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Tampa biotech advances potential treatment of melanoma

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted orphan drug designation to a potential treatment of melanoma being developed by Morphogenesis, a privately held, clinical stage biotechnology company in Tampa. The designation is for medications that are intended for use in diseases which affect fewer than 200,000 persons in the U.S., and provides sponsors with  eligibility for a seven-year period of market exclusivity in the U.S. following product approval, as well as FDA assistance in clinical trial design and an exemption from FDA user fees.  Morphogenesis' drug candidate is for the treatment of stage IIB to stage IV melanoma. Late stage melanoma is among the deadliest forms of skin cancer, affecting as many as 62,748 Americans.

Eckerd College adds data science minor

Beginning this semester, Eckerd College students interested in learning how to look at data, ask it meaningful questions and gain useful information can minor in data science. The minor was approved by faculty in October after a three-year vetting process. Data Science minors will be required to complete five courses including Intermediate Programming, Fundamentals of Data Science, one statistics course and two other computer science-focused classes.

USF epidemiologist’s Covid-tracking tool receives funding from Florida Blue

Florida Blue has given $100,000 to the USF Foundation to support the SEIRcast COVID-19 Forecasting & Planning Portal, a system developed by USF College of Public Health professor Edwin Michael that provides daily unique, locally applicable epidemic forecasts. SEIRcast has the ability to forecast the pandemic at a county level by taking into consideration the impacts of local transmission conditions, social behavior and decisions and can generate forecasts of outbreaks by adjusting each day to the current transmission and social conditions applicable to a county. The modeling tool also provides predictions for investigating a wide array of “what-if” policy scenarios such as stay-at-home orders, mask mandates or reopenings that might cause cases to fall or surge. A hospital resource planning interface allows health care providers to monitor whether the pandemic will overwhelm resources before the crisis hits.

Super Bowl LV half-time headliner will be The Weeknd

The Weeknd will perform during the Pepsi Super Bowl LV Halftime Show on CBS at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa on Feb. 7.  The Weeknd has amassed a global fanbase, become a multi-award winning artist, and recently, was named one of the most influential people of 2020 by Time Magazine, a news release said. The Pepsi Super Bowl LV Halftime Show telecast will be produced by DPS with Roc Nation and Jesse Collins serving as executive producers, and Hamish Hamilton serving as director. Roc Nation is also serving as the strategic entertainment advisors of the live performance.

Cope Notes gets deal with Orange County

Tampa-based Cope Notes, a digital mental health platform, has a contract with the Orange County Department of Mental Health and Homelessness. The county is using Cope Notes’ SMS text-messaging technology to connect 1,000 residents with peer support and psychoeducation on a daily basis, a news release said. Cope Notes has won similar agreements with USF Health and the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay, as well as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and Mental Health America. Read more about this local startup company here

Pinellas County Schools to reopen Friday

 After assessing conditions following Tropical Storm Eta, Pinellas County Schools and district offices will be open and fully operational tomorrow (Friday). Schools closed early Wednesday in preparation for the storm. 

Pinellas Sheriff’s teams rescue 33 people in high water

The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office high water rescue teams helped 33 people after Tropical Storm Eta brought high sustained winds, high tides and flooding throughout the county. No injuries were reported to either civilians or sheriff's deputies, a news release said. The rescue team used humvees, flat bottom boats, and inflatable boats to rescue people from homes and roadways while the sheriff's office dive team assisted in several rescues from vehicle-inaccessible areas. Most of the rescues occurred in the area from Pass-a-Grille in south St. Pete Beach north to Madeira Beach. Rescued people were taken to area hotels or other shelters. Deputies worked overnight with Pinellas County highway crews to clear roadways and as of early Thursday reported no road closures.

New insurance company launches in Tampa

Orchid Underwriters Agency and Homesite Group have partnered to launch TRUE, a new reciprocal insurance company to protect homeowners in coastal states. TRUE, which stands for Trusted Resource Underwriters Exchange, is based in Tampa. TRUE will offer owner-occupied homeowners insurance, as well as bundled, optional coverages and a private flood solution, for medium-to-high-value homes, a news release said. Agent partners will distribute the products beginning in Florida and eventually expanding into the Gulf, Southeast and Mid-Atlantic states. Michael London is CEO of TRUE. He is former chief financial officer of Homesite, a Boston-based national property insurer. AM Best, a credit rating agency, has assigned a financial strength rating of A- (excellent) and a long-term issuer credit of a- to TRUE with a stable outlook. The ratings reflects TRUE's strong balance sheet, as well as adequate operating performance, limited business profile and approva enterprise risk management, AM Best said.

PSTA resumes bus service

The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority will resume service starting at noon Thursday, Nov. 12. This includes all routes and paratransit. Bus service was suspended Wednesday due to what was Hurricane Eta and later Tropical Storm Eta. Riders can also  find the latest information on PSTA bus service by calling 727-540-1900 or by visiting the Facebook and  Twitter  feeds at Ride PSTA.  



USF plans remote classes for Thursday due to storm

University of South Florida closed all campuses at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday and said they will remain closed through Thursday, Nov. 12 because of Tropical Storm Eta. All classes will be delivered remotely on Thursday, the school said. All employees who can work remotely should continue to do so, and only USF employees who are classified as essential personnel and/or those identified by their supervisors as vital to campus operations should report to on-campus work while campuses are closed. All campuses are expected to reopen on Friday, Nov. 13. Residence halls and residential dining facilities at the USF Tampa and USF St. Petersburg campuses will remain open, although hours for some on-campus facilities may be adjusted. USF Health has canceled clinical operations at all of its facilities through the morning of Thursday, Nov. 12. 

Pinellas County adds five Covid deaths

Five more people in Pinellas County have died as a result of Covid-19, according to a report from the Florida Department of Health. The Wednesday report said there have been a total of 838 deaths in Pinellas County since the pandemic began in March. Four of the five fatalities are identified by age and gender in the health department report, and all four of them were under 60 years old. They are a 43-year-old woman who died on Oct. 25, a 58-year-old man who died on Oct. 9, and two other deaths that occurred several months ago and were only now identified as Covid-19 deaths — a 55-year-old man who died on June 15 and a 42-year-old woman who died on Aug. 4. There were 210 more cases reported overnight, bringing the county total to 28,242 cases since March. The positivity rate reported for Tuesday was 5.46 percent. The positivity rate has averaged 6.3 percent over the past two weeks.

Sandbags available for pickup

The City of St. Petersburg currently has a stock of 1,300 pre-made sandbags at the Pavement and Traffic Operations Building, 1744 9th Ave. North, that can be picked up this afternoon (Wednesday) starting at 3:30 p.m. Residents must provide proof of residence (such as a driver's license) to receive sandbags.

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