Readers’ Picks: Xconomy San Diego’s Top 5 Stories of 2009

Xconomy San Diego — 

There are many differences between this new world of online media and the old world of ink-on-paper that I used to inhabit. So many, in fact, that sometimes I feel like the earthling in the blockbuster “Avatar” who must take archery lessons and learn how to live in an alien culture.

One of the most important differences, though, is that Web-based technologies make it possible nowadays to measure exactly how many people view every story we publish. This can be a humbling experience, and it tends to upend some of those old-world media sensibilities that decreed by front-page fiat that certain stories—like lima beans—are important for readers to digest, whether they like them or not.

So, with the end of 2009 drawing near, I can share some of the stories that attracted the most traffic over the past year at Xconomy San Diego site. I have listed them below, ranked according to popularity, so think of them in a way as Xconomy’s “People’s Choice Awards.” It’s a mixed bag, for sure, which suggests perhaps that we’re appealing to a diverse audience with a variety of interests in our coverage of what we like to call “the exponential economy.” Which is a way of saying, you know, when the facts speak for themselves, what else can an editor to do but interpret and analyze?

The Untold Story of SAIC, Network Solutions, and the Rise of the Web

This story was No. 1by a long shot. SAIC, the defense contractor that specializes in IT integration, research, and engineering projects, has maintained a low profile since it was founded in San Diego in 1969. So the story behind SAIC’s 1995 acquisition of Network Solutions Inc., which held exclusive rights to register Internet domain names was not widely known. Looking back, former SAIC executive Mike Daniels told me: “Nobody really understood that NSI basically had an exclusive contract to sell dot-com, dot-net, and dot-org to every human being on the planet…”

San Diego’s Stem Cell Startup Reports Hair-Regrowth Results

The bald truth is many people are yearning for information about new biomedical innovations with the potential to redress an age-old inequity—some people have hair and some don’t. San Diego-based Histogen, which was founded to develop a variety of medical therapies that use stem cells, reported in February that results of an overseas study of its ReGenica treatment for hair growth were encouraging. But a patent infringement lawsuit filed by SkinMedica, a Carlsbad, CA-rival, triggered a funding crisis and forced Histogen to lay off its entire workforce.

Arena Eagerly Awaits Answer to $1Billion Question: Does it Have a Big Time Obesity Drug?

Sometimes readers show more interest of the story published in advance of a big news announcement than in the announcement itself. That may have been the case with San Diego’s Arena Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ARNA) in reporting the final results of a clinical trial for its experimental weight-loss pill, lorcaserin. The subsequent results were encouraging enough for Arena to file a new drug application earlier this week with the Food and Drug Administration.

San Diego Biofuels Industry Gains Steam With R&D Consortium

As a journalist, it’s always great to get the big scoop before the rest of the pack.In the case of the formation of the San Diego Center for Algae Biotechnology, I broke this story about four months before the official announcement. Steve Kay, the dean of Biological Sciences at UC San Diego, told me in January that SD-CAB was being organized as a consortium of academic and industry researchers, and represented a regional effort to establish a sustainable algae biofuels industry here in the next five to 10 years. When the formation of SD-CAB was officially announced on April 28, Cleantech San Diego chairman Jim Waring said, “Maybe someday, if the history of algae is ever written, this will be remembered as the day when it all started.”

La Jolla Pharmaceutical Stock Crashes After Drug Fails in Pivotal Clinical Trial

Luke’s breaking news story about the failed clinical trial of Riquent, a drug developed by San Diego’s La Jolla Pharmaceutical, noted that the announcement wiped out almost 90 percent of the San Diego-based company’s stock value. It also marked the beginning of a series of Xconomy stories that chronicled the layoffs, liquidation plan, and eventual merger of La Jolla Pharmaceutical with Adamis Pharmaceuticals of Del Mar, CA, earlier this month.

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