California: Hotbed of Innovation



Biotechnology as a major field within science has led to many new companies copying the Genentech blueprint: having a small company creating commercially viable products to earn profits. This movement from a purely academic scope of research to a company thriving in an industrial market has become a popular choice for those interested in the sciences, offering more career opportunities. From the 1970s on, a number of companies would emerge to follow the example set by Genentech. This would result in a major growth of the field, located in California.

California has become the true center of biotechnology in the U.S, as the birth place of the industry as well as having numerous companies making products in a multitude of fields. Because of this environment, being surrounded by other biotech companies, a sense of innovation is greatly encouraged, as competition will enable a surge of creativity. This anthology details several examples of how California has become the epicenter of biotech, ranging from peculiar facts about the history of Californian biotech to present companies developing new products within the biotech field. The hotbed of innovation exhibited by the California environment is shown through the amount of diverse companies and novel products.

Example 1

One company that currently operates in Beverly Hills, California is Rich Pharmaceuticals. This small company, like Genentech, decided to synthesize a protein that, while naturally occurring in small amounts, would increase its availability to treat disease, specifically acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). The company’s website details the entire process in which the protein of interest, 12-O-tetradecaoylphorbol-13-acetate (TPA), is naturally taken from Croton tiglium. However the company found that synthetically creating the protein would significantly increase the commercial availability of the protein, and assist in clinical treatments. Furthermore, the company’s goal is to synthesize the protein, but to enable a new development of more effective treatment for acute myelogenous leukemia. This is important because current treatments of AML have produced unsatisfactory results, with only 20% of chemotherapies curing the condition. Rich Pharmaceuticals wants to use the functions of TPA to assist in phenotypic changes that could help treat the disease.

Rich Pharmaceuticals is a perfect example of how Genentech opened the business world to biotechnology. The ability for a small company to find success in a competitive market is a feat in itself, but to do so in the environment of California is remarkable. With Genentech’s ability to synthetically create insulin, other proteins, however complex, would be able to be synthesized. This shows the innovative nature of the Californian environment, by expanding on previous ideas and techniques. In this case, Rich Pharmaceuticals used the Genentech blueprint to find success in biotech.


Structure of TPA
Example 2

A common theme that can be seen molecular biology research is to improve the lives of as many people as possible, most frequently the synthesizing of important proteins. However, application of such technology is not limited to humans. Animal Cell Therapies is a great example of innovation within California, as it is based in San Diego. The innovation observed within this company is its goal to improve the lives of dogs in the United States, by using stem cell therapies. The use of these therapies would help dogs afflicted by orthopedic diseases, as well as chronic diseases seen in a large population of dogs.

As stem cell research is a popular topic in science today, using human stem cell research to further applications into the veterinary field is a novel approach. Moreover, this type of research involves several different fields, including veterinary medicine, orthopedics, and stem cells research. The goal of the company is to improve the types of treatment for afflicted dogs. This is a creative way to apply science to a market that affects a wide range of Americans, anyone who has or will have a dog as a pet. This company shows the diversity of science and especially the diversity within the California biotech space.

animal stem cells

Veterinary Stem cell therapy
Example 3

Another type of innovation present in the California biotech field is that of development of cochlear implants and human bionics. A company from Valencia, California, Advanced Bionics is a forerunner in the growing market of designing effective cochlear implants for a wider range of people from the Deaf community. This type of development into human bionics is very influential, as it can expand into a wealth of fields. This type of development is at the front of biotechnology, as improving human life directly by implementation of technology is groundbreaking. In addition, this company is making strides to not only improve the cochlear implant technology, but also every aspect into becoming hearing. The Deaf community is a proud group people, encompassing many different lifestyles. The introduction of a cochlear implant is in some cases offensive to them, as it would deprive them or their children of experiencing a language of sign language, and culture as immersive as it is. Advanced Bionics advocates an all encompassing journey into having the ability to hear, through the use of the cochlear implant. From deaf parents helping their children get an implant, to adults deciding to have the ability to hear, Advanced Bionics is trying to improve the lives of as many people as possible. Through their research, they continue to find new ways to improve these lives, such as reducing the invasiveness of the procedure or not disturbing hair cells with the implant.

Cochlear implant technology

Example 4

Tinoro is a biotech company that is based in Carlsbad, California. Like other small startup companies, Tinoro has one goal in mind, with a simple approach. The main product of Tinoro is its new technique that revolutionizes PCR, or polymerase chain reaction. Kary Mullis is the creator of the technique PCR, as it uses specific heat tolerant enzymes to assist in the amplification of desired pieces of DNA. Originally from the 1980’s, this process has evolved in some ways, such as introducing new enzymes that could function at higher temperatures. However, Tinoro has developed a new type of PCR, worthy of being called a creative innovation to an already ingenious idea. Tinoro’s approach includes the creation of “a new, non thermal technology that uses electric field induced pH changes to amplify DNA.” This technology improves multiple aspects of the original PCR technique by removing the large devices necessary to carry out the reactions, as well as decreasing the temperature required to amplify the desired amount of DNA. And most importantly, this new type of PCR is much more energy efficient, making it cost less than traditional means of carrying out PCR.

Again, California shows that its roots in biotech are not misplaced, as a relatively new company is able to innovate a previously near perfect technique, one that many thought did not need to be changed due to its consistent effectiveness. The biotech environment of California harbors a creative atmosphere, enabling a constant flux of fresh ideas.

tinoro pcr

Device for new PCR technique
Example 5

Continuing the innovative nature of contemporary biotech companies in California, Eos Biosciences, Inc. is a company founded by three scientists, two from UCLA and one from UC Berkeley, who aimed at improving the delivery of drugs to target tissues in the human body. Their research and subsequent founding of the company allowed them to commercialize their primary product, Eosomes. As their website describes, eosomes are used to bring a nanoparticle form of a drug to its target tissue, to ensure the reception and reactions from the drug in the target cells. This complex process is extremely useful as all cells must communicate. Moreover, delivery of drugs to target tissues can be an issue, or at least the time in which it takes to cause the expected effects. This specific use of eosomes allows for the drug to not be degraded by the lysosomes within the cells, as the nanoparticles of the drug reach the target within the cell before this can occur.

As the site details, the use of eosomes has proven a viable option for treating certain cancers, as the drugs reach the cancer cells rapidly, and can treat the area more efficiently. Also, the creators have iterated that while these can be used for cancer treatments, the applications of the eosomes can influence many fields, as drug therapy is a huge, ever expanding market.


Cell signaling pathway of Eosomes
Example 6

More and more companies are starting to create biosimilars, cheaper copies of traditional biotech drugs, potentially saving the US and European markets up to $100 billion by 2020. According to the FDA “A biosimilar product is a biological product that is approved based on a showing that it is highly similar to an FDA-approved biological product… and has no clinically meaningful differences in terms of safety and effectiveness from the reference product.” So in states where biosimilars are allowed, companies who produce them can market their products at cheaper prices than the original FDA approved drugs. Although California wasn’t the first state to legislate the use of biosimilars, it is among the first 10 states do so. I found this to be relevant to our discussion on the relationship between government funding vs private investment in biotech companies because the use of biosimilars would help alleviate government spending while, unfortunately, potentially damage the sales of currently leading biotech companies. Although we can agree that the primary goal of biotech companies should be to provide the consumer with the best possible product to improve their health or quality of living, the fact that biotech companies also exist to make money should be taken into account. With the arrival and increasing acceptance of biosimilars, the future of high profile biotech companies may start to become a little rocky. Here is an example of current biotech drugs that biosimilar developers are trying to emulate.

Example 7

California currently stand’s as the world leader in Stem Cell research. The biggest supporter of stem cell research is the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, more information on the organization can be found on their website. Aside from the National institute of heath, the CIRM provides the largest amount of funding for stem cell research; their funding has hastened the pace at which patients in need can receive treatment. The CIRM support has also allowed more research to be done in the field without the government restrictions imposed under the Bush presidency. CIRM’s funding also saves the state money by creating tens of thousands of new jobs every years, generating over $100 million in tax revenue while costing the state no money to currently operate. The reason California is leading in stem cell research is due to the laws passed under the Obama administration that enabled researchers to work on both federally and non-federally approved cell lines with federal equipment. Most other states have been having more difficulty working on stem cell research due to legislative restrictions either limiting the types of research that can be done or outright banning stem cell research altogether. It's thanks to organizations like CIRM that enable the state to conduct and encourage the research of life-saving medicines and technologies.

Example 8

Another reason for California's innovation comes from organizations like Biocom, an organization that exists to bolster California's life science community.  The organization is driven to help provide biotech companies and their employees the tools and opportunities they need to fulfill their goals of improving life through health, energy and agriculture. For example, Biocom recently opened up an office in Los Angeles, aiming to organize the city’s biomedical industry. Although Los Angeles is home to a number of prestigious universities and scientific institutions like UCLA and USC the city lacks the expansive biotech sphere thriving in San Diego, which results in the city losing many of its innovators and their companies to better resources elsewhere. Fortunately for the City of Angels, The San Diego based organization has years of experience creating new biomedical firms and creating jobs to fill them, due mostly to the incredibly large number of life science companies already established in San Diego; because of their credentials and resources, they hope to create spaces for the large number of technologies and young scientists coming out of the area’s research institutions to work while also setting up connections to the many biotech companies in the San Diego hub.


Example 9

As mentioned earlier, California is home a great number of scientific organizations and research institutions on the forefront of innovation. USF serves as one such example of scientific California’s scientific innovation. The University of San Francisco is the forerunner of a new field they are calling precision medicine, which aims to utilize an extensive network of scientific health research to better understand why individuals respond differently to treatments and improve precision in medicine. Researchers at the Institute for Human Genetics (IGH) are encouraged to collaborate with scientists from different disciplines, and even from different schools, in order to serve the goal of improving precision medicine. The most basic level of precision medicine is basic discovery which defines the overall goal of biomedical research. Researches build off of observations they find in a lab setting into testing new hypotheses that could benefit the biomedical field. For example, an observation that reveals how different looking diseases react similarly to a particular drug could lead to scientists redesigning a drug designed for one disease to target and eliminate another. The idea of collaborating between multiple fields and ideas sums up the purpose of precision medicine and highlights why its method is effective in furthering developments in the biomedical field.

Omics medicine is another example of precision medicine. Omics, the study of particular types of information, can be used to combine research in areas like genomics and microbiomics to study the health and development of newborns in terms of their biological systems, providing comparative information between individuals and group populations.
Example 10

Earlier this year, scientists at UCLA discovered two unique stem cell markers that enable the cells to generate new heart muscle tissue and vessels that support heart functions. Their discovery could allow stem cells to be used to regenerate lost or scarred heart tissue after a victim has suffered a heart attack. Heart attacks occur when a buildup of plaque in the coronary arteries breaks and a blot clot forms, blocking oxygen from entering the heart. Major heart attacks may result in the victim losing approximately one billion heart cells, which are permanently lost as a result of scarring to the muscle. While heart the heart can normally recover from a heart attack, the damage inflicted may leave the heart weaker or less effective than its original state. The UCLA scientists have managed to identify the type of stem cells required to successfully graph to a patient’s heart and continue to generate new heart tissue, potentially restoring a damaged heart to full working order. The method they used involved transforming the marked stem cells into cardiac mesoderm cells, cells produce specific types of heart cells, and implanted them into an animal model whose heart started to produce new heart tissue and vessels. Thanks to the state’s support of stem cell research, these scientists were able to make the next few steps to treating human patients suffering from cardiovascular disease, which might have been hampered by another state’s restrictive research laws.

An example of beating heart cells created from stem cells:

Example 11

Thanks to advances in biotechnology and human genetics, scientists are now able to test for genetically inherited diseases.  Ambry Genetics, a healthcare company based in Aliso Viejo, CA, was founded in 1999 by Charles Dunlop. The company’s reputation was solidified in 2001 when they became the first company to offer full sequencing of the cystic fibrosis gene to the general public. In 2010, Ambry became one of the first companies to offer Next Generation Sequencing which allows the entire human genome to be sequenced within a single day. In 2011, Ambry began offering clinical exome sequencing. Exome sequencing is an incredibly efficient way to test for Mendelian inherited diseases. In 2013, Ambry became the first company to offer testing for the BRCA1/2 gene (the breast cancer gene). Ambry separated itself from the rest of the genetic testing community when it decided to share genetic information with the public. Unlike most companies in the field, Ambry stands behind the belief that human health should not be patented or owned. They believe that data regarding genes should be shared with everyone. Ambry Genetics released the AmbryShare database, a public database that contains the genetic information of over 1,000 anonymous patients with genetic diseases. The goal of AmbryShare is to continue to share information about the human genome so that all diseases can be understood and cured. Ambry Genetics truly bridges the connection between science and community. 
Example 12

Amyris is a California based biotechnology company founded in 2003. The company is dedicated to producing innovative, renewable products for the world. After creating a successful anti-malarial drug, Amyris focused their efforts on producing an alternative to petroleum-based fuel products. The company created Biofene, “Amyris’s brand of a long-chain, branched hydrocarbon molecule called farnesene.” Amyris has been able to use this multipurpose molecule for many projects, but specifically for its work with biofuel. As opposed to petroleum, biofene is a renewable resource. Amyris has used Biofene to create renewable diesel and jet fuel. The company uses Brazilian sugarcane as its feedstock. Sugarcane is a stable, abundant, and low cost plant, making it the ideal plant to work with. When compared with petroleum-sourced diesel fuels, Amyris’ renewable Diesel fuel reduces greenhouse gas emissions by over 80%. Amyris was the first biomaterial producer with operations in Brazil to be certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials. As with the Diesel fuel, Amyris has created a Biojet fuel that has reduced carbon emissions potential when compared to its petroleum-based competition, while maintaining performance quality. In 2012 and 2013, the company successfully tested this fuel in flights to Brazil and France, and is currently selling the renewable jet fuel to airlines worldwide. Amyris is committed to leading sustainable practices around the world.

Amyris and Total Partnership
Example 13

Organovo, a biotechnology company in San Diego uses 3D bioprinting to create functional human tissue. This revolutionary technology provides a new innovative way to study disease and advance research. The goal of the company is to create functional tissue that acts exactly as genuine human tissue, allowing scientists and researchers to study medicine in a way they have never been able to before.

Organovo has been able to bridge the gap between preclinical testing and clincial trials of pharacuetical drugs. By using this functional tissue, researchers are able to observe the potential effects of drugs before administering them to living people. Even more impressively, Organovo has used their 3D printing to create tissue that can be implanted into the human body. In November 2014, Organovo released exVive3D Human Liver Tissue for commercial drug testing. The functional liver tissue allows researchers to predict the toxicity of drugs on the human body. The multicellular liver tissues remain viable for over 40 days, allowing researchers to test the side effects of drugs over a longer period of time or effects after continued use. With this technology, pharmaceutical research will be completed faster and more accurately. exVive3D fills in some of the major gaps that exist in the drug discovery and development spectrum.

One of the greatest strengths of Organovo’s cell engineering is that the source of the cells can be autologous tissue, meaning that cells can be transplanted from one part of the body to another. This reduces the chance of rejection during future organ transplantation. Many people every year die after not receiving the organ transplants they so desperately need. This company hopes to be able to engineer organs from people's healthy tissue and transplant them. Organovo is a truly innovative company that will likely continue to develop the technology to end problems like this one in the future. 
Example 14

While many pharmaceutical companies are focusing most, or all, of their effors on cancer research and treatment, Gilead Sciences has had a broader outlook on medical development. Gilead Sciences is a biopharmaceutical company based in the San Francisco Bay Area. The company’s goal is to create and distribute medicines for life-threatening illnesses around the world. To date, they have created treatments for HIV/AIDS, liver diseases, inflammatory and respiratory diseases, and cardiovascular conditions. One of Gilead’s greatest pharmaceutical developments is their medicine for viral hepatitis. One of the leading causes of preventable death throughout the world is hepatitis C virus (HCV). Chronic viral hepatitis can lead to damaging, and often fatal, liver damage. Over 500,000 deaths a year occur as a result of liver damage caused by viral hepatitis. Gilead has partnered with 11 drug companies to distribute a generic brand of the their hepatitis C medication (Sovaldi and Harvoni) to 101 developing countries, and a discounted version of their hepatitis B medication (Viread) to 130 developing countries. Gilead was also the first company to create a complete once-daily treatment for HIV (Genvoya), and the first oral antiretroviral pill for high-risk adults to reduce the risk of acquiring HIV. This company not only creates first generation medication for previously untreatable diseases, but distributes these drugs worldwide to improve the lives of the poorest people suffering from these diseases.

Example 15

Everyone from athletes to the elderly are at risk for injuries that may make walking difficult. However, advances in biotechnology cant shorten recovery time, reduce chances of injury, and increase mobility. Sean Whalen created the company AlterG in 2005 with one product in mind: an anti gravity treadmill. Sean’s father worked for NASA and used NASA’s Differential Air Pressure unweighting  technology to build an antigravity treadmill for a marathon runner, Alberto Salazar. The same year, Nike’s Oregon Project agreed to test out Whalen’s prototype: the P200 Anti-Gravity Treadmill. In 2007, the Washington Wizards became the first commercial customer of the treadmill. Using NASA’s antigravity technology, AlterG’s anti gravity treadmill  allows its user to reduce their body weight by up to 80%, resulting in less pain and less impact on the lower extremities during use. This treadmill is ideal for a wide range of people: athletes with lower body injuries, physical therapy patients, someone with chronic pain or a neurological condition that limits mobility, or someone simply looking to lose weight. The unique technology on this treadmill reduces the impact on joints while allowing its user to maintain their normal gait. An updated model of the treadmill was created for professional athletes, allowing them to train harder while still rehabilitating from a sports-related injury or surgery. Other products include the LiftAccess and the Bionic Leg. The Bionic Leg essentially mimics the function of the quadriceps and provides patients with the confidence needed to regain mobility in their legs. AlterG technology is truly innovative and is changing the way physical therapy and sports medicine are helping their patients recover.

Example 16

40 years ago on April 7th, Biotechnology was founded in the state of California. Many companies were formulated off the idea of bettering the lives of Californians and those around the U.S through the use of experimentation and implementation similar to Biomimicry. Each of these companies focuses on different ways to heal or treat different types of disease that have effected a vast amount of our population for decades. One company in particular, named Berlex (Bayer Healthcare) that has founded an effective treatment for a central nervous system disorder known as multiple sclerosis. This disease is a chronic, typically progressive disease involving damage to the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, symptoms may include numbness, impairment of speech and of muscular coordination, blurred vision, and severe fatigue. The drug that was implemented by this Biotech Company is called Betaseron. This pill, also known as Interferon beta-1b, is a purified and sterile product built using recombinant DNA techniques. The native gene was extracted from human fibroblasts and confined in a ways that replaces the cystenie residue found at position 17 with serine. This drug has about 165 amino acids and an estimated molecular weight of 18,500 Daltons. ( The company who produced this pill is one that possesses trademarks all of the U.S. Founded by Schering AG, Berlex spent years implementing different types of biotech related drugs like birth control, in order to get their name on the map and increase expansion. Through many years of experimentation and trial and error, Bayer Healthcare is now one of the most impactful companies in the Biotechnology industry to this day.

Betaseron 2 Betaseron 1

Example 17

Being that there are multiple variations of central nervous system disorders, there is a good amount of variation in the Pharma industry all over California on which type of central nervous system disease to target and produce treatment for. A company known to treat fibromyalgia syndrome is known as Cypress Bioscience. This sickness is a chronic disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, and tenderness in localized areas. The pill produced by this company that is meant to counter the symptoms of this sickness is called Milnacipran. This pill works in a rather simplistic way, and has similar classification to drugs in the antidepressant category, due to the fact that this drug is more targeted to the effect the brain than the body. It works by upping the amount of serotonin and norepinephrine in the human body, natural substances that aid the stopping of the movement of pain signals in the brain. Cypress Biosciences had recently signed a merger contract with Ramius LLC and Royalty Pharma for about $6.50 per share in cash. Located in San Diego, CA Cypress Bioscience was founded by Jay Kranzler, with a goal to provide therapeutics and personalized and privatized medicine services to patients all over the state and country, also addressing the needs for specialization in physical therapy and pharmaceuticals by identifying the not yet met medical needs in areas of pain, rheumatology and rehabilitation.


Milnacipran 2 Milnacipran 1

Example 18

Another type of innovation present in California's broad spectrum of Biotechnology would be the development of drugs used to counter the effects of enzyme deficiency. The drug that owns the most notoriety for this type of treatment would be Aldurazyme. This drug was implemented by a Californian company known as Genzyme Corp. This corporation located in LA, is one dedicated to provide treatment and therapy for those with unmet medical needs, providing hope where there never was before. Enzyme deficiency is a sickness that makes the body work harder than usual to break down nutrients in food, this may further cause digestive issues, acne and eczema. Aldurazyme also known as laronidase, is a variant of human enzyme that is produced in a similar way to Bertason, using recombinant DNA technology. Genzyme corp was the first to implement this drug, many other corporations in the Biotechnology industry mimic the formulation of this drug making Enzyme deficiency one of the more treatable sickness on the west coast. Genzyme, founded in 1981 in Boston Massachusetts has pioneered the development and delivery of transformative therapies for over 30 years. Genzyme evolved from a small start up company into one of the most impactful biotech companies globally. Through specification and precision, Genzyme was able counter may symptoms of diseases which were enzyme related, bettering the overall treatments of enzyme informalities.

ED 2 ED 1
Example 19

Biotechnological companies and corporations in the state of CA deem to be of high importance when it comes to the safety and betterment of society. Innovations in the biotech industry have proved to be the best of society’s benefit. A component of this wide spread innovation would be that of discovering a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. The drug that battles this sickness is known as NAMEDA, created by a small biotech company named Neurobiological Technologies located in San Ramon, California. This company was founded in 1987 with a headquarters in San Ramon, and then later expanded their trademark to Delaware in 1994. This company is one with an extreme concentration in biopharmaceuticals with intense research focused on acquiring promising drug candidates and hosting/analyzing clinical trials for central nervous system conditions. Aside from NAMEDA this company has developed four other drugs that are central nervous system focused. NAMEDA, the drug for treating Alzheimer’s, works in a way that protects the brain from overexposure to glutamate, a high concentration of this chemical is what contributes to the killing of brains cells seen in the sickness. This drug is not a cure but it is a formidable treatment. Although this drug is not the most effective quite yet, it is one of the best options for those suffering of Alzheimer are to consider. Away from NAMEDA and its tasks, some other drugs that this company is currently developing focus on conditions like ischemic stroke, and swelling brain tumors. Though some of these drugs seem opposite and disjointed to one another, the overall task of the cluster of developing drugs is to treat and counter certain types of cerebral informalities.

Example 20

Another example of innovation demonstrated in the biotech industry in California would be the implementation of treatments for Parkinson’s disease. The conduct that was produced to counter the effects of Parkinson is known as Activa. A corporation named Medtronic Inc. with a headquarters in Palo Alto, CA, produced this treatment. The goal of this company is to contribute to human welfare by application of biomedical engineering in the research, design, manufacture, and sale of instruments or appliances that alleviate pain, restore health, and extend life. ( This corporation includes concentrations in cardiac and vascular system treatments, restorative therapies and diabetic treatment. Activa also know as DBS therapy, the device meant to treat Parkinson’s, is a dual-channel neurostimulator that uses electrical stimulation to manage some of the most disabling motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. ( This total cost of Activa therapy ranges on average from 25 to 30 thousand dollars. Medtronic DBS therapy works through brain stimulation. It helps control and reduce some of the symptoms that come with Parkinson’s, Electrical stimulation is delivered to specific areas on both sides of the brain to help relieve symptoms on both sides of the body. The groups of employees at Medtronic are lead by Omar Ishrak, the CEO since June 2011. Medtronic is the worlds foremost medical technology company with operations reaching out to over 160 countries worldwide.

Activa 2 Activa 1


Biotechnology has become a huge field, one that transcends science into the business world. This transition to a private industry has not only allowed exponential growth of biotech, but has fostered an environment of innovation, leading to countless different projects that influence a wide variety of disciplines. This innovation, along with the advancement of technology has given the origin of biotech, California, the necessary conditions to remain the center of the industry in the United States. With new companies emerging with novel ideas, the biotech market will continue to thrive.

This anthology highlights the extensive diversity found in the California biotech industry. Containing a plethora of types of biotech, there really is no limit to what can be achieved through this science. In this way, the anthology showcases that any sized firm can find success, providing they have a creativity and means to achieve their goals. By providing examples of varied, yet successful biotech companies, we have shown that California continues to encourage a sense of innovation, promoting the development of science, business, and technology.
California: Hotbed of Innovation

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