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Palo Alto Weekly

News - November 4, 2011

News Digest

Drell to step down as SLAC director

Persis S. Drell, director of SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory since December 2007, has decided to resign the post and return to research and teaching, Stanford University announced this week.

Drell will continue as director while Stanford conducts an international search for a replacement, expected to last into the first half of 2012, the university said.

"After a decade in lab management, I feel this is the right time for me to get back to my first loves of research and teaching," Drell said. Drell was SLAC's director of research from 2002 to 2007 when she was named lab director.

She is the fourth director in SLAC's 50-year history.

Stanford operates SLAC on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science.

During Drell's tenure, SLAC branched out from its primary research in high-energy physics to research in a range of disciplines, including energy, biology, drug development and materials engineering.

In 2010, the lab began operations on the Linac Coherent Light Source, the world's most powerful X-ray laser.

"Under her guidance, the laboratory has seen a true renaissance and is now involved in scientific pursuits in areas ranging from energy research to biology and medicine," Stanford President John Hennessy said.

"She has served SLAC, the DOE and Stanford incredibly well. It's difficult to see her step down, but I respect her wishes to return to her academic roots and am happy she will continue her work at Stanford."

Bill to help businesses raise cash moves ahead

A bill that aims to help small businesses amass capital and go public overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives Wednesday (Nov. 2).

The bill, introduced by Rep. David Schweikert, R-Arizona, and sponsored by U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, seeks to raise the amount of money a small business can raise under SEC Regulation A from $5 million to $50 million. The provision, adopted during the Great Depression, governs offerings for small businesses and simplifies the registration requirements. The $5 million limit was set in 1992. Proponents of the bill, including Eshoo, have argued that this limit no longer suffices.

The bill, known as the Small Company Capital Formation Act, passed 421-1. During the hearing, Eshoo, whose district includes the high-tech communities of Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Mountain View, said the legislation is an important step toward supporting innovation in America.

In December, Eshoo testified in front of the House Committee on Financial Services and argued that the existing $5 million limit is too small to be useful for most companies. At the same time, she said, the threshold for going through an initial public offering remains out of reach for most small businesses. This leaves many businesses with few options for raising capital, she said.

She noted that two local companies, Silicon Valley Bank and the law firm Wilson Sonsini Goodrich and Rosati, have more than 9,000 private companies as their clients between them. These companies, she said, either need or will need an infusion of public capital.

"Regulation A will allow companies to seek small infusions of funds as they go along and investors can demonstrate their confidence with their checkbooks," Eshoo said at the December hearing. "Without this access to public-capital markets, good ideas are withering on the vine."

Hospitals, Blue Cross make a deal

A two-month contract standoff between insurance giant Anthem Blue Cross and Stanford and Lucile Packard hospitals that left subscribers in limbo regarding their coverage has been resolved.

The hospitals had announced on Sept. 1 the contract with Blue Cross had expired and was terminated, putting thousands of patients in a position of potentially paying more for out-of-pocket costs after the hospitals became non-contracted entities.

But the new three-year agreement will be effective back to Sept. 1, the hospitals announced Wednesday (Nov. 2), so patients will not lose any of their benefits for services rendered during the non-contract period.

Menlo Medical Clinic is also covered in the contract. Details of the agreement were not immediately disclosed.

"We're happy to have these new agreements in place," said Gary M. May, vice president of payer relations and pricing for the hospitals.

— Sue Dremann

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