News Nuggets: Antibody research; food drive; PDO; more

La Jolla Institute for Immunology professor Erica Ollmann Saphire researches COVID-19 antibody therapeutics.
La Jolla Institute for Immunology professor Erica Ollmann Saphire researches COVID-19 antibody therapeutics.

La Jolla immunology expert awarded $6.4 million for antibody research

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, one of the National Institutes of Health, has awarded more than $6.4 million to La Jolla Institute for Immunology professor Erica Ollmann Saphire to support research toward COVID-19 antibody therapeutics.

The funding will fuel ongoing efforts by CoVIC, led by Saphire, to analyze virus-fighting antibodies and track how SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, may attempt to escape those antibodies.

“Most COVID-19 antibody discovery efforts focus on one half of antibody molecules — the part that anchors to SARS-CoV-2. ... This funding allows us to collect information about the other half of the antibody — the part that signals to the rest of the immune system the presence of the virus,” Saphire said. “New data suggest that the ability of that half to signal for immune help separates survivable cases from fatal cases of viral infection. By considering both halves of the antibody, we can gain a more complete picture of how antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 work best and we can better choose the ones that will be most effective as therapeutics.”

Torrey Pines Church to host food drive and distribution

Torrey Pines Church in La Jolla and Saddleback Church San Diego will partner for a drive-through grocery distribution from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Monday, Aug. 31, at the Torrey Pines Church parking lot, 8320 La Jolla Scenic Drive North. Free canned and nonperishable food items will be available for families seeking assistance as a result of financial losses due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Church officials said they will accept donations of items from the public, including spaghetti sauce, peanut butter, canned meat, canned soup, canned vegetables, cereal, pasta, rice, powered milk and infant formula, toothpaste and toothbrushes, shampoo and conditioner, hand sanitizer and wipes, bar soap, mouthwash, cough drops and supplements such as Emergen-C. Additional donations can include toys and stuffed animals for children.

For more information, contact Marsha Tom at (858) 519-1754 or

PDO Committee to consider guidelines update in light of pandemic

The La Jolla Planned District Ordinance Committee this month discussed a possible change to its guidelines to assist retail operations that have struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially restaurants.

Chairwoman Deborah Marengo said the PDO has a requirement that 50 percent of ground-floor businesses be retail so pedestrians wouldn’t walk past dormant spaces and offices.

“With COVID and the changes that have taken place in our community, we have seen a lot of retail spaces go dark,” she said. “We have no idea how long this will last and I wanted to be prepared to make changes … [that are a] little looser than what we have now.”

Speaking as a member of the public at the committee’s Aug. 10 meeting, Diane Kane, who is president of the La Jolla Community Planning Association, suggested that merchants look at where there are vacancies and how many there are and which could be converted.

“Flexibility in how those are used would be helpful, especially now when people need housing,” Kane said. “And some of those spaces can be converted pretty quickly. If the PDO would have a floating component rather than a fixed component to readdress once every three to five years, the best practice for whatever the case may be based on the economy could be implemented.”

Marengo formed an ad hoc committee to review possible changes and report back.

Further speaking to the possibility of relaxing regulations on outdoor dining for the long term, Marengo said: “Outdoor operations seem to be working great for the restaurants. The more we can allow businesses we operate outside, the further we are from losing them.”

Ex-La Jolla woman transferred property before disappearing near Idyllwild, documents show

Records show that former La Jolla resident Lydia “Dia” Abrams signed a series of property transfers two weeks before she went missing in June in Riverside County, according to a report by San Diego TV station CBS8.

Two of six hikers who have gone missing in the Idyllwild area of Riverside County in recent months have connections to La Jolla.

Abrams disappeared without a trace June 6, according to Keith Harper, who identified himself as her fiancé during an interview in early August with Los Angeles TV station KTLA. Harper said her cellphone, wallet and vehicle were left behind at her 115-acre ranch east of Idyllwild in the San Jacinto Mountains.

Records show that Abrams transferred five parcels from her name into a trust called the Dia Kenshalo Abrams Trust, CBS8 reported. The transfers included a parcel with ranch houses in Apple Canyon, a house west of her ranch and a house in Garner Valley, where friends said Abrams kept some of her horses.

The trust was not recorded, so details of who might stand to inherit the properties are private, the station reported.

Abrams has a son and a daughter living in La Jolla. They declined to comment about the case.

Creative Sanctuary launches Color Your Dreams virtual camp

Creative Sanctuary, founded by The Bishop’s School students Lila Chitayat and Kian Tayebi, has joined forces with another high school-based nonprofit to launch Color Your Dreams, a virtual summer art and mindfulness camp.

As a child, Bishop’s School student Lila Chitayat always looked forward to art class.

Working with Project Tasveer, which sells photo prints and apparel to support aid projects in India, Creative Sanctuary created the virtual camp as an artistic and emotional outlet for children ages 5-13 looking to connect with peers, engage in art activities and build confidence and mental well-being amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“During our first session, we had over 30 campers from all over the world [West Coast, East Coast, Canada, Saudi Arabia] participate,” Lila said.

Proceeds from the camp fund Creative Sanctuary’s mission to provide art kits for refugee children.

National University sells La Jolla headquarters

National University has sold The Pointe at Torrey Pines, its headquarters in La Jolla, according to Commercial Property Executive.

Public records show Alexandria Real Estate Equities paid $97.5 million for the two-building, 139,135-square-foot site on 11.4 acres at 11255 and 11355 N. Torrey Pines Road, according to the report.

— Compiled by La Jolla Light staff