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With President Barack Obama signing the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Bill into law today, the crowdfunding provision could mark a new era for startups and make it easier to raise money with more investment from new investors who fuel early and later-stage healthcare companies.

But some investors believe that with less-rigorous regulatory checks and balances on company finances, the risk of investors getting burned by fraud will lead to new dynamics in the investment landscape, like novice investors partnering with individuals and groups with more experience. Three individuals from the investment landscape share their thoughts.

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For scientists pursuing careers in biotech, clusters of life science-related companies and research institutions in the eastern United States may be a promising place to look for jobs. These so-called bioclusters have a 30-year history in the region and, in recent years, have seen an uptick in active support from academic institutions and state and local governments. We focus on three leaders in the region, the bioclusters in Massachusetts, Maryland/Washington, DC, and North Carolina. By Shawna Williams

Bioclusters have their roots in a pair of 1980 government decisions, explains Peter Abair, head of economic development and global affairs at the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, an industry group. One of these, the Bayh-Dole Act, for the first time allowed discoveries made with federal dollars to be licensed for commercial purposes. The other was a Supreme Court decision that DNA could be patented.

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Join us on April 25th at Stella Restaurant for another BioBuzz in Montgomery County!

This month's corporate sponsor, BioHealth Innovation, inc. (BHI) is an innovation intermediary that translates market-relevant research into commercial success by connecting management, funding and markets. BHI's vision is to transform the Central Maryland region into a leading global bio-health entrepreneurial and commercialization hub. BHI will identify and translate market relevant research into commercial success by connecting research assets to appropriate funding, management and markets.

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When the Human Genome Project got underway in 1990 it was expected to take 15 years to sequence the over 3 billion chemical base pairs that spell out our genetic code. In true Moore’s Law tradition the emergence of faster and more efficient sequencing technologies along the way led to the Project’s early completion in 2003. Today, 22 years after scientists first committed to the audacious goal of sequencing the genome, the next generation of sequencers are setting their sites much higher.

 

About a thousand times higher.

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In the world of drug development, honing an effective molecule is just the first step. As everyone in the drug delivery business knows, issues like solubility, permeability and targeting can be vexing challenges to getting treatment where it needs to go. But what if you could deliver drugs the same way the body dispatches white blood cells to fight infection, or the same way a virus proliferates throughout the body?

That's what researchers at U.S. universities are working on, aiming to develop synthetic cells that could target ailments and release drugs to treat them. As Popular Mechanics reports, scientists at the University of Pennsylvania are using plastics to build artificial white blood cells called leuko-polymersomes, which would be guided by synthetic molecules designed to mimic the natural receptors white blood cells use to find enflamed tissues and stick to them.

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Dr. Charles Hamner has been researching the nanotechnology industry since, as he puts it, “before they called it nanotechnology.”

But he says it’s not an industry – “It’s a community, because the technology is going to spread across all industries,” particularly into biotechnology.

 

Nanotech deals with small particles, at the molecular level, and is applied by companies to create technological innovation. An example is Liquidia, a biotech that uses the nanoparticles in its vaccines.

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Maryland has chosen a London firm to oversee the selection of venture capital firms interested in making investments in young state companies through the InvestMaryland program.

Altius Associates was tapped to ensure the process is open and transparent and not influenced by the state, the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development said in a statement.

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Over the past decade, collaborative research efforts to support the discovery and development of medicines has increased dramatically. Last month, the National Institutes of Health and Eli Lilly and Company announced a new collaboration: they will generate a publicly available resource to profile the effects of thousands of approved and investigational medicines in a variety of advanced disease-relevant testing systems [1]. In-depth knowledge of the biological profiles of these medicines may enable researchers to better predict treatment outcomes, improve drug development, and lead to more specific and effective approaches.

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Pharmaceutical giants AstraZeneca PLC and Amgen Inc. just announced a deal to co-develop and co-commercialize five product candidates, all monoclonal antibodies. No surprise here: LLC    – AZ’s Gaithersburg-based biologics arm that specializes in antibody-based products — will be taking on a good deal of the work.

The Maryland biotech took the lead on negotiating the transaction with Amgen and will lead the development of three of the five compounds, President Peter Greenleaf said in an interview Monday afternoon.

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Back in the old days of biotech, the business was pretty straightforward. You’d craft your scientific idea, aim a new drug at patients in need, charm investors to give you some money, run bang-up clinical trials, win FDA approval. Do all that, and you’re good as gold. Charge insurers whatever the market will bear, and count the money.

That model worked for a long time, but there’s another hoop everyone needs to jump through now, and I’m not sure everyone in the industry has fully come to terms with it. No matter what happens with President Obama’s healthcare reform in the Supreme Court or Congress, there are forces now that limit what society will pay for new drugs. We don’t have actual price controls in the law, but the pressure to wring costs out of the $2.6 trillion U.S. healthcare system is intense and will only grow as the baby boomers get older. Drugmakers can’t duck and hide from this issue anymore.

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Companies like Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX), Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) and Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) aren’t healthcare companies, but one venture capitalist believes their example can guide personalized medicine.

Bob Kocher, a partner at venture capital firm Venrock, said that these consumer-focused companies have all taken steps toward personalizing their offerings. Personalization increases the value of those offerings and helps the companies make delivery of services and products more efficient.

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Gene scans for everyone? Not so fast. New research suggests that for the average person, decoding your own DNA may not turn out to be a really useful crystal ball for future health.

Today, scientists map entire genomes mostly for research, as they study which genetic mutations play a role in different diseases. Or they use it to try to diagnose mystery illnesses that plague families. It's different from getting a genetic test to see if you carry, say, a particular cancer-causing gene.

But as genome mapping gets faster and cheaper, scientists and consumers have wondered about possible broader use: Would finding all the glitches hidden in your DNA predict which diseases you'll face decades later?

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Fuad El-Hibri has started a financial consulting business. He’s started telecommunications businesses.

But his most challenging venture has been the Rockville biotech he helped launch 14 years ago.

Still, El-Hibri — CEO and board chairman of Emergent BioSolutions — says the challenges are worth it, because the rewards are so great from protecting and saving lives.

 

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Following a considerable contraction in investment dollars in 2008 and 2009, the U.S. angel investor market continued to recover in 2011, a trend that began in 2010 in investment dollars and in the number of investments, according to the 2011 Angel Market Analysis released by the Center for Venture Research at the University of New Hampshire.

Total investments in 2011 were $22.5 billion, an increase of 12.1 percent over 2010 when investments totaled $20.1 billion. A total of 66,230 entrepreneurial ventures received angel funding in 2011, an increase of 7.3 percent over 2010 investments, and the number of active investors in 2011 reached 318,480 individuals, a substantial growth of 20 percent from 2010.