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When AstraZeneca (AZ)  announced in 2019 that it was officially retiring the MedImmune brand, questions naturally arose about whether the U.K. pharma giant would continue the legacy MedImmune support for the BioHealth Capital Region’s (BHCR) life science ecosystem. 

Since its founding in 1998, MedImmune had been an anchor life science company in the region, and starting around 2014, it was a key force behind the creation of BHCR brand, as well as the region’s collective push to be a top-three biotech cluster by 2023. 

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Something of the dark horse in the race to get a COVID-19 vaccine out to the public, Novavax announced a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, to provide 1.1 billion doses of NVX-CoV2373, its COVID-19 vaccine candidate, for the COVAX Facility. The vaccine will be manufactured and distributed around the world by Novavax and Serum Institute of India (SII). SII has an existing deal with Gavi.

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Cursor and Cartesian Therapeutics Initiates Phase 2 Clinical Trial of First RNA Engineered Cell Therapy for Frontline Cancer Cartesian

Gaithersburg, MD, Feb. 22, 2021 – Cartesian Therapeutics, a fully integrated, clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company pioneering mRNA-engineered cell therapy in and beyond oncology, today announced that it has initiated a Phase 2a clinical trial of its mRNA chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy, Descartes-11, in patients with newly diagnosed, high-risk multiple myeloma.  Based upon the company’s research and analysis, this program is understood to be the first RNA-engineered cell therapy to enter clinical development for a frontline cancer. Descartes-11 is the third product candidate to be evaluated in clinical trials resulting from Cartesian’s RNA Armory℠ engineering platform.

 

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BETHESDA, Md., Feb. 16, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- JAMA Network Open has published "Validation of a Machine Learning Brain Electrical Activity-Based Index to Aid in Diagnosing Concussion Among Athletes," a ground-breaking study on the accuracy of the BrainScope FDA-cleared biomarker, the Concussion Index, to indicate the likelihood and severity of concussive brain injury and to aid in evaluating an athlete's readiness to return to play.  

 

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Most office buildings around the country have remained empty over the past year as companies quickly pivoted to working remotely to help slow the pandemic's spread. However, many office campuses owned by office real estate investment trust (REIT) Alexandria Real Estate Equities (NYSE: ARE) have been buzzing with activity during the outbreak. That's because many of its tenants have been working around the clock waging war against the virus, and they needed the company's specialized lab space to develop solutions aimed at defeating the pandemic.

 

for The Rockville-based National Foundation for Cancer Research is accepting applications through Sunday evening, February 28, from academic laboratory and early stage start-up-based promising oncology technology projects for its 2021 Salisbury Award Competition for Entrepreneurial Translational Research. In addition to increased exposure, insight from a world-class judging panel and access to NFCR’s network, cash prizes totaling $10,000 will be provided to three category winners, the first one of which who will also be introduced to the AIM-HI Accelerator Fund for consideration of investment.  Learn more and apply here: https://www.nfcr.org/salisbury-award/.

Avhana’s Noah Weiner is focused on EHR integration.

Local incubator member and digital health company Avhana Health Inc. has been acquired by Wilmington, Del.-based digital medicine products company Amalgam Rx Inc. for an undisclosed sum.

Under terms of the purchase, which was announced Jan. 13, Avhana Health will maintain its operations in Los Angeles as a stand-alone subsidiary of Amalgam. Avhana’s chief executive, Noah Weiner, will stay on as general manager of the unit.

Image: Avhana’s Noah Weiner is focused on EHR integration. 

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The LaunchPort™ announced today that Eyedea Medical (https://www.eyedeamedical.com/) joined the Venture Center and will make the Port Covington, Baltimore location their HQ and engineering site.

Eyedea Medical is an early-stage, ophthalmic medical device company that was spun out of the Wilmer Eye Institute and the Center for Bioengineering Innovation & Design at Johns Hopkins University. Eyedea Medical was formed by a group of ophthalmologists and biomedical engineers in 2019 to alleviate the burden of corneal blindness globally through development and commercialization of a series of devices with potential to improve outcomes and access to vision-restoring corneal procedures.

 

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GAITHERSBURG, Md., Feb. 22, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Novavax, Inc. (Nasdaq: NVAX), a biotechnology company developing next-generation vaccines for serious infectious diseases, today announced the complete enrollment of PREVENT-19, its pivotal Phase 3 study in the United States and Mexico to evaluate the efficacy, safety and immunogenicity of the company’s COVID-19 vaccine. Novavax has previously reported positive interim efficacy results of NVX-CoV2373, its recombinant protein-based vaccine candidate, in an ongoing Phase 3 clinical trial taking place in the United Kingdom.

 

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As we noted in our previous story, “Diversity in Biotech, Industry’s Next Big Challenge,” there is a deep, rich, underappreciated history of African-American innovation in the life sciences and STEM fields. 

There is still much work to be done to improve equity across the industry, however. From transdermal diabetes patches and life-saving hemorrhage control systems to advanced biomanufacturing and revolutionary diagnostic testing, this history’s lineage can be traced across the Mid-Atlantic biotech clusters well as throughout the country.   

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As a follow up to our last event Pitch Perfect: Communicating with Investors Before AND After Funding, we’re excited to bring you Pitch Perfect II: In Action.

We’ll be showcasing four startups from the SoPE and GW community. Each will give a 10 minute pitch followed by a 5 minute Q&A to our panel of experienced venture capital and angel investors.

 

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Join the conversation with Emily Durfee, Program Manager at Healthworx, the innovation and investment arm of CareFirst. Healthworx' Challenge focuses on improving health equity at the community level .Learn about Healthworx’ mission and vision, as Emily shares insights, answer questions and explains the intention of this terrific opportunity to connect with a very important leader in Maryland's healthcare and innovation community.

 

Sara Nayeem

NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Avoro Ventures announced today that Sara Nayeem, MD, has joined the firm as a Partner, focused on its venture capital investment efforts.

Dr. Nayeem joins Avoro Ventures after 12 years with New Enterprise Associates, Inc. (NEA), where she was a Partner in the firm’s biopharma investment practice serving on numerous company boards, in addition to providing support to fundraising, recruiting, and diversity and mentoring initiatives. She will source and manage private market investments within the biotechnology sector spanning early stage to late stage and cross-over, joining Behzad Aghazadeh, PhD, Managing Partner of Avoro Ventures and Avoro Capital Advisors, and Dr. Garheng Kong, Avoro Ventures Advisory Partner.

 

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“5 Questions With…” is a weekly BioBuzz series where we reach out to interesting people in the BioHealth Capital Region to share a little about themselves, their work, and maybe something completely unrelated. This edition features 5 Questions with Paul Nolde, Fund Manager/Managing Director, Riverflow Growth Fund.

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Lubna Azmi sees herself as a laidback person, but even she isn't immune to the pressures and anxieties that come with planning for the future.

"I've seen how fast people's professional lives can fall apart, especially during the pandemic," says Azmi, who is a second-year international studies and sociology major at Johns Hopkins. "During quarantine, I was asking myself, have I been too selfish thinking about doing what I want to do? Should I be thinking about how to better support my family, including the family I create in the future?"

Image: Alia Poonawala (left), executive director of Hire Hopkins, and Alayna Hayes, senior director of life design for diversity, equity, and inclusion - https://hub.jhu.edu

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Research by an international team of investigators has demonstrated the ability of trained dogs to detect aggressive prostate cancer from urine samples, and suggests that an artificial neural network could learn from this olfactory capability. The scientists say findings from the study, which is reported in PLOS One, could feasibly be used to help direct the development of novel, machine-based tools for detecting prostate cancer, which integrate canine olfaction with the analysis of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in urine, microbial profiling, and artificial neural network (ANN)-assisted examination. Study lead Claire Guest, from Medical Detection Dogs, in the U.K., and colleagues in the U.K. and U.S., claimed, “We’ve shown it is possible to replicate the dog’s performance as sensors and brains, it is now time to put this technology in every smartphone.”

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The National Foundation for Cancer Research is proud to present the Salisbury Award in honor of the Salisbury family’s vision and legacy of funding “high risk, high impact, and high reward” cancer research. Over 80 years of service, the three Salisburys galvanized NFCR into a significant force in cancer research worldwide.

The Salisbury Award encourages and promotes innovative scientists and early stage startups to translate their discoveries into therapies that can improve the lives of cancer patients. The initiative is designed to catalyze and advance promising research innovations onto the path of commercialization. Download the flyer and help spread the word!

 

Dr. Kathleen Neuzil '83, director of the Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, designs and oversees U.S. vaccine trials. An avid athlete and Maryland sports fan, she played softball as a UMD undergrad (below) and recently tailgated on campus with her husband and three children (bottom).
(Portrait courtesy of University of Maryland, Baltimore; softball and family photos courtesy of Dr. Kathleen Neuzil ’83)

One of the nation’s leading scientists in the desperate campaign to develop coronavirus vaccines—and in the Hollywood-esque triumph of succeeding within a year—grew up just across the street from the University of Maryland. Underlying all that work is her hope of returning to campus.

“I’m fighting the pandemic partly so I can get back to my Terps season tickets,” said Dr. Kathleen Neuzil ’83, lamenting a men’s basketball season played in a mostly empty Xfinity Center.

Image: Dr. Kathleen Neuzil '83, director of the Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, designs and oversees U.S. vaccine trials. An avid athlete and Maryland sports fan, she played softball as a UMD undergrad (below) and recently tailgated on campus with her husband and three children (bottom). (Portrait courtesy of University of Maryland, Baltimore; softball and family photos courtesy of Dr. Kathleen Neuzil ’83)

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On Feb. 15, 2021, biotechnology company Novavax and SK Bioscience, a vaccine business subsidiary of SK Group, announced an expanded collaboration and license agreement for SK Bioscience to add significant production capacity for Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine, currently in Phase III clinical trials.

This new agreement follows an already existing manufacturing arrangement under which SK Bioscience obtained a license to manufacture and commercialize NVX-CoV2373, Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine, for sale to the Korean government. Novavax recently reported positive interim efficacy results for the vaccine candidate in an ongoing Phase III clinical trial in the United Kingdom and is also currently conducting a Phase III trial in the United States and Mexico.

 

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Are you a start-up in Maryland, DC or Virginia seeking feedback on your biohealth business idea, pitch deck, or commercialization plan? Schedule your feedback session with BHI EIRs here: www.tinyurl.com/EIRfeedback.  These take place by videoconference via Zoom.  Pre-registration and forwarding of a power point deck one week before the session is required. For questions, more information, or to be added to the wait list, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Please review the available slots below and click on the button to register. Thank you!

 

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Germantown, MD, February, 9, 2021 – Seraxis, a biotech company developing a cell replacement therapy for insulin-dependent diabetes today announced the successful closing of a $40M Series C private financing round. The financing was led by Eli Lilly and Company, with participation from Frazier Healthcare Partners, Polaris Ventures, JDRF T1D Fund, and other investors.

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GAITHERSBURG, Md., Feb. 11, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- NexImmune, Inc., a clinical-stage biotechnology company developing a novel approach to immunotherapy designed to employ the body’s own T cells to generate a specific, potent and durable immune response that mimics natural biology, today announced the pricing of its upsized initial public offering of 6,471,000 shares of its common stock at a price to the public of $17.00 per share. The gross proceeds to NexImmune from the offering, before deducting the underwriting discounts and commissions and offering expenses, are expected to be approximately $110 million.

 

Matthew B. Frieman, PhD

The vaccine was found to generate a robust immune response in animals exposed to the vaccine with strong data indicating safety and efficacy, according to the study published recently in the journal Nature Communications. The results have been used to begin testing the vaccine in human trials in the United States with a Phase 3 trial that recently launched at UMSOM’s Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health (CVD).

 

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U.S. drug maker Emergent BioSolutions began speeding up its acquisition of drug supplies beginning early last year, as the coronavirus outbreak was erupting in China. In addition to producing drugs like the opioid overdose-reversing Narcan nasal spray, the firm develops vaccines and antibody therapeutics and had scored lucrative contracts for key biodefense medicines over the decades. 

 

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University System of Maryland (USM) asked members of its community to get creative with approaches to educating the public on COVID-19 safety ahead of vaccination.

Among the top submissions: a puppet show, an action film parody and, because this is Maryland, a crab.

USM, which oversees a dozen public higher education campuses in the state, issued a Public Health Challenge through its research and innovation task force in December. It called for videos and images “to highlight how USM students, members of the broader university community, and all Marylanders can stay safe and healthy while waiting for a vaccine.”

Image: From "Pandemic Puppet Fatigue." (Screenshot via University System of Maryland)  

Cursor and Johns Hopkins again tops research and development spending list as University of Maryland jumps over 30 spots Baltimore Business Journal

Maryland is now one of only six states with more than one university entity spending $1 billion or more per year on research, according to the latest rankings from NSF.

Image: A large portion of Johns Hopkins University's total research and development spending can be attributed to the school's Applied Physics Laboratory based in Laurel. COURTESY OF JOHNS HOPKINS APPLIED PHYSICS LABORATORY

FILE PHOTO: A vial of AstraZeneca coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine is pictured at St. Mary's Hospital, in Phoenix Park in Dublin, Ireland, February 14, 2021. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

GENEVA (Reuters) - The World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday listed AstraZeneca and Oxford University’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, widening access to the relatively inexpensive shot in the developing world.

“We now have all the pieces in place for the rapid distribution of vaccines. But we still need to scale up production,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, told a news briefing.

Image: FILE PHOTO: A vial of AstraZeneca coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine is pictured at St. Mary's Hospital, in Phoenix Park in Dublin, Ireland, February 14, 2021. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

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Easy to manufacture and update, these new vaccines may be a powerful tool against emerging variants and other infectious diseases

Even the experts were startled by the remarkable success of the two first-of-their-kind messenger RNA vaccines developed by Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech against COVID-19.

 

United Therapeutics currently employs more than 400 people in Research Triangle Park. UNITED THERAPEUTICS.

Last month, biotechnology company United Therapeutics began tearing down the historic Elion-Hitchings building in Research Triangle Park, a Mid-Century, Brutalist structure built by the famed architect Paul Rudolph.

While the move was met with dismay from architecture lovers, the demolition could portend a large expansion on the building’s 132-acre property in the coming years.

Image: United Therapeutics currently employs more than 400 people in Research Triangle Park. UNITED THERAPEUTICS.