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23 posts from October 2011

October 31, 2011

Mayo Clinic + UK biotech = glaucoma treatment?

A biotech company based in the Oxford, England is working with Mayo Clinic on a genetic treatment of chronic glaucoma, according to a collaboration deal announced today.

I'll check into this, but here's some from the PR announcement from the company:

Oxford, UK – 31 October 2011: Oxford BioMedica, the leading gene-based biopharmaceutical company, today announces that it has entered into a research and development collaboration with Mayo Clinic, Rochester to develop a novel gene therapy for the treatment of chronic glaucoma. 

Eye2.sflbUnder the terms of the agreement, Mayo Clinic and Oxford BioMedica will undertake pre-clinical studies to establish the feasibility of treating glaucoma using Oxford BioMedica's proprietary LentiVector® gene delivery technology expressing a COX-2 gene and a PGF-2α receptor gene in order to reduce intraocular pressure.  The collaboration includes an option for exclusive US rights to license Mayo Clinic's glaucoma technology, which Oxford BioMedica can exercise upon completion of pre-clinical studies under confidential terms agreed by Mayo Clinic and the Company.

 The collaboration builds on earlier pre-clinical research, conducted by Eric Poeschla M.D., Mayo Clinic and his research team, which has established initial proof-of-concept for this approach to treating chronic glaucoma.  This work will be extended using the LentiVector® technology and may support the rapid transition of another novel ocular gene therapy into clinical development.

Local man + shopping channel deal = 7,000 lbs of fudge

Here's an interesting treat from the crew at the eclectic  and slightly mysterious White Wolf Creek, the cafe/art gallery/fudge shop in the ex-Taco John's on the U.S. 52 North frontage road.

Holiday treats are already adding pounds for David Christenson.

Thankfully, it is the Rochester chocolate artist's workload that is rapidly growing, not his waistline.

Whitewolflogo-gifTo fill an order for an upcoming appearance on the omnipresent QVC shopping channel, he needs to make an avalanche of fudge — a whopping 7,000 pounds' worth — in the next few weeks.

Yes, 7,000 pounds. The calorie total must be mind-boggling and well beyond my limited math skills.

He, along with wife, Lisa Loucks Christenson, are slated to offer a truckload of 2-pound boxes of their White Wolf Creek fudge for sale in mid-November, probably on the show hosted by the popular David Venable.

The details are a bit of a moving target, but right now now they are scheduled to appear at 11 a.m. Nov. 13.

That means David has a lot of his special flavored fudge — peanut butter, red velvet cake, turtle and caramel apple pie — to cook up. Each box will include those four flavors.

Lisa, a wildlife photographer and artist, is helping, while keeping their eclectic bistro and art gallery running along U.S. 52 in northwest Rochester in a former Taco John's restaurant. They are still be serving quiche, wild game, vegetarian dishes, caramel apples, crepes and, of course, fudge. However, they might be not be open quite as many as hours as usual as the tower of QVC fudge is created.

So how does a Rochester chocolatier end up making a featured holiday item for the popular shopping channel?

Lisa says they submitted David's fudge for consideration about a year ago. Lots of steps were taken in between, including flying out to chat with QVC mavens. Now the Med City-made treat is going to seen worldwide.

"Obviously, it is a big thing for us. The best part is the exposure," she says. "And it is a good plug for Rochester."

October 28, 2011

Patently interesting chat at IBM with senators

Here's some from my piece on the patent reform discussion at IBM with Klobuchur and Franken.The full article is in print. As a bonus for my blog readers, here's some of the huge amount of quirky stuff from the event that I didn't have room to use.

IBMpatentroundtablewfrankenKlobuchur told how as 7-yr-old she dressed as a computer for Halloween. She also talked about a conversation she had with Warren Buffet and one of the topics was the increase in vascetomies during the economic downturn.

Franken was funny by not being funny. He had a couple jokes completely flop. He said the lost his sense of humor during the election recount. Franken had also said he was convinced he invented Post-it Notes as a child.

 Then he quipped that he blamed both losing Post-it Notes and the recount on 3M. He was quick to say that was a joke and suggested the press would run with that statement. Well, I didn't run with it. This is more of a stroll. Heh.

Franken also told a good story about Sputnik and the space race. It was a great story when he told it at IBM's 100th celebration in April. I'm not judging. I quite often recycle jokes and leads in my columns.

I do use some comments from IBM quote machine Drew Flaada in the print edition. He has great way with words to explains things clear and simply.


Being inventive is a key part of the culture at IBM Rochester.

Big Blue has led all U.S. companies every year for the past 18 years in patents, and its Rochester facility has been the leader in Minnesota in the past five years.

In 2010, IBM tallied a record-breaking 5,896 patents, with 8 percent of those coming from Rochester.

The hope now is that last month's bipartisan passage of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act to reform and energize the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will make it easier and quicker for local IBMers and others to contribute even more patents.

IBM buildinglogoThat, in turn, will help revitalize the economy, said Sen. Amy Klobuchar to a crowd of inventors, engineers and others at an IBM Rochester event Thursday.

"We have to be a country that makes stuff again. One that invents things. One that exports to the world," she said.

Klobuchar and Sen. Al Franken were in Rochester to talk about the patent reform bill they helped pass.

The bill, which launches in 2013, aims to clear the backlog of 700,000 patent applications. One change is that patent fees will increase 15 percent, generating money to pay for more staff.

As it is today, getting a patent is a slow and lengthy process. The average time from applying to being issued a patent is three years.

"That's a ridiculous length of time," Franken said. "I'm convinced these reforms will streamline the process and help companies like IBM. You need a patent system that works."

October 25, 2011

A wooly ride - A new Roch. yarn shop is all sewn up

I know many roving bands of free-style knitters (I'm looking at you, Courtney) have been forced to raid other cities since Kristen's Knits closed in Rochester earlier this year.Yarn

So the rise of a new specialty yarn shop will probably spur celebration among the needle and yarn crowd.

Check out the print version of my column where I tie up all the loose ends and unravel all of the details. Heh.


Rochester has a been a little less colorful for the large contingent of local knitters, since the Med City's only specialty yarn shop closed earlier this year.

Now two women are opening a new store to brighten things up again for Rochester yarn fans.

Deb Zipse and Catherine Aagenes, two avid knitters, are stitching up Hank & Purl's Creative Nook and Knittery in the River Center Plaza at 1615 N. Broadway.

That puts it just a few doors down from another destination for local fans of fiber arts, the Quilting Cupboard.

October 24, 2011

In case you missed it in print Friday, here's the news on Rochester's new Europen/ Bosnian grocery store:

Rochester's almost 2,000 Bosnian immigrants will soon be able to find a taste of their European homeland when they go shopping.

While the Asian, African, Indian and Middle Eastern communities have stores importing food from their home countries, this is something Bosnians have not been able to do.

"There is no grocery store with goods from Europe nearby. There are 1,500 to 2,000 Bosnians who live here and they have to go elsewhere to get food from Europe," says Nedzad Nukic, a Bosnian immigrant living in Rochester.

Nukic and his brother-in-law Emir Pasalic hope to fill that void by opening the Europe Grocery Store at 1109 Seventh St. N.W., across the street from the Northgate Plaza shopping center.

They hope to open the 1,800-square-foot store by mid-November.

The plan is to fill the shelves with many imported ingredients and spices for local people to be able prepare popular dishes from the region.

He mentioned cevapi as an example of an Bosian staple they will carry.

Cevapi is a type of sausage made of lamb and beef. The sausage links are served with onions and sour cream with Bosnian pita bread called somun.

Look for other things such as candies and juices from the Bosnian region to also be carried by the store.

After the store becomes established and has been running for a few months, the partners would like to expand and add a small coffee shop.

6a00d83451cc8269e20120a7ece3c6970b-250wiWhile this might seem like an ambitious project, running a business in the Northgate neighborhood is not new to Nukic.

In early 2010, he opened Northgate Imports at 632 11th Ave. N.W. to sell used foreign vehicles as well as do repair and service work.

He says Northgate Imports is flourishing and growing.

In 2010, he said, "I like a challenge. Without a challenge, it is not interesting."

And now he is making things even more interesting by opening his own grocery store.

Austin author phenom signs comic book deal

Here's an interesting tidbit for comics fans out there. Total disclosure - I'm a complete comics/fantasy/sci fi  fan boy.

6a00d83451cc8269e2014e89459ec4970d-250wiLocal writer Amanda Hocking has signed a deal with Dynamite comics to publish a comic series based on her Hollowland novels. Dynamite is a cool and very edgy publisher.

Amanda Hocking is Austin's literary phenom who exploded on the Internet by self-publishing her novels in 2010 leading up St. Martin's Press signing a mult-book deal with the young woman.

The multi-million dollar writer has been profiled by the New York Times Magazine and was selling an average of 9,000 e-book A DAY, earlier this year.

Her rocket ride from hobbyist writer to best-selling author launched back in February when the Post-Bulletin's very own Matt Stolle profiled Hocking.

Here's some from Dynamite's announcement of the Hocking/Hollowlands project:


Dynamite is proud to announce that we have reached an agreement with Amanda Hocking and will publish Hollowland comic books in 2012!


HollowlandIn Hollowland, Nineteen-year-old Remy King is on a mission to get across the wasteland left of America, and nothing will stand in her way - not violent marauders, a spoiled rock star, or an army of flesh-eating zombies.

"It's always been a dream of mine to bring the world of The Hollows to graphic novels," says acclaimed author Amanda Hocking. "I'm so fortunate to be able to partner with an amazing publisher like Dynamite to bring this dream to life."

"It is such a pleasure for Dynamite to be working with Amanda as she knows the world of comics," says Dynamite President and Publisher Nick Barrucci. "Amanda's success shows that hard work and passion pays off and we can't wait to see her incredible energy translated to comics!"


Old Navy flag flying at new south store

The signs are there.

It looks like Old Navy is on track to dock in its new south Rochester spot by the expected Nov. 16 date.

IMG_0880_PBOld Navy is moving into the 15,000-square-foot slot between Dick's Sporting Goods and Maurice's in the commercial strip anchored by Rochester's south Target store.

That spot has been empty since the center opened in 2007.

Old Navy is moving out of its current 21,700-square-foot store on South Broadway. It opened there in 2001 in the then-new Broadway Commons Shopping Center.

Still no word on who might be moving into that spot, once it opens up.

Thanks to Josh Banks for snapping this pic.

October 21, 2011

Roch. chamber bash 2011 wrapup - Priorities and awards

The Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce's annual member celebration drew a big crowd Thursday as business leaders packed the Rochester International Event Center.

Outgoing Chamber board chair Melissa Brinkman of Custom Alarm handed over the reins of power to Alan De Keyrel of CWS.

Here's the story I scribbled out about the event.


The Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce's political priorities for the coming year were made clear at its annual member celebration Thursday night.

Get_photo"There is no political agenda item that we are more committed to as an organization than the passing of the extension of the local sales tax," chamber president John Wade told the crowd of business leaders filling the Rochester International Event  Center.

He said the renewal of the sales tax in November 2012 would fuel a boost to the local economy and benefit Rochester's schools, libraries, infrastructure and more.

The tens of millions of dollars generated by the tax will help leverage hundreds of millions in private sector investment, Wade said.

"Trust me, I can give you a whole list of taxes I don't like. This one is good for business," he said. "I believe in my core that this one is good for business."

To lead the drive toward the passage of the sales tax extension, the chamber is launching a new committee.

Former Rochester school superintendent Jerry Williams will be the chairman of the new group. He also was presented with the President's Award for community service.

Williams accepted both the job and the award.

"As I look out amongst the group here, there are so many of you who have given service of self to this marvelously amazing community," he said looking at the tables full of the local leaders. "To those of you who give so generously of your time, talents and efforts for this marvelous community, I share this with you. I am deeply, deeply appreciative."

While the sales tax extension tops the chamber's political wish list, the expansion of the Mayo Civic Center remains a goal, but is not a pressing one, Wade said.

"Our hospitality industry knows how important the expansion of the civic center is," he said. "But it has to be done at the right time in the right way."

While the presentation to Williams was the most dramatic of the night, it was not the only award given out.

Business of the Year: Creative Cuisine, the company behind many popular Rochester restaurants that includes Newt's, City Cafe, City Market, 300 First and the recently revived Redwood Room.

Brothers Dave and Mark Currie accepted the award.

Chamber Volunteer of the Year: Jaimi Stejskal-Kent of Broadway Residence & Suites by Bridgestreet won the award for her work with the chamber.

• The Lamp of Knowledge award: The annual award for outstanding work with education was presented to Wendy Shannon, superintendent of the Byron Public School system.

Chamber Ambassador of the Year award: After reciting her long list of accomplishments with the chamber's Ambassador program, the award went to Karen Hanson of Home Instead Senior Care.

October 19, 2011

Roch. cheese store is cut

After 11 months, a Wisconsin dairy cooperative decided its Rochester cheese store wasn't making the grade.

The Country Creamery, a retail satellite of the Ellsworth Co-op Creamery in Ellsworth, Wis., closed its doors at 3120 Wellner Drive on Thursday, says Beth Ingli, the regional manager.

6a00d83451cc8269e2015432ada78c970c-250wiShe says despite the 100-year-old co-op's best efforts, its first franchise store never found much of a customer base here.

"The city of Rochester, I guess, wasn't ready for a cheese store," Ingli says.

The creamery outlet store sold more than 80 types of cheese, including curds, along with milk and butter. It added Flat Pennies ice cream to the mix in June.

It offered some deli food and had seating for more than 25 people in the space last occupied by Zadeo's Pizza.

While the store is closed, the Ellsworth Co-op will continue to sell directly in Rochester via delivery truck. That's how its famous cheese curds were sold here before the store opened.

The store had six on staff when it closed.

Katie Herron, who managed the Rochester store, is being transferred to the original store in Ellsworth, Ingli says.

October 17, 2011

Two well-known flower businesses cross-pollenate

In case you missed it in the weekend paper, here's my take on the changes sprouting up at Fisdal Flowers. The PB pic below is of Gary Fiksdal, by the way.


Two well-known Rochester names are coming together as a 64-year-old retail landmark changes hands.

Fiksdal Flowers, the venerable florist across Second Street from Saint Marys Hospital, is being purchased by Jack Hawkins of Carousel Flowers.

Owner Gary Fiksdal will stay on with the store after the sale becomes official on I6eifny9fgm2yj515201081233Nov. 1.

"We're going to keep the Fiksdal name, but we'll blend the Carousel name into it," Hawkins says. "The Fiksdal name is well-known, and we don't want to change that. We'll just make the connection to Carousel."

Hawkins, who owns the large Carousel floral center in northwest Rochester and a popular commercial plant-leasing service, says this deal is good for everyone.

"When Gary decided he wanted a change, we started talking and very quickly we had worked something out," Hawkins says. "There is a lot of opportunity there and I want more presence in downtown and the Saint Marys area."

25-3732AAExpect the Fiksdal staff to stay pretty much the same.

The big changes will be the flower shop's hours and its offerings. Its hours will follow Carousel's, which means being open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays.

While Fiksdal has always focused primarily on flowers, the store will add more gift choices like Carousel has.

To make room for that, a rear wall of the Fiksdal store will be removed and the display area will be expanded and re-arranged, and new fixtures will be installed.

The store will remain open as that work is done. The hope is wrap up by Nov. 1.

This is all happening just days after the store's 64th anniversary. The three Fiksdal brothers, Ed, Mards and Arvin, originally opened the store on Oct. 18, 1947.

Hawkins, who has a long history in Rochester retail himself, says he has long been close to the Fiksdal family. Ed Fiksdal, Gary's father, was his Scout leader and took care of the Fiksdals' yard as a kid.

Later, when Hawkins became a Scout leader, Gary Fiksdal was in his troop.