College Graduation

In a recent op-ed column headlined "The failure of college for all" (May 28), Robert J. Samuelson raised some interesting ideas, such as enhanced vocational education and expanded apprenticeship programs. However, he started from what higher education professionals would label a false premise, rendering his observations and arguments less valuable.

Although I have no doubt that some people have issued calls for universal access to higher education, those who are serious about education policy have never proposed anything remotely close to 100 percent college attendance or college completion

Merck

With pharmaceutical industry research budgets shrinking, large drug companies are instead looking to support early-stage biotechnology startups. Merck, Eli Lilly, and GlaxoSmithKline have all announced investments in such companies in recent months.

The multinational drug giants are moving to partner with venture-capital firms and nascent biotechnology companies in hopes of feeding their drug development pipelines. "We are going toward external innovation. We're dealing with more academics and biotechs than we ever have," said James Schaeffer, Merck Research Laboratories' director of West Coast licensing and external research, speaking at a BioVentures's C21 conference in California last week.

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Thousands upon thousands of brilliant, motivated, hard working—and legal—immigrants live in the United States. Every year additional highly educated professionals arrive to study and work. Here they make their first attempts at practical use of the English they learned growing up. Now they must speak and write English at jobs and in schools, both of which are highly competitive.

Like the ancestors, or maybe even just the moms and dads of American-born citizens, these individuals have earned the right to be here and have followed the required regulations. Many of them have terrific English. Regardless of their accents, or whether they learned British- or American-style English, they write and speak well. They are excellent people to work with because they bring new knowledge and ideas to the table. They are also fun to socialize with in non-work environments because they bring new knowledge, ideas, and perspectives to the table.

Human Genome

The latest chapter in Human Genome Sciences’ battle to fend off a hostile takeover bid by British pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline played out in a Rockville courtroom Thursday morning.

A Montgomery County Circuit Court judge shot down an HGS shareholder’s request for a temporary restraining order to invalidate the “poison pill” the Rockville biotech enacted last month to make it a less attractive acquisition target.

Ronald Peterson

Johns Hopkins has had many milestones since it first opened its hospital in Baltimore in 1889. It pioneered the acceptance of women to medical school and the use of rubber gloves in surgery, discovered restriction enzymes and the brain’s natural opiates, birthed multiple medical specialties including neurosurgery and pediatrics, and developed life-saving procedures such as renal dialysis, CPR, and the “blue baby” operation that paved the way for modern heart surgery. May marked another major milestone for the nation’s best hospital for 21 years in a row: the opening of its brand new high-tech clinic.

We had the opportunity to sit down with The Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System’s President, Ronald R. Peterson, to discuss their new clinical building. Peterson has an impressive and storied background at Johns Hopkins, which is why he’s ideally positioned to talk about the milestone.

Montgomery County BIN

If you are an emerging advanced technology, life sciences or professional services company or a foreign business looking for a soft landing in the U.S. market, the Business Innovation Network of Montgomery County, Maryland has the perfect place for you.  The Innovation Network business incubators are located throughout Montgomery County adjacent to Washington, D.C.  with its talented workforce and strategic access to the federal and commercial marketplace, all in a sophisticated, diverse community. The Network was founded by the Montgomery County Department of Economic Development in 1999 with the opening of the Shady Grove Innovation Center and specializes in helping young companies realize their potential.  Since its inception the Business Innovation Network has worked with over 250 teams of entrepreneurs and graduated about 100 companies. Over the last 10 years the Network has grown to five business incubation centers that offer the critical combination of highly flexible, modern office and lab space and business support services. 

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MedImmune in Cambridge UK is reaching out to academics and biotech companies in a bid to improve the industry’s poor neuroscience track record.

Together with AstraZeneca in Boston, Massachusetts, MedImmune – the global biologics unit of AstraZeneca – is setting up a collaborative unit at its Granta Park HQ with the aim of producing drugs to treat neurodegenerative conditions, long term pain and neuropsychiatric conditions.

Iain Chessell, vice-president R & D Neuroscience said: “There have been no new approvals of completely novel mechanisms for treating pain for at least a decade – if not more – and current treatment only works in a third to half of patients.

Below is an editorial suggesting the nation could become more economically competitive by helping remove barriers to connect our federal lab technology, human and physical resources to the private sector. Without question, Maryland has the most to gain from this national initiative. We are home to the nation’s largest concentration of federal laboratories and many federal lab researchers live in Maryland. To its credit, the state has launched new programs to support commercialization and partnering among the state’s considerable academic research and development assets. Since federal labs are creatures of federal legislation, these efforts need to extend to federal labs, augmented with federal policy reforms. Now is the time for the state to lead the Maryland Congressional delegation, working with other state congressional delegations, to work on a bi-partisan basis to enact pathways for better connecting the human, physical and technology assets of our federal labs with their regions.

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Thursday, June 14, 2012 from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM (ET)
Rockville, MD

A free and open forum to:

  • Discuss InvestMaryland implementation progress and investment strategy
  • Detail state venture funding resources to seed and early-stage companies
  • Address questions from the business community

Laurie Boyer

Laurie Boyer, president of the Maryland Economic Development Association, is the new executive director of Rockville Economic Development Inc.

Boyer has more than 15 years of government and economic development experience, according to a statement from REDI.

She served more than five years as director of the Frederick County Office of Economic Development and earned her certified economic developer designation from the International Economic Development Council in 2006.

accelerating-innovation

It's been almost a decade since the Human Genome Project was completed, yet despite the best efforts of thousands of scientists around the world, hopes for cures for a wide range of diseases remain unfulfilled.

Last fall, a remarkable group of leaders came together to find new ways of overcoming the barriers that have prevented more progress in medical research. A report from the Milken Institute, released today, Accelerating Innovation in the Bioscience Revolution, recaps the discussions from that gathering – the 2011 Milken Institute Lake Tahoe Retreat.

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Bernard T. “Bernie” Ferrari, an accomplished corporate strategist and management consultant to Fortune 50 companies, has been named the next dean of The Johns Hopkins University’s Carey Business School.

Ferrari, whose appointment is effective July 1, is the second dean to lead the Carey Business School since it was established in 2007. He succeeds Yash P. Gupta who stepped down last June.

iTEC Talk

Private Sector Entrepreneur-in-Residence Program in partnership with the NIH/OTT Monday, June 11, 12:00 pm to 12:30pm ET

Presenters: Richard Bendis Founding President and CEO Innovation America and Mark L. Rohrbaugh, Ph.D., J.D. Director Office of Technology Transfer National Institutes of Health Department of Health and Human Services

BioHealth Innovation, Inc.'s (BHI) Entrepreneur-in-Residence (EIR) program is designed to be an active partner with research institutions to source, fund, and grow high-potential, early-stage products through project-focused companies. The entrepreneurs in the program support the formation of new companies based upon innovative discoveries in the areas of drugs, vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics, and medical devices from the intramural research programs at the NIH and Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as well as from universities and businesses. The EIR will find, evaluate, and support the development of new start-up companies based upon technology license agreements from technology transfer offices or equivalent units within the research institutions.

DC

United States Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) has introduced legislation that will revive the Therapeutic Discovery Project Tax Credit, which funneled $1 billion in tax breaks and grants to biotech companies across America in 2010. The program impacted about 3,000 small US companies that year. “Biotech labs employ dedicated scientists and researchers, whose discoveries could lead to a ground-breaking cures for cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, or HIV/AIDS,” Menendez said in a statement released last week. “Manufacturing these breakthrough therapies is already creating thousands of high-paying jobs, and extending this critical tax credit will not only create more good jobs here in America, but keep us at the forefront of life-saving innovation.”

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Universities have historically been on the front lines of translating innovative research into novel medicines and technologies useful to patients. With that in mind, the 2012 BIO International Convention will look to highlight the role of academia in the advancement of the biotechnology field through the BIO Academic Park and the Translational Research Forum. Hosted by the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), this year's global event for biotechnology will take place June 18-21, 2012 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center in Boston, MA.

"The BIO Academic Park will give Convention attendees the opportunity to connect and start conversations that could lead to partnerships, and most importantly, establish a tighter link between academic, industry representatives and investors," said Dr. Abigail Barrow, Founding Director of the Massachusetts Technology Transfer Center and Program Co-Chair of the 2012 BIO International Convention.

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Johns Hopkins researchers say it’s going to be a hard sell to get physicians to stop screening healthy men routinely for prostate cancer with PSA testing, despite recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) that the cancer screening does more harm than good.

Patient expectations, malpractice fears cited The researchers surveyed physicians, 74.4% of whom said patients expect PSA testing.

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Leaders of 11 top high-tech companies — including Microsoft Corp. and Intel Corp. — signed a partnership agreement Monday with a fairly new Rockville-based center on cybersecurity, pledging to work together to further that growing industry.

The companies will help the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence — an agency formed a year ago by the federal National Institute of Standards and Technology, Montgomery County and the state of Maryland — develop leading-edge technology to combat hackers and other cyber-criminals, officials said.

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The pharmaceutical industry rightly calls the stage in drug development between basic research and clinical trials the “Valley of Death.” This is when a potential treatment that’s worked in mice, monkeys, and the like catapults to a phase 1 clinical trial to assess safety. It’s rare.

Francis Collins, MD, PhD, director of the National Institutes of Health, calls this period “where projects go to die.” The reason: $.

Matthew Herper writes in Forbes that the cost of developing a new drug is $4-11 billion, not the $1 billion that Pharma often claims. Yet even that $1 billion is unimaginable, especially when you put a face on a rare disease and witness what the family goes through to leap to phase 1.

Lilly

Eli Lilly is participating in a new investment fund which will focus primarily on early-stage drug development opportunities in Canada as a whole and Quebec in particular.

The fund, which will be operated by investment investment group TVM Capital, will have an initial size of $150 million. As well as Lilly, other backers include Teralys Capital (which is putting in $65 million), BDC Venture Capital, Fondaction and Advantus Capital Management.

Accelerator

Accelerator, the venture-backed biotech startup machine, has made its name over the past decade as a hotspot for financing life sciences companies in Seattle with big dreams and potential. Now it’s considering expanding its model for starting biotech companies in other life science clusters around the world, including New York.

Plans are still in the exploratory stage, but the idea is that Accelerator would remain headquartered in Seattle and build a network of satellite labs in four or five other locations around the world, says Carl Weissman, the co-founder and CEO of Accelerator. Accelerator’s existing venture backers, and some potential new investors, have expressed interest in a more far-reaching version of Accelerator, Weissman says.

BIO Boston

BIO International Convention organizers are hoping for the usual surge in attendance provided by the Boston biotech community at the event scheduled for June 18-21 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. While it may not reach the 22,000 level achieved at the last Boston BIO in 2007, it should surpass the 15,600 who came to last year's event in Washington, D.C. Exhibitors will occupy more than 215,000 sq. ft of exhibit space.

Attendance for the event has been off its historic highs since the Atlanta event in 2009 which drew about 14,000. Organizers attribute the drop that year to the H1N1 influenza epidemic which surfaced a few weeks before the convention and to the economic downturn. Attendance has been slowly recovering since 2009.

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The University of Maryland, Baltimore County and Northrop Grumman Corp. last month expanded their Cync cybersecurity  program with three new companies, including the program’s first international one. The three firms joined the five companies currently at bwtech@UMBC Research and Technology Park in Catonsville.

Pharma Investing

Pharma corporate venture was back in the biotech news today with the release of Burrill & Company’s June 2012 report.  An interesting article by Vinay Singh evaluated the impact of Pharma corporate venture capital (CVC) investing, and the key takeaway is that CVC-backed companies have a higher rate of overall success than those without their involvement.

While a similar takeway has been published before by Windhover’s StartUp about a year ago, these data suggests a fairly robust effect from a large dataset.  The analysis includes 2907 therapeutics companies that raised venture capital dollars between 2000-2010 across 5100 rounds of financing.  Corporate VCs were investors about 10% of companies, and this pool of 286 companies had what appears to be a markedly higher hit rate: a ~60% higher rate of licensing deals, M&As and IPOs. 

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Only a few companies have ever been successful enough to call themselves Big Biotechs. If boards and shareholders lack vision and guts, we’ll look back in few years and wonder why the Big Biotechs went extinct.

The group of Big Biotechs includes companies like Amgen, Gilead Sciences, Biogen Idec, and Celgene. They grew from scrappy venture-backed startups with a dream into big, independent, profitable, diversified enterprises. They have enduring ability to create new jobs and new medicines. They are like ballasts in a stormy industry.

Notre Dame

Following on the heels of two hospitals, the University of Notre Dame has become the first university to strike a collaboration with Cleveland Clinic aimed at commercializing medical innovations from its faculty and researchers.

Through the collaboration, Cleveland Clinic Innovations will essentially do for Notre Dame what it does for the Clinic — help turn employee ideas into marketable products that generate financial returns for the organization.

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Maryland U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski plans to participate in a signing ceremony at the National Institute of Standards and Technology for new private sector partners that will collaborate with the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence on Monday, April 15.

According to a statement from the senator’s office:

The new partners will pledge to contribute hardware and software components and share cybersecurity best practices and personnel with the center in an effort to address current cybersecurity threats. Senator Mikulski will be joined by Governor Martin O’Malley, Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett, Commander of U.S. Cyber Command and NSA Chief General Keith B. Alexander, and Under Secretary of Commerce for Science and Technology and NIST Director Patrick Gallagher …

BIO-International

Thousands of companies from around the world and all industry segments will be at BIO, ready to build strategic partnerships. Attend the Global Event for Biotechnology and you will reap the benefits of an efficient four days! You will find connections, partnering and innovation everywhere at BIO. 15,000+ leaders from more than 65 countries come to this global gathering. We invite you to join!

BIO covers the wide spectrum of life science innovations and application areas. Drug discovery, biomanufacturing, genomics, biofuels, nanotechnology, and cell therapy are just a few of the industries represented at the BIO International Convention.

We have a free service, myBIO Personal Event Planner - search using keywords to find what interests you at BIO.

The key elements of the event are education,networking, BIO Business Forum partnering and the 1,800 companies showcasing the latest technologies, products and services in the BIO Exhibition. See the Schedule of Events.

National Heard Lunch and Blood Institute

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) published a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) in the Spring 2012 NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts to establish Centers for Accelerated Innovations (CAI). The CAI will address the problems that hinder the critical early steps necessary to translate novel scientific advances and discoveries into commercially viable diagnostics, devices, therapeutics, and tools that improve patient care and advance public health.

The Need for Accelerated Innovation

Despite the remarkable success of NHLBI in enabling the development of interventions that have greatly reduced the health burdens due to cardiovascular, lung, blood and sleep disorders, much remains to be done. Cardiovascular and lung diseases still account for 3 of the 4 leading causes of death; 4 of the 10 leading causes of infant death; $392 billion in health care dollars, and 22% of the total economic costs of illness, injuries, and death.

Unfortunately, the pace of translating discoveries from NHLBI-supported research into medical products that can further reduce the public health burden of heart, lung, and blood (HLB) diseases appears to have slowed. Major pharmaceutical firms have announced their intention to abandon drug development efforts for cardiovascular diseases and venture capital and angel investors have shown a decreased interest in the healthcare and biotechnology sectors.

human-genome-sciences

Human Genome Sciences, Inc.oday announced that its Board of Directors, after careful review and consideration with the assistance of the Company's management and financial and legal advisors, has unanimously determined that the unsolicited tender offer from GlaxoSmithKline ("GSK") to acquire all outstanding common shares of HGS for $13.00 per share in cash (the "Offer") is inadequate, undervalues the Company and is not in the best interests of HGS and its stockholders.

Accordingly, the Board recommends that stockholders reject GSK's tender offer and not tender any of their shares to GSK. The basis for the Board's decision is set forth in the Schedule 14D-9 being filed by HGS today with the Securities and Exchange Commission ("SEC"), which will also be mailed shortly to stockholders.

Human Genome

Human Genome Sciences Inc, which has rejected a hostile $13-per-share offer from GlaxoSmithKline, has adopted a short-term stockholder rights plan to fend off such unwanted attention.

Rockville-based Human Genome (NASDAQ: HGSI) said in a statement announcing the plan that it had declared a dividend of one share purchase right for each share of the company's common stock held of record at the close of business on May 29.

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Rockville-based Emergent BioSolutions Inc. , which makes the only vaccine licensed by the Food and Drug Administration to protect against anthrax infection, has received FDA approval for a new, shorter-dosing schedule.

The new, supplemental biologics license application, follows trials to determine if the company's BioThrax vaccine would be effective with as few as three doses over six months.

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United Therapeutics, which has has greatly expanded their downtown Silver Spring presence as of late, is reportedly set to purchase from the county the parcel located at the corner of Colesville Rd. and Spring Street. The parking garage that current occupies this space abuts an existing UT building, and has been closed for some time due to safety issues. (Surprisingly, it has its own Yelp page. Who uses their limited time on Earth to rate a public parking garage?)

I'm a big fan of the existing United Therapeutics buildings, what with their skybridge and giant external TV's and all. I also like the touch of the ground lights representing individual elements from the periodic table. The planning and construction of the new building could take five years (or more, because construction delays tend to happen around here), so we won't be seeing it anytime soon. Hopefully they will choose to incorporate some street-level retail into their design.

Osiris

Osiris Therapeutics Inc. in Columbia has become the world’s first company to receive market approval for a manufactured stem cell product.

Health Canada, the country’s department responsible for overseeing pharmaceuticals, approved for commercial sale Osiris’ Prochymal, which uses stem cells from healthy donors to treat a fatal children’s disease.

“While today marks the first approval of a stem cell drug, now that the door has been opened, it will surely not be the last,” Osiris CEO C. Randal Mills said.

Lily Qi

On any given weekend, there are countless community events throughout the Greater Washington region, many in ethnically diverse immigrant communities.  A Korean church service, an Indian American business conference, a Chinese choral concert and an Iranian Nowruz celebration, whether held in Maryland or Virginia, all draw crowds from the Region’s many counties and cities on both sides of the Potomac River.  These “new communities,” as we are often called, frequently travel across county and state lines to be connected with our own communities to worship, to learn, and to have a good time.  These activities and events add much vitality to local living.

The Washington Metropolitan area is one of the most transient metropolises in the country, with transplants and migrants defining and redefining much of the local demographic landscape.  In fact, in Montgomery County, where I live and work, one in three residents are from other countries and three out of four are from other states. What attracted many of us from other states or countries to this region was economic and career opportunities and a good quality of life afforded by a metropolitan area.  Immigrants like me have no roots in this country and will pursue opportunities wherever they are.