyris $5 million in April to help cut costs on production of the drug for which he originally bankrolled Keasling and his students.

The drug is produced in Europe and Amyris realizes no profits from its sale.

But now comes more bad news and a possible reason for the continuing decline of the price of Amyris shares.

From the University of British Columbia:

The rapid decline in effectiveness of a widely used anti-malaria drug treatment on the Thailand-Myanmar border is linked to the increasing prevalence of specific mutations in the malaria parasite itself, according to a paper published in The Clinical infectious Disease Journal.

The mutations in specific regions of the parasite’s kelch gene – which are genetic markers of artemisinin resistance – were the decisive factor, the authors say, in the selection of parasites that are also resistant to mefloquine. This resulted in growing failure of the widely-used anti-malaria drug combination of mefloquine and artesunate, the first artemisinin combination therapy (ACT) on the Thai-Myanmar border.

Led by Dr. Aung Pyae Phyo of SMRU, the study used data from a 10-year study of 1,005 patients with uncomplicated P. falciparum malaria at Shoklo Malaria Research Unit (SMRU) clinics on the Thai-Myanmar border in northwest Thailand.

“This study demonstrates for the first time that artemisinin resistance leads to failure of the artemisinin partner drug, in this case, mefloquine. This means that the first line artemisinin combination therapy (ACT) introduced here in 1994 has finally fallen to resistance,” says François Nosten, Director of SMRU.

Resistance to artemisinin combination therapy drugs (ACTs) – the frontline treatments against malaria infection – poses a serious threat to the global control and eradication of malaria. If drug resistance spreads from Asia to the African sub-continent, or emerges in Africa independently, as has happened several times before, millions of lives, most of them children under the age of 5 in Africa, will be at risk.

The study shows that, contrary to the view sometimes expressed that resistance to artemisinin is not a direct threat, it is in fact responsible for the rapid demise of the partner drug and the failure of the drug combination, resulting in patients not being cured and further transmission of the malaria parasite.

“The evidence is clear: Artemisinin resistance leads to partner drug resistance and thereby the failure of artemisinin combination treatments,” said Oxford Professor Nicholas White, Chairman of the Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit (MORU) and chair of the Worldwide Antimalarial Resistance Network (WWARN).

From the paper, a graph describes the rise of artemisinin-resistant genetic variants.

From the paper, a graph describes the rise of artemisinin-resistant genetic variants.

Given the very limited number of effective drugs, it is urgent to eliminate P. falciparum from the areas where it has developed resistance to the artemisinins, said Prof. White: “The spread of artemisinin resistant Plasmodium falciparum is perhaps the greatest threat to our current hopes of eliminating malaria from the world.”

A unit of the Bangkok-based MORU, SMRU is based in the refugee camps and migrant communities along the Thai-Myanmar border. Led by researchers based at SMRU (Thailand), the study was funded with the support of the Wellcome Trust (UK).

Reference:

Pyae Phyo A et al, Declining efficacy of artemisinin combination therapy against P. falciparum malaria on the Thai-Myanmar border (2003-2013): the role of parasite genetic factors [open access], Clinical Infectious Diseases, published online 16 June 2016.

Headline of the day: Crying foul at UC Berkeley


From the Guardian:

‘Honey bear’: Berkeley student details alleged sexual advances by professor

Exclusive: Nicole Hemenway describes how repeated harassment by her thesis adviser derailed her studies – and how the school system failed to protect her

Alcohol treatment doesn’t work for frat members


Google the words university Berkeley fraternity party alcohol complaints and you get 185,000 hits.

During our six years reporting for the Berkeley Daily Planet, we fielded quite a few calls from angry neighbors, complaining about parties getting out of hand, and the callers weren’t always the grumpy “get off my lawn” senior types, either.

It’s hard to imagine fraternities and sororities without thinking of the word party, and when you think of party, you also think booze, and at least two Cal frat house members have died as a result of drinking in the last two years, one from alcohol poisoning, the other from a fall.

Here’s the University’s official position statement on alcohol:

The University of California Berkeley was established as a public institution and is intrinsically devoted to the health, safety, and well-being of every individual in the campus community. Every member of the UC Berkeley community has a role in sustaining a safe, caring, and humane environment. Students, faculty, and staff are therefore responsible for fostering a healthy environment free of alcohol misuse. Toward that end, the campus provides education, prevention, and support services to minimize alcohol misuse; encourages treatment for members of the campus community who misuse alcohol; and sets expectations for conduct with respect to the use and misuse of alcohol in accordance with applicable laws, University policies, and campus regulations.

Note that word treatment.

Sounds like a good thing, right?

You have a problem, you get treatment?

But there’s a dirty little secret here.

Alcohol treatment programs don’t work, at least when it comes to the denizens of frat houses.

From the American Psychological Association:

Interventions designed to reduce alcohol use among fraternity members are no more effective than no intervention at all, according to an analysis of 25 years of research involving over 6,000 university students published by the American Psychological Association.

“Current intervention methods appear to have limited effectiveness in reducing alcohol consumption and alcohol-related problems among fraternity and possibly sorority members,” said lead researcher Lori Scott-Sheldon, PhD, of The Miriam Hospital and Brown University. “Stronger interventions may need to be developed for student members of Greek letter organizations.”

The study [open access, PDF] appears in the journal Health Psychology, which is published by APA.

The researchers conducted a meta-analysis of 15 studies looking at 21 different interventions involving 6,026 total participants (18 percent women) who were members of fraternities and sororities. They found no significant difference between students who received an intervention and those who did not for alcohol consumption per week or month, frequency of heavy drinking, frequency of drinking days or alcohol-related problems. In some cases, alcohol consumption even increased after an intervention.

Lots more, after the jump. . . Continue reading

Amyris Inc. sinks to all-time low, 61 cents a share


Once hailed by UC Berkeley brass as the preeminent startup, founded by the university’s genetic engineering rock star, and on course to save the world from depleted oil reserves by turning plants into transportation fuel, Amyris Inc. [previously] plunged to a record low this week of 61 cents a share, down from an all-time high of $33.85.

From NASDQ:

BLOG Amyris

Amyris was founded by UC Berkeley genetic “engineer” Jay Keasling who with and his students had engineered yeast to produce an anti-malarial drug, and declared they would used the same technology to produce low carbon fuels from cellulose.

Shortly after the IPO Keasling sold his stock, pocketing a ten-figure paycheck and heading back to campus. Investors, including Bill Gates [who had funded the anti-malarial research], a venture capital firm that numbered Al Gore among its principals, Mideastern royals and a Southeast Asian government, plus the oil giant Total and sundry investments piled on.

But the fuels never materialized, at least at anything approaching commercial prices, and the company wound up selling “all natural” cosmetics made from the excrement of those GMO yeast.

First quarter adjusted net losses losses for 2016, announced Tuesday, totaled $32.7 million.

Shares bounced back somewhat Friday, closing at two centers higher than the record low, perhaps on this news, filed with the SEC:

As previously reported, on April 8, 2016, Amyris, Inc. (the “Company”) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (the “Gates Foundation”) entered into (i) a Securities Purchase Agreement (the “Purchase Agreement”), pursuant to which the Company agreed to sell and issue 4,385,964 shares of its common stock (the “Shares”) to the Gates Foundation at a purchase price per share equal to $1.14 (the “Gates Foundation Investment”) and (ii) a Charitable Purposes Letter Agreement (the “Letter Agreement”), pursuant to which the Company agreed to use the proceeds from the Gates Foundation Investment to develop a yeast strain that produces artemisinic acid and/or amorphadiene at a low cost and to supply such artemisinic acid and amorphadiene to companies qualified to convert artemisinic acid and amorphadiene to artemisinin for inclusion in artemisinin combination therapies used to treat malaria. The entry into the Purchase Agreement and the Letter Agreement was previously reported in the Company’s Current Report on Form 8-K filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on April 11, 2016, which is incorporated herein by reference.

On May 10, 2016, the Company and the Gates Foundation closed the Gates Foundation Investment, resulting in the issuance of 4,385,964 Shares to the Gates Foundation for proceeds to the Company of approximately $5.0 million.

In other words, Gates is paying the company to deliver the same product he originally funded Keasling and his students to develop.

Headline of the day II: UC Follies show continues


From ProPublica, the University of California administration never fails to not disappoint:

University of California Regent Violated Ethics Rules, Review Finds

A secret 2015 report found that a doctor on the UC board of regents tried to negotiate a deal between his eye clinics and UCLA, and engaged in discussions in which he had a financial interest. He denied wrongdoing but resigned as chair of the regents’ health committee.

UC Davis chancellor investigated, sent on leave


University of California, Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi [previously], formerly known as the boss of the Pepper-Spraying Cop and the beneficiary of large chunks of cash from corporations publishing textbooks used by her students and operating a for-profit university, is out, at least for now.

The move comes two weeks after the University of California Students Association formally called for her ouster.

From the Los Angeles Times:

Suddenly, however, Katehi was gone — abruptly placed on administrative leave late Wednesday by UC President Janet Napolitano.

Napolitano ordered an outside investigation into “serious questions” over Katehi’s involvement in jobs for family members, possible misuse of student funds and “material misstatements” about her role in the hiring of social media firms to bury negative publicity about a campus police pepper-spraying of peaceful student protesters in 2011. If proven, Napolitano said, the actions may violate university policies on conflicts-of-interest, ethical conduct and use of student fees.

Katehi’s attorney has called the allegations “entirely unjustified,” while the chancellor told faculty members on Wednesday morning that she was “100% committed” to staying at Davis.

On Thursday, the campus was abuzz with a central, perplexing question: How could such a brilliant woman stumble so badly with a string of such questionable decisions?

The latest issues raised follow weeks of controversy over Katehi’s decision to take two paid board positions — one with a textbook publisher, the other with a for-profit firm, DeVry Education Group, which is being investigated by state and local authorities for allegedly deceiving students over job and income prospects.

In addition to her personal profiteering Katehi came to the university with a express agenda: Pull research away from the big questions of general science and refocus on work that could lead to profitable patents.

From Ars gratia artis to Ars gratia emolimentum.

There’s a certain hypocrisy in Napolitano’s action, given that the university system actively hypes its celebrity academics who reap millions from startup companies they found based on work they did on the public payroll.

Yet another sex scandal emerges at good ol’ Cal


Seems like every week brings yet one more allegation of sexual misdeeds at the University of California’s flagship campus.

The latest from the Oakland Tribune East Bay Times:

Rocked by a widening sexual misconduct scandal, the University of California on Thursday revealed it has hired an outside investigator to examine allegations that the Cal men’s crew coach failed to report a sexual assault claim against one of his rowers.

A former female member of the team claims coach Mike Teti, an Olympic medalist and nationally regarded coach, knew she had been sexually assaulted in December 2013 at a crew team party. Instead of reporting it, she said, the coach told her to stop crying, saying, “You’re no angel anyway,” and asked her about her sexual relationships with other rowers.

Reached Thursday evening, Teti wrote in an email the “allegations are completely false and I’m confident any investigation will prove this.”

The allegations come just weeks after Cal assistant basketball coach Yann Hufnagel resigned after the university found he had propositioned a female reporter for sex and revelations that diving coach Todd Mulzet was docked $455 in pay for sexually bullying a co-worker. On Thursday, the university told this news organization it is not renewing Mulzet’s contract. The coaches are part of a larger scandal that has brought down a UC Berkeley provost, law school dean, world-renowned astronomy professor and other high profile faculty members.

Headline of the day III: Cal’s obsessive secrecy


From the Los Angeles Times, the front page headline teaser for this story:

UC Berkeley has a $150M deficit, and professors say the process to fix it is shrouded in secrecy

Many professors say they have been largely left out of the early planning efforts, counter to Berkeley’s long tradition of joint decision-making between administrators and faculty.

Ousted UC Berkeley coach lands another job


He lands in a cushy spot just across the state line with a university comfortabe with hiring a man ousted from his job at Cal for sexual predation.

From Salon:

Just one month ago, UC Berkeley moved to fire assistant basketball coach Yann Hufnagel for violating the university’s sexual harassment policy. But don’t worry about the guy; this is a story about the world of sports, so, he’ll be fine. Hufnagel dropped his appeal in what feels like record time and resigned to accept a nice new job at the University of Nevada, Reno. The university’s new coach Eric Musselman told the Reno Gazette-Journal Monday that he was “comfortable with” the hiring.

 Hufnagel’s career at Berkeley ended after a female reporter who covered the team accused him of sexual misconduct over a period spanning late 2014 to the spring of 2015. Because she needed access to Hufnagel to do her job, she said that he took advantage of her situation, texting her sexual innuendos and even trying to get her on board for a three-way with a friend of his. Most damningly, she also said that he “made several claims that he was expecting to have sex” with her after she drove him home one night after he said he was too drunk to drive. What ensued, she said, was a tense standoff in his locked garage that made her feel “scared” until she left.
>snip<

At an open forum on UNR’s campus last week, members of the student body and faculty voiced concerns over the hiring to the university’s president Marc Johnson and Athletic Director Doug Knuth. UNR political science professor Jennifer Ring said, “I was upset and a little embarrassed. A guy the University of California was prepared to fire, we have hired,” and a female freshman asked if the message the school was sending is that it’s “OK to do such things. You’ll still get that position somewhere.”

UC President demands tougher sex abuse rules


Yep, the University of California is cracking down on sexual predators in academic robes at the insistence of its president, who says earlier proposals didn’t go far enough to curb the kind of abuse that’s been flourishing, especially at the Berkeley campus.

The ongoing scandals at Cal ahve already resulted in the resignation of one of the nation’s leading astronomers, the law school dean, and an athletic coach, though no tenured faculty have been dismissed and firings have been limited to non-teaching staff.

From the East Bay Times:

A University of California committee charged with recommending reforms for the investigation and discipline of faculty accused of sexual misconduct did not go far enough in its initial report and will need to reconvene, UC President Janet Napolitano said in a letter released Monday.

Napolitano said the committee made “several important recommendations,” including changes to make it easier to place a faculty member who is under investigation on involuntary leave. But, she said, the committee needs to come back in three months with recommendations for a clear timeline — no longer than five months for the investigation and discipline of a professor — among other changes that will require careful consideration.

 “Given the seriousness of these cases and the shortcomings that have been identified with existing processes and policies, however, this work is crucial,” she wrote.