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.

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The legislative compromise on a short-term payroll tax extension dominated headlines in late December, but few journalists heralded a provision that was included in the bill that will help small businesses and boost America’s economy: the six-year reauthorization of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.

The SBIR program helps empower our nation’s small entrepreneurs by funding a major federal Research & Development endeavor, creating new jobs and growing our economy. As a member of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, I have been a long-time supporter of this highly successful program.

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An innovative Maryland technology transfer program - the first of its kind in the United States to partner federal labs and public universities - has received an award honoring its success.

The Maryland Proof of Concept Alliance, which teams the Army Research Laboratory (ARL) and the University System of Maryland, was recognized as a national model by a group representing federal labs.

The Mid-Atlantic Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer (FLC) - has made the Alliance the first recipient of its Partnership Award honoring successful collaborations between educational institutions and federal labs.

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The four states with the nation’s largest biotech clusters showed that they too were not immune to challenges common to most U.S. regions seeking to build their life science presence. Hurdles included a capital squeeze particularly for early-stage biopharmas, the reality of the industry’s international growth, and the need to attract new businesses and retain existing ones.

All four top-tier biotech states—California, Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Maryland—did, however, find numerous ways to address these challenges. They rolled out new financing programs or tweaked existing ones. In some cases they reached out to regions around the world. In others they identified promising niches within their clusters. Signs of success could be seen in a series of new construction and expansion projects.

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

Where it differs from previous efforts is that it plans to get its drive from the private sector, rather than from government or universities. Organizers of BioHealth Innovation Inc. have plans for entrepreneurs to root out business ideas in federal and university labs and build an accelerator in which they can grow in response to market demand.

Christopher Anderson/The Gazette “I think research is critical to the future of the defense and intelligence community,” says Charles Goldblum, new executive business director of the John Hopkins Applied Physics Lab's Research and Exploratory Development Department.

As the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel consolidates several of its major areas, it has tapped a science veteran of almost 30 years to ensure it is ready to meet the needs of its federal military and research customers.

“We need to make sure we strategically invest program development funds to best support our customers,” said Charles Goldblum, who was recently named business area executive for the lab’s new department.

The Research and Exploratory Development Department was created this fall to develop and nurture new technologies to meet emerging national challenges.

HGS

Steady progress toward broader adoption of BENLYSTA treatment

Human Genome Sciences, Inc. HGSI +1.18% will today announce its priority goals for 2012 and report on progress with the commercialization of BENLYSTA(R) (belimumab), the first approved drug for systemic lupus in 56 years, during a presentation this afternoon by H. Thomas Watkins, President and Chief Executive Officer, to financial analysts and investors at the 30th Annual JPMorgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco.

"Thousands of patients with systemic lupus are now being treated with BENLYSTA," said Mr. Watkins. "We are pioneering a treatment in a market that has not seen a new option for patients in decades. Although we are still in the early adoption phase of our launch, our experience in the market to date reinforces our belief that BENLYSTA will ultimately play a major role in improving the standard of care for SLE patients."

File photo “It’s a close-knit environment,” Kenneth Carter says of the relationship between Noble Life Sciences and NexImmune in Gaithersburg.

Two Maryland biotechs announced inroads in their efforts to develop stem cell treatments for depression and diabetes.

Neuralstem has gotten the regulatory go-ahead to advance to phase 1b in its ongoing clinical trial of its stem cell treatment for major depressive disorder.

NSI-189 stimulates new neuron growth in the brain’s hippocampus, which may be involved in depression and other conditions, including Alzheimer's disease and post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the Rockville biotech.

Innovate

As a group, postdocs are underrepresented in entrepreneurial careers due to their need for business training, their lack of industrial experience, and their difficulty accessing entrepreneurial mentors and advisors. Through a grant from the National Science Foundation, the INNoVATE™ program addresses these needs.

INNoVATE™ is a unique program that offers scientific postdoctoral fellows and researchers the opportunity to develop the needed entrepreneurial skills to move innovations to the market. Focused on cultivating entrepreneurs from the more than 4800 postdocs in the state of Maryland, the INNoVATE™ program aims to train and educate today’s life scientists in the skills needed to create the high growth technology companies of tomorrow.

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President Barack Obama signed legislation Dec. 31 that reauthorized the Small Business Innovation Research program for six years.

Through the SBIR program, the 11 federal agencies with the biggest outside research budgets are required to spend at least 2.5 percent of this money with small businesses. The new legislation, which was attached to a defense reauthorization bill, increases that share to 3.2 percent over the next six years.

Ted Olsen

Ted Olsen needed to make his Baltimore environmental testing company sound so intriguing that the venture capitalists packing a hotel ballroom would beg to hear more.

The CEO of PathSensors Inc. was on the hunt for $1.5 million in financing. Like a business version of speed dating, Olsen had six minutes — less than the time it takes to cook spaghetti — to bring to life the company into which he poured his sweat, dreams and savings.

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Johns Hopkins Technology Transfer has licensed a new nanotechnology to a Gaithersburg startup for the development of cancer therapies.

The license for Artificial Immune nanotechnology was granted to NexImmune, formed in part by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine faculty members. The staff members are involved in the development of the Artificial Immune technology.

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Recovering from the failure of an oral supplement to treat pulmonary arterial hypertension, United Therapeutics has received approval in France for an intravenous treatment.

The firm also has submitted a U.S. application for a standalone oral treatment.

French regulatory agency Agence Francaise de Securite Sanitaire des Produits de Sante has approved IV use of the Silver Spring company’s Remodulin.

Remodulin already is approved in most of Europe and in the U.S. for subcutaneous infusion treatment, or continuous injections just under the skin, according to United Therapeutics information.

A coalition of Maryland biotechs, universities and Montgomery County officials have committed $1.25 million in a bid to aid a fragmented life sciences sector. The group also is hiring a CEO and taking space in county offices. Officials been quietly laying the groundwork for BioHealth Innovation Inc. since 2009 and are preparing to publicly announce it by the end of the year as an intermediary that will try to boost tech transfer, increase bio investment and facilitate hiring.

Almost three years ago, the Montgomery County Biosciences Task Force issued recommendations that included the formation of a public-private partnership to help take the local life sciences industry to another level.

This week, that nonprofit partnership, called BioHealth Innovation, formally incorporated and has raised more than $1 million from companies such as MedImmune of Gaithersburg and Human Genome Sciences of Rockville, along with medical system Adventist HealthCare of Rockville and Johns Hopkins University to start implementing its programs.

Biotech executives are applauding Montgomery County officials for following through on another key recommendation of the county’s Biosciences Task Force.

The county council’s Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee on Monday recommended that the council provide $500,000 in annual supplemental funding as a local piggyback on the state’s own biotech investment tax credit. While not a formal tax credit, which would require an amendment to state law, the county appropriation would effectively make it a grant program, said Steven A. Silverman, the county’s economic development director.

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Montgomery County, Human Genome Sciences Inc., MedImmune, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Maryland and Adventist HealthCare are all putting up funding for a regional biotech partnership — the most concrete step yet in a long-deferred mission to connect the region’s life sciences sector to itself.

Officials have been quietly laying the groundwork for BioHealth Innovation Inc. (BHI) since 2009, although its goals are far older. The regional nonprofit is envisioned as a sort of intermediary between biotech, academia, government and investors — with the hopes of multiplying life sciences investment, commercializing more scientific discoveries, and linking scientific and business talent, among other goals.

Among the plans for BHI's first five years: increasing the region's bio investment to $150 million annually.