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Two years ago, the San Diego biotech company known as Sequenom was on top of the world. Officials thought they were on the brink of offering a genetic test that every a pregnant woman would take to see if her unborn child would have Down syndrome.

The test worked, a company vice president declared, nearly 100 percent of the time.

That wasn’t true. The accuracy rate wasn’t anywhere near that number. So, the sky fell in: lawsuits, federal investigations and firings. It was an epic nervous breakdown in an industry that’s not used to them.

How did Sequenom lose its title as a rising golden child? Our story tracks the tale from high hopes to a struggle for survival.

In other news:

• How do you fix a broken school? Burbank Elementary in Logan Heights has had a chance to find out, and it’s chosen an unusual path: staying the course.

Last spring, the school was one of only six in the county to make it onto a list of persistently failing campuses. The state and the feds gave it some choices and held out the carrot of money.

As we report, “it won’t be tossing out teachers or converting into a charter school. Instead of a shake-up, Burbank decided that what it needed was stability.” It’s adopting reforms, “but it is using strategies it has already started employing.”

The approach will be a test case for the San Diego school district’s education reform.

• The San Diego Fact Check Blog was busy yesterday. First, we checked whether D.A. Bonnie Dumanis was right when she said the district attorney’s office has doubled its real-estate fraud caseload. The verdict is in.

Also: When you can get access to many of the world’s books through your laptop, e-reader or smartphone, does it make any sense to build a big and fancy downtown central library? Absolutely, say library supporters, who have been touting this number: 7.6 million.

That’s how many items the San Diego Public Library circulated over the last fiscal year, the library director said a few days ago. And, she said, it was a record. Is that true?

• The King-Chavez Arts Academy has a new lease on life: The San Diego Unified school board decided to keep a charter school open despite its showing up on a state list of persistently failing schools, but only if it meets a long list of conditions.

• UCSD is going to spend $14 million to erect a building where the cages of mice used in research will be cleaned. That’s just one of several UCSD projects funded by federal stimulus money. Others include a Salton Sea fault line study, new underwater ocean observatories, and research into the use of gestures in human communication.

• The Photos of the Day take a look at the Big Apple, courtesy of our photographer’s trip back east. Contrary to popular belief, the last photo isn’t some kind of miraculous self portrait by the photographer, although there sure is a striking resemblance.

• Speaking of photos, if you enjoyed our People at Work profile of horseshoer Ricky Price, check out this audio slideshow of the man with the incredible moustache.

• Many of you read last week’s Q&A interview with historian Murray K. Lee about San Diego’s long-vanished Chinatown.

I’m working on a follow-up post with more details about our Chinatown, the people who lived there and their influence on San Diego. If there is anything you’d like to know about our historic Chinatown, drop me a line today.

• In Fact Check TV, we look at a monumental ballot disaster, the tracking of local sex offenders and the world of crime tipsters.

• A commentary on our site that questions the value of privatizing government services — “the conventional wisdom on privatization often doesn’t pan out” — has brought on a vigorous debate.


• It ain’t over until … the Riverside County judge makes a ruling by Friday. Even then, the fight for the Democratic slot in the 40th state senate election this November may not be finished. Just 12 votes separate Juan Vargas and Mary Salas, with Vargas on top. But a legal dispute in Riverside County over 12,500 uncounted ballots has held up a final decision. (U-T)

• The bumper sticker war over the homeless in Ocean Beach is escalating. First, a sticker distributed at a famous head shop boasted this seemingly un-O.B.-ish message: “Please Don’t Feed Our Bums.” Now, the U-T reports, the Regional Task Force on the Homeless is promoting its own sticker, which greets Obecians with this message: “Together We End Homelessness.”

• Finally, a new study led by a UCSD professor finds that older Americans watch more TV than younger ones, but they enjoy it less.

If only there was somebody to blame for this. Oh wait, there is.


Dagny Salas

Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

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