Valley

One prominent biotechnology venture capital researcher says the concept of the early stage funding valley of death is an “artifact” and actually a reflection of the classic supply and demand.

Many entrepreneurs, investors and life sciences industry veterans take the existence of the valley of death almost as an article of faith. The meme goes that young companies enter that valley, in which attracting investment capital becomes extremely difficult, at an early stage, typically between an initial round of angel funding and the company’s first institutional series A round.

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State governments in 2011 continued to see regional economic growth in the life sciences industry and in 2012 will increasingly focus attention on technology transfer and venture funding as mechanisms to increase private sector innovation related activities within their jurisdictions. Realizing that entrepreneurship is a key ingredient in economic development, states and localities are undertaking the support of programs that assist high technology businesses, and that capitalize on state regional presence of universities and federal laboratories.

Once research yields a new discovery from a university or federal laboratory, there is still a great deal of work in creating a company and funding that research before the technology can be incorporated into the marketplace. The following are state legislative examples of ways industry, universities, and policymakers are creating essential building blocks for bioscience industry growth in company creation and capital for success.

Funding

From artificial floating wetlands designed to clean the Chesapeake Bay to electronic baseball plates, faculty members and graduate students across the state, including this university, are developing new technology projects with $4.1 million from the Maryland Industrial Partnerships.

The MIPS program — which was founded at this university 25 years ago to help companies fund research projects to develop new products — has approved 16 different projects teaming up companies with researchers from campuses across the University System of Maryland. This year's projects, seven of which involve faculty from this university, range from eco-friendly technology to food preservation to state-of-the-art running shoes and will receive funding from MIPS, the sponsoring companies and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Environmental Protection Agency.

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Starting a company is always challenging, but for founders of life science startups, the regulations and funding hurdles make it dauntingly complex, overwhelming, and seemingly insurmountable.

This first-time conference will answer the critical questions that founders must address to start and grow viable life science companies. Industry experts and successful entrepreneurs will provide practical guidance on how to commercialize innovations in each of four sectors: medical device, therapeutics, diagnostics, and digital health. If you have a new startup in this space or are ready to start one, this two-day event may be for you.

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The Tech Council of Maryland (TCM), Maryland's largest technology and biotechnology association with more than 400 biotechnology and technology members employing more than 200,000 in the region, will honor Freeman Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), with its second annual Lifetime Achievement Award. Hrabowski will be presented the award at TCM's Lifetime Achievement Black Tie Gala, which is taking place February 29 at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel and Conference Center.

The TCM Lifetime Achievement Award is presented to an individual who has gone above and beyond the excellence expected of a business executive over the course of a career by also serving the community at large. The recipient must have demonstrated generosity and compassion, along with business savvy -- ensuring that his or her lasting legacy encompasses both corporate success and community involvement.

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BioHealth Innovation, Inc. (BHI), a new regional private-public partnership focusing on commercializing market-relevant biohealth innovations and increasing access to early-stage funding in the Central Maryland region, announced today the appointment of its Board of Directors, including Scott Carmer, MedImmune Executive Vice President of Commercial Operations, as Chairman.

"The State of Maryland is known as one of the most well-established biohealth research regions in the world," said Richard Bendis, BHI Interim CEO, "what we need is an integrated commercialization ecosystem to turn such research assets into economic success by fostering the next generation of 'MedImmunes' here. We are grateful for MedImmune's strong support and Scott's leadership to help us advance early-stage research from laboratories to market with the founding of new start-up companies."

cybersecurity

Maryland and Montgomery County have signed a memorandum of understanding to create a National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence at the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski and Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett took part in an event in Gaithersburg with Patrick Gallagher, director of the NIST on Tuesday.

Brian Darmody

University of Maryland Associate Vice President for Research and Economic Development Brian Darmody is adding to his portfolio the newly created position of University Director of Corporate Relations.

In the new role, Darmody will help coordinate corporate outreach and develop additional corporate partnerships in support of the Great Expectations capital campaign. He will report to both the University's Vice President for University Relations Brodie Remington and to Vice President for Research Pat O'Shea.

Aris Melissaratos

February 17, 2012 - Last night, nearly 300 of Maryland's business leaders and lawmakers gathered for Corridor Inc.'s Sixth Annual Person of the Year Awards, held at the brand new Hotel at Arundel Preserve. What began in December with 21 accomplished and worthy nominees was narrowed down by reader votes to one person: Aris Melissaratos, Senior Advisor to the President for Enterprise Development at Johns Hopkins University.

When Aris Melissaratos first arrived in Maryland, he was 13 years old and spoke not a word of English. His parents had brought him to the United States as they escaped communism and economic hardship. Now, Melissaratos is known throughout Maryland and the region for his entrepreneurship, work ethic, community involvement, and leadership.

Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

The federal government has paid more than $3 billion to U.S. hospitals and doctors offices in the process of switching patient records from paper to computers.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services    Secretary Kathleen Sebelius visited Kansas City Friday to report the progress of health care providers in adopting electronic health record technology.

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, it has paid out $3.12 billion in incentive payments to almost 2,000 hospitals and more than 41,000 physicians who have shown that they are using technology that federal and industry officials say can improve quality of care and lower costs.

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Rockville's place as a hub for health care and bioscience makes it fertile ground for medical and scientific researchers from around the world to compete for jobs requiring specialized skills and experience—and often visas.

On Tuesday, at the Universities at Shady Grove, immigration law firm Taylor & Ryan, LLC will host a two-hour session on the immigration options available to workers seeking permanent resident status—aka green cards—for themselves and their families.

“These are people who may qualify for permanent residence for their significant contributions in the fields of science and medicine,” said Mary Ryan of Taylor & Ryan. “They’re already here and on Tuesday we’ll be talking to people who might want to consider these routes.”

(Left to right) Nick Hammond, chief technology officer; Ken Malone, CEO; and Srinivas Rapireddy, research scientist, talk in Ablitech Inc.'s new lab. (Kim Hairston, Baltimore Sun / February 15, 2012)

Ken Malone and the board members of his startup biotech company gathered in a conference room at the University of Southern Mississippi last October to make a gut-wrenching decision.

Ablitech Inc.'s funding was slowly drying up, and it couldn't find new sources in Mississippi. If the company stayed, it would wither away.

The only option left for Ablitech, they decided, was for the fledgling company to move.

"We called our shareholders together and said, 'Look, if we stay here, we're going to die,'" Malone recalled recently.

For months, Malone and one of the firm's co-founders scoured the East Coast, from North Carolina to Boston, for a new home. They chose Baltimore.

Ablitech's choice this year was a modest win for the still-growing University of Maryland BioPark on the west side of downtown, where about 500 people work. The company brings only a handful of jobs, and its cancer-stopping technology is years — and millions of dollars — away from animal and human trials, let alone commercialization.

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When it came time to generate a little “buzz” for its latest initiative – Deals on Wheels – the Johns Hopkins Technology Transfer office (JHTT) turned to the popular BioBuzz biotechnology industry happy hour series in Montgomery County. And they weren’t disappointed… January’s happy hour drew more than 100 biotech industry professionals who wanted to learn more about the Deals on Wheels program and have an opportunity to network with colleagues.

Deals on Wheels is an innovative program designed to bridge the geographical gap between Johns Hopkins University’s researchers in Baltimore and biotech companies and entrepreneurs in Montgomery County. Through Deals on Wheels, technology companies and entrepreneurs in Montgomery County will have the opportunity to connect one-on-one with Johns Hopkins representatives to discover potential partnership opportunities that include, licensing agreements, start-ups, core facilities, sponsored research, material transfer agreements, research collaborations, and clinical trials.

Edward M. Rudnic, president and CEO of Advancis Pharmaceutical Corp. will speak at the upcoming biotechnology industry annual convention at the Washington Convention Center this weekend.

A Gaithersburg biotech that’s developing regenerative therapies for wound care has continued to broaden its scope by acquiring a North Carolina company focused on stem cell treatments for stroke and other conditions.

In an all-stock transaction, publicly traded Cytomedix agreed last week to pay $16 million — and up to $40 million, if certain milestones are achieved — for privately held Aldagen of Durham, N.C. As part of the deal, Aldagen investors bought $5 million of Cytomedix common stock in a private placement.

TEDCO

The Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO) announced the creation of the Maryland Entrepreneurs Resource List (MERL), a listing of Maryland entrepreneurs available to take on a management role with a start-up company within the next 18 months or those interested in mentoring start-up companies. Compiled with the goal of fostering entrepreneurial activity in the State, MERL serves as a one-stop shop for entrepreneurs interested in joining a start-up opportunity or entrepreneurs willing to provide advice and guidance on a pro bono basis. TEDCO is looking to grow the list, which already includes entrepreneurs in the areas of biotechnology, chemistry, medical devices, network and wireless solutions, physics, engineering and software.

"The Maryland Entrepreneurs Resource List will be a tremendous asset for this community as it will nurture new entrepreneurs and start-up companies," said Robert Rosenbaum, president and executive director of TEDCO. "Maryland is fortunate to have a rich network of entrepreneurs spanning various disciplines and industries, and now these individuals have an invaluable resource when looking for guidance, direction and opportunity. With Governor O'Malley's proposed Maryland Innovation Initiative slated to provide additional and much-needed funding to entrepreneurs, we hope this unique and credible list will further connect the entrepreneur community and facilitate growth for an innovation-driven economy."

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Net income at United Therapeutics Corp.    surged more than four-fold in its latest quarter as sales rose and the Silver Spring pharmaceutical firm curbed expenses.

United Therapeutics (NASDAQ: UTHR) maintained the sales growth momentum of its line-up of cardiopulmonary hypertension medicines in the fourth quarter. Total revenue increased 19 percent to $195.2 million.

Derek Gabbard, CEO of Lookingglass Cyber Solutions in Canton. Gabbard's company recently raised $5 million from investors. (Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun / February 2, 2012)

Derek Gabbard wasn't dreaming of California when he sought to raise investment capital for his Baltimore-based cybersecurity firm.

But the CEO of Lookingglass Cyber Solutions lucked out with a connection to venture capitalists in the state that dwarfs all others in terms of venture capital. With a San Francisco investment firm taking the lead on the investment and a Maryland firm following, Gabbard recently raised $5 million.

Such deals, where Mid-Atlantic technology companies straddle both coasts for investors, have been cropping up lately, though the dynamics underlying them vary. Leaders of local companies hunting for early-stage financing have made pilgrimages to California and either returned with a big check — or advice to move to that state or New York City if they want to build their businesses.

research

About three times each week, an enterprising researcher at theUniversity of Maryland, College Park, takes a step toward patenting an invention. Each year, that results in the creation of about five new high-tech firms, the kinds of businesses often credited with creating good jobs.

That's a good start, but the school's goal is to double that rate in the next few years. With a small but smartly focused investment by the state, we can get there — and all Marylanders can benefit.

Gov.Martin O'Malley's proposed Maryland Innovation Initiative offers a significant advance to our state's tech-based economic development. It commits $6 million to boost commercialization of university research and creates incentives for statewide collaborations that will strengthen our high-tech sector. Additionally, through tax credits, InvestMaryland will raise $70 million to replenish the state's venture capital fund. This gives vital support to start-up firms.

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Hopkins has launched the China STEM program in partnership with Nanjing University, reports a Johns Hopkins University publication, The News-Letter.

Beginning in the summer of 2012, this eight-week long summer program will take place at the Hopkins-Nanjing University Center for Chinese and American Studies in Nanjing, and at Peking University in Beijing.

First proposed in 2009, the program will be led by program director Dr. Ninping Yu and be open to Hopkins students, students from other universities, and professionals.

Montgomery County Community College

When you think of artists in the Philadelphia suburbs, scenic Bucks County comes to mind.

Hoping to change that perception and give Montgomery County a leg up as a haven for artists and the arts, the Creative Montco Initiative named Karen Stout, president of Montgomery County Community College, as its leader.

“We’re trying to represent the entirety of Montgomery County,” said Laura Burnham, executive director of Abington Art Center, a member of the Creative Montco Steering Committee. “We were looking for someone who has a broad perspective. Karen really has an amazing expertise and network across the county, both in the business community and the education community and that’s really important to arts and culture.”

Greg Cangialosi (right), Sean Lane (center) and Mike Brenner are looking for up to five companies for their accelerator.

Greg Cangialosi’s new business accelerator will soon be looking for Baltimore’s next crop of startup tech firms.

Cangialosi, who sold Baltimore’s Blue Sky Factory    last year, plans to launch his Locust Point accelerator with business partner Sean Lane, CEO of BTS Corp., by mid-April. Cangialosi said he will then start selecting startup companies for the accelerator.

White House

In 2008, federal agencies obligated $28.4 billion to 1,316 academic institutions for science and engineering activities, according to data from the National Science Foundation. Although this represents a 0.9% increase in current dollars over 2007 levels, it represents a 1.4% decrease in inflation-adjusted 2005 dollars. The Johns Hopkins University (including its Applied Physics Laboratory) continued to be the leading academic recipient of federal S&E obligations, followed by the University of Washington and the campuses of the University of Michigan. Together, the top 20 institutions received 34.4 percent of all federal S&E obligations in 2008.

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Today, President Obama will host the second White House Science Fair celebrating the student winners of a broad range of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) competitions from across the country. The President will also announce key additional steps that the Administration and its partners are taking to prepare 100,000 effective math and science teachers and to meet the urgent need to train one million additional STEM graduates over the next decade.

“When students excel in math and science, they help America compete for the jobs and industries of the future,” said President Obama. “That’s why I’m proud to celebrate outstanding students at the White House Science Fair, and to announce new steps my Administration and its partners are taking to help more young people succeed in these critical subjects."

Maryland

The InvestMaryland program will be investing approximately $47-55M into several venture capital firms by mid-2012.  The Maryland Venture Fund Authority (MVFA) will be hiring a consultant to assist in the evaluation and selection of venture firms based on the selection criteria detailed in the InvestMaryland Program annotated code 6-518 – Selecting Applicants.

To be certified

For venture capital firms seeking to apply for investment funds from the Invest/Maryland Program, you must be Certified.

Certification is defined in the Maryland annotated code 6-518c1-c2 as:

(1)   The applicant must have at the time of application, an equity capitalization, net assets, or written commitments of at least $500,000 in the form of cash or cash equivalents; and

(2)   At least two principals or persons employed to direct the investment of the designated capital of the applicant must have at least 5 years of money management experience in the venture capital or private equity sectors.

No later than 90 days after an application is filed, the Secretary shall either:

(1)   Issue the certification; or

(2)   Refuse to issue the certification and communicate in detail to the applicant the grounds for the refusal.

University of Maryland BioPark

The University of Maryland BioPark announced today that Ablitech, Inc., a biotechnology company developing polymer-based delivery systems for gene silencing, has signed a lease for laboratory space in the BioPark’s BioInnovation Center. With its move to Baltimore, Ablitech joins an impressive line-up of commercial tenants in the BioPark, a biomedical research park on the vibrant academic medical center campus of the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB). The BioPark’s community of life science companies and academic research centers is commercializing new drugs, diagnostics and devices and advancing biomedical research.

“After thoroughly researching the best location to continue growing Ablitech, the UM BioPark rose to the top of the list among East Coast locations as our ideal choice for relocating,” said Ken Malone, Ph.D., Ablitech’s Chief Executive Officer. “Located in the heart of West Baltimore City and Maryland’s leading biotechnology cluster and offering flexibility of laboratory and office space in buildings developed by Wexford Science & Technology LLC, the BIoPark offers the best of all worlds for a growing biotech organization.”

Legal

The January 2012 issue of Baltimore magazine recognized three Venable partners as being among the top attorneys in the state.  Venable partners Mike Baader, Kevin Shepherd and Ron Taylor each were highlighted as one of the Top 100 lawyers in the state of Maryland in the SuperLawyers ranking that was published in the magazine.

Technology

The issue is called technology transfer, and it has not been one of Maryland’s strengths.

For all of the state’s success in attracting research dollars to an array of universities and institutions with world-class experts and facilities, it has not matched that success in spinning off commercial ventures from that research to generate jobs and economic growth.

This gap has been of growing concern to leaders in business, academia and government. Now Gov. Martin O’Malley has set out to do something about it, albeit belatedly, and we applaud his effort.

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QIAGEN N.V. (NASDAQ: QGEN) has announced results of operations for the fourth quarter and full-year 2011, making significant progress on strategic initiatives to drive growth and innovation.

Net sales in the fourth quarter advanced 17% (+17% at constant exchange rates, or CER) to $334.4 million from the fourth quarter of 2010. Adjusted operating income in the quarter grew 16% to $95.6 million compared to the fourth quarter of 2010 as the adjusted operating income margin was steady at 29% of net sales. Adjusted diluted earnings per share (EPS) rose to $0.31 in the fourth quarter of 2011 from $0.26 in the same quarter of 2010. Results for the fourth quarter of 2011 included a restructuring charge of $75 million for a project announced in November to enhance productivity by streamlining the organization and freeing up resources for reallocation to strategic initiatives.

Art Jacoby

The Tech Council of Maryland    has named Art Jacoby, a Catonsville, Md.-based small business consultant, as its interim CEO.

Jacoby, who is also a managing partner at Maryland Cyber Investment Partners, will head up the technology and biotech trade group while it looks for a full-time replacement for former chief executive Renee Winsky, who left the council in December. In an interview Monday, Jacoby said he expects to hold the position for two to five months – however long it takes to find a permanent chief.

OMalley

Gov. Martin O‟Malley will call for more than $6 million to spin research conducted at university labs    into new companies, aides said Tuesday.

The proposal seeks to address the gulf between the state‟s strong track record in attracting research dollars and relative lack of success in turning that funding into commercial ventures, an issue that commands the attention of academics and business leaders alike.

The new state allotment would be used to fund promising technologies and fund research of others.

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Scientist

A decade ago, Maryland's chief competition in the bioscience industry came from the coasts: New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts on the East and California on the West.

Since then, a crop of emerging biotech clusters has started to make its mark, hailing from the Midwest and farther south into Texas and Florida.

As these new competitors seek their place in the market, Maryland's state officials and business executives hope to maintain and expand its biotech presence through a strategy of organic growth.

Medicine

Healthcare is caught in a slow-motion collision between two 21st Century realities. The world’s growing and aging population creates ever-greater needs for treatment. At the same time, limited resources constrict the availability of quality care.

Perhaps half the people who die each day – more in poor areas – suffer from diseases that are preventable or curable. While medical advances do help patients live longer, the costs of care are rising. And even as science discovers new mechanisms of disease, medicine relies too much on trial and error.

The good news is, solutions are at hand to improve the health of the world’s 7 billion people. We can transform healthcare systems to care for patients in more sustained and cost-effective ways.

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A Montgomery County Council committee recommended on Monday to contribute $250,000 this fiscal year to a public-private partnership — BioHealth Innovation — that is trying to boost the life sciences industry.

The county’s biosciences task force recommended forming the local nonprofit public-private partnership, among other suggestions, three years ago. Besides the $250,000 supplemental increase by the county in fiscal 2012, the partnership seeks $1.25 million from the county during the following three fiscal years.

The expenditure still needs the approval of the full council — which could come as soon as next week — after the Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee lent its approval.

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The arduous task of converting laboratory research into a promising startup biotechnology company has many laborers. And a fledgling group out of Montgomery County wants to add private-sector employers’ names to the list.

As the Business Journal’s Scott Dance reported last week, BioHealth Innovation Inc. wants to recruit private businesses to help biotech entrepreneurs take the science out of a university lab and into an office park. The tactic, the group’s leaders say, has worked elsewhere, and already, BioHealth Innovation has the backing of such venerable biotechs as Human Genome Sciences and MedImmune.

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A Montgomery County nonprofit is planning to extend to Baltimore its mission of translating laboratory research into startup companies.

Where it differs from previous efforts is its plan to get its drive from the private sector, rather than from government or universities. Organizers of Rockville-based BioHealth Innovation Inc. want to help entrepreneurs root out business ideas in federal and university labs, help fund those ventures and build an accelerator in which they can grow in response to market demand.

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Elana Fine, who heads an angel investor network organized by the University of Maryland    ’s Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship, has been promoted to replace Dingman’s longtime managing director, Asher Epstein.

The leadership shuffle comes at a time when the Dingman Center Angels is sharply stepping up its investment activity, inking eight early-stage deals in 2011 — twice as many as it signed in 2010. The angel group was formerly known as the Capital Access Network but rebranded last year.