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California FAFSA deadline is March 2

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Do you have a teen going to college next year? The California deadline for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is coming up on March 2.

The San Mateo Credit Union also is offering any High School Senior or gap year student to apply for their scholarships. The credit union is offering two educational scholarships of $2500 that can assist in paying tuition, housing, books or meal costs.

The scholarship deadline is on March 16. For more information visit here or contact communityrelations@smcu.org

Supes vote in favor of placing Regional Measure 3 on June ballot

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Supes vote in favor of placing Regional Measure 3 on June ballot

The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors voted in favor Tuesday of placing the Regional Measure 3 (RM3) on the June 5 ballot.

RM3 aims to increase bridge tolls by $1 in 2019, 2022 and 2025 to fund a set of key Bay Area traffic relief and public transit improvement projects, including projects in San Mateo County such as the Dumbarton Bridge highway and rail development, improvements to the Highway 101/State Route 92 interchange and express lanes on Highway 101. The measure would also help fund the Caltrain extension to the Transbay Terminal in downtown San Francisco.

“This year is a once in a generation opportunity to define our transportation future for decades to come,” San Mateo County Supervisor Warren Slocum, who represents the county on the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, said in a statement.

Planned projects under RM3 would address both north/sound and east/west congestion, said Supervisor Don Horsley, chair of the San Mateo County Transportation Authority.

“Addressing the 101/92 interchange and Dumbarton corridor is critical to provide relief in a number of our communities that currently face gridlock every day,” Horsley said in a statement. “In addition, the potential of a new rail bridge adjacent to the Dumbarton is the missing link to creating a true regional rail network that will increase mobility for all Bay Area commuters.”

Slocum also pledged support for a 30-year local tax measure for transportation improvements, but urged voters to reject the repeat of SB1, a $54 billion investment in road repair and maintenance signed by the governor in 2017.

Rare Disease Diagnosis Creates a Mission for Local Mom

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By Adam Alberti

Most everyone is familiar with the fundraising that comes from disease awareness days.  The pink ribbons for breast cancer, the red ribbon for AIDS. Less familiar – and there’s perhaps some irony in that – is the Feb. 28 date recognized internationally to call attention to rare diseases. “Rare” may mean scarce or unusual, but measured cumulatively, the number is not at all small: Global Genes, a leading rare disease patient advocacy group, lists more than 7,000 different types of rare diseases and disorders in the world, 80 percent of them genetic.

Especially tragic, nearly half of all those who suffer from a rare disease are children. Thirty five percent of kids afflicted with a rare disease die in the first year of life, according to national statistics, and another 30 percent do not live to see their fifth birthday.

These are difficult facts to confront as a new parent reeling from unexplained disease at birth.  But for one Peninsula mother, these statistics became a motivator and a life’s mission.

Kim Lodato Nye, who grew up in Redwood City and Portola Valley, is executive director and board chair of TESS Research Foundation, a local nonprofit founded to find treatments and a cure for SLC13A5 Deficiency, a rare disease that brings on life-threatening seizures within the first days after birth. “It’s kind of a mouthful as far as disease names go,” Kim said, “but SLC13A5 is the genetic marker for the condition.”

The cause is not fully understood but has been isolated to the transfer into the cells of citrate, a small molecule that is digested in food.  In people with SLC13A5 Deficiency, changes to the amino acids seem to alter the amounts of citrate that reaches the cell. That alteration is what triggers the seizures and other less severe symptoms of the disease. But this newfound knowledge has been a long time coming – and came as a result of the Nye family’s experience.

Almost 14 years ago, Kim and her husband Zach, a Menlo Park native, had their first child. Tessa Madeline Nye was born in London, where Zach was studying economics at London Business School and Kim was getting her master’s degree in Classics at Oxford University.  It was an optimistic time in the couple’s life filled with opportunity and dreams of a large and healthy family.

Tessa was a challenging birth, but that was nothing compared to what followed.  The baby’s first seizure happened within hours of birth. Other seizures followed, and as the new parents brought Tessa home, they began to grapple with what they did not yet realize was a rare genetic disease.

“When we say seizures, we are talking hundreds of them a day, some more serious than others, but all of them impactful,” Kim said. “We lost count on how many times an ambulance has showed up at our house after a grand mal seizure.”

Over the next decade, the family was frustrated in pursuit of an answer as to why this was happening and how to help.  “It’s heartbreaking to see your child’s health fail so dramatically and to have nobody be able to tell you why,” Kim said. The Nyes tried different drugs to control Tessa’s seizures, but their interactions were a source of frustration – and a constant reminder – that drugs might mask symptoms but not address the underlying disorder.

They were challenged by the lack of answers. “In the early years we had more optimism. We were determined that if we could just find the cause, we could stop the seizures and provide relief,” Kim recalled.  “As the years progressed our optimism turned more to determination of just finding relief from the hospital trips and the devastating impacts it all had on Tessa.”

Despite the effort, a diagnosis remained elusive.  The Nyes consulted with the best experts, not just the best at Stanford and UCSF, but the best from all over the world. “My wife is a force. She always found the latest expert in the field and we were traveling all over the country to see the most prominent people,” Zach said. “But in the end, I always felt that Kim gave them more of an education than anything else. We were told that Tessa was simply a genetic anomaly of some variety.  The best explanation of dozens of experts was that Tessa was a statistical fluke and the odds of it happening again were like getting struck with lightning twice.”

Fast forward a decade later. The Nyes’ dreams of a large, healthy family were being realized with the additions of daughters Lily and Maggie, now 10 and eight respectively. Then the “lightning” that never strikes twice did.  Colton, a fourth child, was born in 2013. Within hours of birth, he too suffered seizures. “It was devastating,” Kim said.  “Truly heartbreaking to see it happen again. Having seen Tessa experience true suffering at the hands of this disease, we knew what was in store for Colton.”

Once again, the Nyes dealt with the pain and grief of seeing one of their children impacted by the seizure disorder. But the tragedy brought with it a new set of opportunities, new roads to travel in pursuit of an understanding of a disease that was clearly not just some sort of random genetic anomaly, but instead a specific one. Having two kids in the same family with the same disorder made hunting the genome for a match doable. In relatively short order after Colton’s birth, the cause of the seizures was known: SLC13A5 Deficiency was now an official rare disease.

“While we were thrilled to finally know what caused the seizures, we also realized that this didn’t drastically change anything,” Kim said. Only about half of all rare diseases have specific foundation support or research into a treatment and a cure. But finally having a confirmed cause for their children’s disorder gave the beleaguered couple something that was also rare. “It did provide us a resurgence of hope that we were in short supply of,” Kim said.

The Menlo Park couple leveraged that hope into action and formed TESS Research Foundation in 2015.  “In the end, we are just better at doing something than doing nothing,” Kim said. “I care deeply about the children, like mine, who have been diagnosed with this disease and the newborns who will be diagnosed. It is maddening to think that a cure is out there, and no one is even looking for it.  Science is making rapid progress with single-gene diseases, and we live in a community that can move mountains.  Why not see if our community can move this molehill?” Kim asked.

In years since the SLC13A5 Deficiency was recognized, many children have been diagnosed, and the foundation was created to advance a cure for the growing number of those affected. The thought that it could be as simple as an added protein or a pill inspires the Nyes and their supporters, and the foundation has made remarkable progress since its formation. More than $400,000 has been raised in just two short years – an impressive feat for a rare disease foundation – and the board is striving to be “entrepreneurial” in awarding funding to promising research that can catapult understanding and advance a cure.  Through a blue-ribbon scientific board comprised of doctors from Stanford, Baylor, UCSF, UCSD, and Rady Children’s Hospital, the TESS Research Foundation has funded research that has successfully advanced zebrafish, fly, mouse and cellular models of the disease, critical first steps to testing drugs. Researchers have made remarkable progress in understanding how the disease works and facilitating its diagnosis.

Lee Scheuer, a local businessman known for raising funds for more traditional causes, has gone all in on the effort. “I am so proud to be a member of the TESS Research Foundation Board, which has accomplished so much under Kim Nye’s direction,” Scheuer said. “Kim’s knowledge of the disease and relentless desire to find a cure has motivated the board members to achieve the goal we set out to do two years ago.  I am confident with additional resources and the dedication of the amazing TESS research team we will dramatically improve the lives of these children.”

Therein lies the challenges for TESS Research Foundation and the many others like it which focus on rare disease research.  Resources are hard to come by.  Nearly all the funding that goes into researching disease and cures from the federal government and academia goes into the big “known” diseases. On an international level, it wasn’t until 2008 that Rare Disease Day was even established by the European Organization for Rare Diseases.

Precisely for that reason, contributions to support rare disease research can make an outsized impact for kids and their families. “We are so close, but at the same time there is so much to do,” Kim said. “Every day that goes by without a cure or treatment results in thousands of seizures for the kids who are suffering.”

Photo courtesy of TESS Research Foundation

—————-

Climate magazine publisher Adam Alberti is a member of the board of the TESS Research Foundation, and more detail about its mission and activities can be found at www.tessresearch.org. More information on rare diseases can also be found at the National Organization for Rare Disorders at www.rarediseases.org.

 

 

Petition opposes traffic signal at Alameda de las Pulgas and Eaton Ave.

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A proposal for a traffic signal at the intersection of Alameda de las Pulgas and Eaton Avenue in San Carlos, near the Redwood City border, is facing opposition.

A MoveOn.org petition launched by a San Carlos resident had received 123 signatures as of this writing.

The four-way intersection is currently slowed by stop signs. The City of San Carlos plans to install a traffic signal there with the aim of reducing congestion and backups on Alameda de las Puglas during peak hours.

Some residents are concerned the traffic signal will pose safety issues, saying it would encourage drivers to speed through a green or yellow light.

“In both instances, we fear the safety of pedestrians and other drivers will be compromised because drivers aren’t forced to stop and lower their speeds throughout our residential zone,” the petition said. “We worry about distracted drivers cruising through the green light, looking at their phones, skipping through a red light and more.”

The petition acknowledges a “slight slowdown during the morning and evening commutes for those heading to Clifford Elementary of I-280 via Edgewood Road,” but said the city’s policies should favor the safety of residents who live near the intersection over drivers passing through.

The petition asks residents to attend the March 26 San Carlos City Council meeting to vocalize opposition to the plan.

Redwood City police reunite lost ring with owner

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Redwood City police reunite lost ring with owner

The Redwood City Police Department announced today it has reunited a lost ring with its owner after posting the piece of jewelry on social media on Feb. 20.

“The owner told us that the ring slipped off after she took her hand out of her pocket,” police reported. “When she went to work the next day she told her co-worker that she had lost her ring.”

The co-worker saw the Redwood City Police Department’s Facebook post, and told the ring owner to take a look. “The owner is very grateful to the person who turned the ring into the police department,” police said. “We were very happy to return the ring to the owner today.”

A sweet thanks for Stanford’s $1M contribution to affordable housing

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How do you say thanks for a $1 million gift? With chocolate, of course.

Sister Christina Heltsley, executive director of the St. Francis Center in North Fair Oaks, presented a bar of chocolate with wrapping made to look like a $1 million bill to Stanford officials at the Redwood City council meeting on Monday.

The sweet gesture followed Stanford’s announcement last month of a $1 million contribution to the St. Francis Center to assist in the purchase of the 25-unit Benedicere Apartments at 780 Bradford St. in downtown Redwood City. The contribution allows existing tenants to remain in their homes at their existing, lower rental rates, and moves forward an eventual plan to convert the units into permanent affordable housing, according to Stanford.

“There actually is no way to say thank you for a $1 million gift,” said Heltsley, who added she decided on chocolate, something she loves. “We promise, the St. Francis Center makes a serious commitment to take that $1 million and make sure we use it well for the dignity, safety, the cleanliness and the homes of many families.”

The investment will “help low-income families for decades to come,” Redwood City Mayor Ian Bain said.

The contribution occurred amid the construction of the Redwood City campus set to be complete in 2019. The campus “is expected to provide more than $15 million in public benefits to Redwood City, including the enhancement of neighborhood streets in Friendly Acres, Redwood Village and North Fair Oaks, improved community sustainability, recreation and wellness, and contributions to the Redwood City Education Foundation,” according to the university.

Redwood City startup starts selling self-flying drone

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Skydio, a local Redwood City startup, announced last month it is selling the self-flying R1 drone.

The drone, which is manufactured in Redwood City, uses 13 camera positions to avoid objects and people, according to a company statement. An app, Skydio Autonomy Engine, enables it to see and understand the world around it so that it can fly safely at high speeds while avoiding obstacles, even in dense and challenging environments.

The device sells for $2,499.

Skydio was started by former Google drone engineers and is backed by investors including Kevin Durant. The company was formed in 2014 and has raised about $70 million in funding, including from venture capital firms IVP, and Andreessen Horowitz and graphics chip maker Nvidia.

“The promise of the self-flying camera has captured people’s imaginations, but today’s drones still need to be flown manually for them to be useful,” says Adam Bry, CEO and co-founder of Skydio. “We’ve spent the last four years solving the hard problems in robotics and artificial intelligence necessary to make fully autonomous flight possible. We’re incredibly excited about the creative possibilities with R1, and we also believe that this technology will enable many of the most valuable drone applications for consumers and businesses over the coming years.”

Photo courtesy of Business Wire

Redwood City police: Auto burglaries on the rise

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There has been an increase in auto burglaries in Redwood City, with the majority involving unlocked vehicles, according local police.

The trend prompted the Redwood City Police Department to release a crime prevention video.

“Although this piece of advice should be no-brainer, a majority of auto burglaries are from unlocked vehicles,” according to the officer in the video.

County supes to vote on Regional Measure 3

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The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors is set to vote Tuesday on a resolution supporting placement of a plan for traffic congestion relief known as Regional Measure 3 on the June 5 ballot.

The measure, known as RM3, aims to increase bridge tolls by $1 in 2019, 2022 and 2025 to fund a set of significant traffic relief and public transit improvement projects throughout the Bay Area, including local projects such as the Dumbarton Bridge corridor improvements, enhancements to the Highway 101/State Route 92 interchange and BART expansion.

Readers can view projects that RM3 would fund by county here.

The measure is a response to an 80-percent increase in traffic congestion in the Bay Area since 2010, according to a Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) report released last fall. It has drawn support from officials locally and regionwide, with unanimous approval from the MTC in January as well as support from top regional urban planners The Silicon Valley Leadership Group, Bay Area Council and SPUR.

San Mateo County Supervisor Warren Slocum called his board’s vote on Tuesday “an important recognition of the need for investment in our transportation infrastructure.“

“RM3 will fund improvements to relieve congestion, increase transit capacity, improve safety, and enhance reliability of travel times in the San Mateo community,” Slocum said in a statement.

State Sen. Jerry Hill called the proposed funds vital to ease Peninsula congestion.

“Through major investments in the Dumbarton Corridor, 101 and BART, we can address congestion on our bottle necked and overly congested peninsula,” Hill said.

The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors’ meeting takes place from 9 a.m. to noon on Tuesday, Feb. 27 at 400 County Center in Redwood City.

14th annual Treeathlon event set for Redwood City this weekend

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14th annual Treeathlon event set for Redwood City this weekend

The Stanford University Triathlon Team is set to hold its 14th annual Treeathlon event in Redwood City on March 3 and 4.

Tonight, Redwood City Council is scheduled to vote on whether to approve a partial street closure of Seaport Boulevard for the event that’s been held in the city for the past 13 years.

About 500 runners, including students and community members, are expected to participate in this year’s Treeathlon, which is slated to start and finish in the 1700 block of Seaport Boulevard.

Sponsored by the Stanford University Triathlon Team, the event is a fundraiser for the team’s trip to the National Collegiate Championships in Clemson, S.C.

The event is part of the collegiate triathlon circuit in California, and is set to include Sprint races (collegiate), F1 races (youth/juniors) and a “Saplingathon” (6-12 year olds).

The “Saplingathlon,” slated to run from noon to 3 p.m. on March 3, will occur entirely within the Pacific Shores business complex, and will only require partial closure of the easterly end of Seaport Boulevard that encompasses the business complex, according to the city.

Three waves of triathletes will set off at 7 a.m. on March 4, with race courses including swimming in the Westpoint Marina, running along the pedestrian path on the southside of Seaport Boulevard, east of Chesapeake Drive, and bicycling using one lane in each direction on Seaport Boulevard east of Blomquist Street. The triathlons are expected to finish by 2 p.m.

“The team hopes to continue to use the event to showcase the sport of triathlon in Redwood City and raise the profile of the Stanford Triathlon and Redwood City within the regional triathlon community,” city staff added.

The Stanford University Triathlon Team will pay for the police traffic control services needed from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 4.

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