Getting both professional athletes and weekend warriors back on their feet after an injury has been a significant portion of Disc Sports & Spine Center’s business since its 2006 opening in Marina del Rey.

The medical practice and surgery center of 29 doctors, which specializes in minimally invasive spine surgery and advanced arthroscopic procedures, was the first official medical and spine center for the U.S. Olympic Team, and has similar relationships with teams such as the Los Angeles Kings.

Now, the center has signed its first corporate partnership, agreeing to provide priority care for roughly 150 U.S. athletes who have sponsorship deals with Santa Monica energy drink giant Red Bull North America Inc.

Athletes will use their health insurance to pay for the medical care, but the Red Bull partnership will enable them to obtain easy access and a quick turnaround to get them back in training or competition quickly.

“The athletes will get access to top-level care that helps Red Bull to have better retention of their athletes,” said Disc Chief Executive Dr. Robert Bray, who founded the center and plans to open another surgery center at its Newport Beach clinic by the end of year. “We’ll get massive marketing exposure that we just couldn’t afford to purchase.”

The U.S. subsidiary of Fuschl am See, Austria’s Red Bull GmbH sponsors both conventional and extreme sports athletes and events that include motorsports, surfing and mountain biking. The company is providing the medical services to its sponsored athletes through a program titled High Performance, which offers coaching and counseling services.

High Performance Director Andy Walshe said he became aware of Disc though its Olympics connection, since around 20 of Red Bull’s athletes are current or former Olympians.

Several sponsored athletes already have taken advantage of Disc medical care after potentially career-ending injuries, including big-wave surfer Ian Walsh and BMX racing champ Mike Day.

Iris Cuts Losses

Iris International Inc.’s decision to downsize a money-losing molecular medicine testing operation is getting cheers, with at least one analyst recommending investors resume buying the stock.

The Chatsworth diagnostic testing company acquired AlliedPath Inc., an early stage San Diego company focused on cancer and molecular diagnostics, for about $4.7 million in August 2010 and renamed it Arista Molecular.

Iris will now discontinue nonproprietary Arista testing services where it can’t charge a premium, and merge Arista into the Iris Molecular Diagnostics unit by the end of the month. Research and development operations will also be restructured.

Iris expects to take a third quarter write-off of about $6 million, as well as record restructuring costs of up to $1.8 million. An estimated 37 people, about 10 percent of the work force, are expected to be laid off.

Chief Executive Cesar M. Garcia said that while he’s disappointed Arista did not develop as anticipated, there is still potential in its technology.

“The simplification of our business model should allow us to concentrate our resources on our new product pipeline,” he said in a statement.

Steven Crowley, an analyst for Craig-Hallum Capital Group LP in Minneapolis, said the consolidation removes a “big, heavy anchor” from Iris’ financial performance.

“Its core businesses, automated urinalysis and test sample processing, have been doing rather well but that’s been masked by their substantial investment in the pathology lab,” said Crowley, who upgraded the stock to “buy” with a 12-month price target of $12.

The stock, which has risen 7 percent since the restructuring was announced Sept. 7, closed at $8.62 on Sept. 15. Shares are down 20 percent from the beginning of the year.

Hospital Seeks Friends

Glendale Adventist Medical Center is harnessing the power of employees’ social networks to find potential applicants for hard-to-fill openings.

The hospital contracted with CareerBuilder.com, an online recruitment service that recently launched a Work@Employee Referral App. The application can tap into a person’s Facebook network and send queries to people whose profiles potentially have the right qualifications.

Incentives to participate in the program include the hospital’s existing referral bonus, which has been doubled for certain positions until the end of the year to help launch the Facebook program. If an applicant first identified by the app is hired, the referring employee could earn $3,000 to $6,000.

Registered nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, respiratory therapists and speech language pathologists are among the biggest needs at the hospital, which is opening a patient tower in December.

“We have new generations coming into the work force and we need to be where they are in order to appeal to them,” said Sally Munoz, the hospital senior human resources recruiter who helped set up the program.

Staff reporter Deborah Crowe can be reached dcrowe@labusinessjournal.com or at (323) 549-5225, ext. 232.

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