Identifying gaps and bridging them—that’s what Connected DMV’s President and CEO Stu Solomon does best. And now he and his partners are turning their attention to one of the globe’s most important and challenging divides: Preparing for the next pandemic.

Solomon recently discussed his career and Connected DMV’s response to COVID-19 with Rich Bendis on his BioTalk podcast. Bendis is the President and CEO of BioHealth Innovation (BHI). 



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GSK has reached an agreement in principle with Novavax and the UK Government Vaccines Taskforce to support manufacturing of up to 60 million doses of Novavax’ COVID-19 vaccine candidate (NVX-CoV2373) for use in the UK. GSK will provide ‘fill and finish’ manufacturing capacity at its Barnard Castle facility in the North East of England beginning as early as May 2021, with a rapid technology transfer between the two companies beginning immediately. The parties will negotiate a final agreement to include additional terms and conditions.



As the supply of Covid-19 vaccines begins to widen toward meeting the immense demand, some observers have proposed that policy makers put college students close to the top of the list.

Christopher R. Marsicano, head of the College Crisis Initiative at Davidson College, argued in a recent op-ed that vaccinating college students would help protect everyone. “The broader principle in administering vaccine shots equitably is to diminish the risk for those who are most at danger to spread the virus,” he wrote. “Vaccinating college students is an effective way to lower that danger, for two major reasons: College students are mobile and spread Covid-19 with them whenever they travel, and they live in congregate living facilities where infection rates are much higher than in other housing setups.”



The region has been at the forefront of the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine race, and it is rapidly becoming a center for advanced manufacturing. The BHCR cell and gene therapy ecosystem is thriving, and the area boasts one of the richest and most diverse tapestries of life science talent and workforce development programming. What’s more, Maryland, Washington, DC, and Virginia are home to several dynamic university systems that keep the talent and tech transfer pipeline humming and full.


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The National Institutes of Health provides significant funding for drug development research to universities, companies, and organizations. Over the course of 2020, the NIH provided a significant amount of funding to the BioHealth Capital Region.

The top recipients of NIH funding in the BHCR were research universities, with Johns Hopkins University topping the list with $807,432,003 in financing for different research programs. The top 10 recipients of NIH funding in the BioHealth Capital Region secured more than $2.18 billion in financing. Life sciences organizations within the state of Maryland secured $2.3 billion in NIH funding, an increase from the $1.9 billion granted in 2019.


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“I’m delighted by GSK’s investment, which shows the strength of UK manufacturing, and will further boost our vaccine rollout. The Vaccines Taskforce has worked hand in glove with business to successfully deliver vaccines to the whole of the UK, and this agreement will continue to support our approach. We remain on track to offer a first jab to all over 50s by 15 April, and all adults by the end of July, and I want to once again encourage everyone to come forward for a vaccine when you’re called,” said Prime Minister Boris Johnson.



TCR² Therapeutics Inc., based in Cambridge, is a clinical-stage company that develops T-cell therapies for patients with cancer. In a statement, TCR² said it signed a long-term, full-building lease for an existing 85,000 sq. ft. facility. The company will build-out the space to be used for quality control laboratories and offices as well as clinical and commercial production of gavo-cel, the company’s lead product targeting solid tumors. According to a federal form, 15 years is the initial term for the lease at 9950 Medical Center Drive.


Judy Costello

Montgomery County, Maryland County Executive Marc Elrich has notified the Montgomery County Council of his appointment of BHI's Managing Director for Economic Development, Judy Costello, as Special Projects Manager.  Confirmation is expected to take place next month. 

“While we are excited for Judy and know she will bring her economic development expertise and passion for supporting innovation and entrepreneurship to the County, we will miss her positive attitude and support of many of our different programs,” said BHI CEO Rich Bendis. “We now are actively recruiting for her position. Anyone interested is welcome to contact me directly.” 

Click here to view the job description.


Development of Countermeasures for Viral Diseases

The best defense against viral infectious diseases are safe and effective medical countermeasures that function at level of prevention of infection (prophylaxis) and treatment of disease (therapeutic). These include microbicides and vaccines, direct acting antivirals, and immunotherapies. This fireside chat will focus on features and characteristics of effective countermeasures, how they defend against viral infection and disease, and the preclinical development pathways to advance them from bench to bedside.


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CAMBRIDGE, Mass., March 29, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- TCR2 Therapeutics Inc. (Nasdaq: TCRR), a clinical-stage cell therapy company with a pipeline of novel T cell therapies for patients suffering from cancer, today announced that it has signed a long-term, full-building lease with Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc. (NYSE: ARE) for an existing 85,000 square foot cell therapy manufacturing facility in Rockville, Maryland which is ready for Current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP) build-out. The site will support clinical and commercial production of gavo-cel with a capacity to treat several thousand cancer patients annually. The facility is expected to accelerate the Company’s commercial-scale manufacturing timelines with production anticipated in 2023.


Scientists working in a lab.

BioFactura, Inc. today announced a contract option activation of over $13 million by the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), part of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as part of BioFactura’s prime contract valued at up to $67.4 million for the advanced development of a smallpox biodefense therapeutic. 



What did we learn during the pandemic, and what should we watch moving forward?

Those are two of the key questions that many professional conversations center on these days. On Thursday, they were approached by a group of digital health experts who came together for a virtual forum organized by the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore and Rockville-based BioHealth Innovation.

Image: Panelists at EAGB and BioHealth Innovation's Digital Health Forum. (Courtesy image)

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  • Existing laboratory suite with closed and open o ices
  • Grade-level loading doors
  • 17' ceiling heights • breakroom with kitchenette
  • 180 free surface spaces (Parking Ratio 3.50/1,000 SF)
  • Surrounded by numerous amenities
  • Located 1.2 miles from the Gaithersburg MARC
  • Easy access to I-270 and the new Watkins Mill Interchange


You may not know it, but one company has the capacity to manufacture bulk drug substance for more than a billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines annually: Emergent BioSolutions, a global supplier for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and U.S. supplier for the AstraZeneca vaccine. Emergent Executive Vice President of Manufacturing and Technical Operations Sean Kirk spoke with us recently to explain what goes into the heroic production of all these doses—in other words, what it takes to help defeat COVID-19.


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The University of Maryland hosted a free webinar, Leveraging Artificial Intelligence in Human Health, on Friday, March 19, 2020. This event featured a fireside chat with Dr. Robert Scharpf (Delfi Diagnostics) and Dr. Christie Bergerson (Exponent), moderated by Rich Bendis (BioHealth Innovation/BioTalk podcast). 

Together, the group shared insights into how artificial intelligence is impacting biomedical engineering and the wider world of human health, and spoke candidly about future applications for these and other biotech platforms. 


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Exciting things are happening at Innovation Park in Manassas. Researchers are working on global solutions, industry jobs are on the rise, and new facilities are being developed – and wait, there’s more!

“Companies are seeing really big wins across the state and the region and the life science industry is only going uphill from here,” said Amy Adams, Executive Director for the Institute for Biohealth Innovation at George Mason University (GMU).



Check out this weeks episode of Talent Talks on YouTube and Spotify! This week we sit with Richard Bendis President and CEO of BioHealth Innovation, Inc. He talks about the importance of knowing your assets and the region around you with our hosts Robb Hoyle CEO GTS Scientific and Gregory Hoyle. Click below to watch and make sure to like and subscribe:

5 Questions with Natalie McKinney Industry Programs Director Biologics US Pharmacopeia BioBuzz

“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. March is WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH and BioBuzz will celebrate by featuring Women in the BioHealth industry all month, especially in “5 Questions With…”. This week we continue the series with Natalie McKinney, Industry Programs Director, Biologics, US Pharmacopeia.



New buildings are now rising out of the ground on the first major phase of construction at the 235-acre, $5.5-billion, multi-decade Port Covington development. Construction on five new buildings totaling 1.1 million sq. ft. is underway with a tower crane currently on the site. The Port Covington Development Team held a groundbreaking today to celebrate the start of vertical construction.


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ROCKVILLE, Md. and BEIJING, March 24, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- CASI Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (Nasdaq: CASI), a U.S. biopharmaceutical company focused on developing and commercializing innovative therapeutics and pharmaceutical products, today announced the pricing of an underwritten public offering of 15,853,658 shares of its common stock at a price to the public of $2.05 per share. CASI has granted the underwriters an option to purchase up to an additional 2,378,048 shares of common stock, which terminates on the earlier of 30 days and the day before CASI files to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission ("SEC") its Annual Report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2020. The offering is expected to close on or about March 26, 2021, subject to satisfaction of customary closing conditions. The gross proceeds to CASI from the offering, excluding any exercise by the underwriters of their option to purchase additional shares, are expected to be approximately $32.5 million, before deducting underwriting discounts and commissions and other offering expenses payable by CASI.


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ROCKVILLE, Md.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–NeoImmuneTech, Inc. (KOSDAQ: 950220), a clinical-stage T cell-focused biopharmaceutical company, today announced the closing of its initial public offering of 3,133,334 shares of common stock, equivalent with 15,666,670 Korea Depository Receipts (KDRs) priced at KRW 37,500 per share, equivalent with KRW 7,500 per KDRs. The aggregate gross proceeds to NeoImmuneTech, before deducting underwriting discounts and commissions and other offering expenses, were KRW 117.5 billion ($103.4 million). NeoImmuneTech’s common stock began trading on the Korea Exchange on March 16, 2021, under the KOSDAQ code number “950220.”



Our AstraZeneca Gaithersburg Campus will be illuminated this week to pay tribute to José Baselga, our beloved Oncology R&D leader and Site Head who passed away last weekend. Our entire community is devasted by this unexpected news following a period of temporary medical leave that he began in January 2021. An outstanding scientific leader, José leaves a lasting legacy in the scientific community and especially here at AstraZeneca Gaithersburg. He set our Oncology R&D function on a remarkable trajectory, and his visionary leadership, deep scientific expertise and strategic insight have delivered so many achievements that will benefit patient lives in the years to come. The blue and garnet lights were chosen to celebrate his favorite hometown soccer club, FC Barcelona. He will be deeply missed across our campus, and we will continue to be inspired by his work and vison.

For any inquiries please reach out to Joe Sanchez at joseph.sanchez

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When Novavax Inc. received $1.6 billion last year from the federal government to speed up testing and production of a coronavirus vaccine, some observers were incredulous. The small biotechnology firm, based in Gaithersburg, Maryland, was largely unknown and had never successfully brought a product to market.

But now that the company nears completion of its Phase 3 trials for its COVID-19 vaccine, which was found to be nearly 90% effective during clinical testing in the United Kingdom, it is grabbing headlines around the world.



Rockville, Md. — The Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation (MCEDC) awarded a total of $96,430 to six small life science companies as part of its recently completed Bio Lab Pilot Project. The project was launched in 2019 to assist local growth-stage life science companies with their wet lab and infrastructure needs. Applicants seeking financial help to build out small wet lab space less than 5,000 SF were encouraged to apply for $10 per SF of lab fit out costs, up to $30,000 per company. Project funding was provided by MCEDC and the Maryland Department of Commerce. 


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COLUMBIA, Md. (March 25, 2021) –TEDCO, Maryland’s economic engine for technology companies, announced today its request for applications for the Agriculture and Rural Rebuild (ARR) Challenge, created to assist Maryland’s rural and agricultural businesses that have been detrimentally impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and associated economic downturn. TEDCO will award grants up to $200,000 per project. 

“The ARR Challenge encourages purposeful collaboration between rural businesses, research institutions and industry partners,” stated Dr. Arti Santhanam, MII executive director. “Examples of a successful project may include, but is not limited to, the development of an innovative product or a novel application of an existing technology applicable to agriculture or other rural industry sectors.” 


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WASHINGTON, March 23, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Congenital heart disease (CHD) affects six out of 1,000 babies born in the U.S. each year and is often complicated by arrhythmias, a condition where the heart beats too rapidly, too slowly or irregularly due to a misfiring of the body's electrical impulses. While the last decade brought great advances in technologies that improve the care of adult arrhythmias, pediatric patients have been left behind, with only five devices approved for use in children in the same period. As a result, pediatric specialists are often using off-label or improvised devices to treat pediatric arrhythmias, including in the smallest newborns.


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When Novavax Inc. received $1.6 billion last year from the federal government to speed up testing and production of a coronavirus vaccine, some observers were incredulous. The small biotechnology firm, based in Gaithersburg, Maryland, was largely unknown and had never successfully brought a product to market.

But now that the company nears completion of its Phase 3 trials for its COVID-19 vaccine, which was found to be nearly 90% effective during clinical testing in the United Kingdom, it is grabbing headlines around the world.


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GERMANTOWN, Md., March 23, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Precigen, Inc., a biopharmaceutical company specializing in the development of innovative gene and cell therapies to improve the lives of patients, today announced that the first patient has been dosed in the Phase I study of PRGN-2012, a first-in-class, investigational off-the-shelf (OTS) AdenoVerse™ immunotherapy in adult patients with recurrent respiratory papillomatosis (RRP) (clinical trial identifier: NCT04724980). The US Food and Drug Administration recently granted Orphan Drug Designation for PRGN-2012 in RRP in March 2021.

PRGN-2012 is an innovative therapeutic vaccine with optimized antigen design that uses Precigen's gorilla adenovector technology, part of Precigen's proprietary AdenoVerse platform, to elicit immune responses directed against cells infected with HPV 6 or HPV 11. Gorilla adenovectors have numerous advantages, including the ability for repeat administration, the inability to replicate in vivo, which may improve safety, and the ability to deliver large payload capacity. In preclinical models, PRGN-2012 has demonstrated strong and specific immune response against HPV 6 and HPV 11.



BIoHealth Innovation is sad to hear of the passing of Jose Basegla, the Head of the ASTRA Zeneca Oncology R&D business and the Gaithersburg Site Head.
Jose was a strong proponent for making the BIoHealth Capital Region a leading BIoHealth hub with a connected ecosystem. AZ was also a founding member of BIoHealth Innovation and continues to support us today.

An outstanding scientific leader, José leaves a lasting legacy in the scientific community and here at AstraZeneca. He set our Oncology R&D function on a remarkable trajectory, and his visionary leadership, deep scientific expertise and strategic insight have delivered so many achievements that we can all be proud of and that will benefit patients’ lives in the years to come.



Stefanie Tompkins takes the reins today as the 23rd director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

With nearly eleven years of DARPA service under her belt, Tompkins, a former military intelligence officer in the U.S. Army, has an exceptional understanding of the agency’s culture. From 2007 through 2017, she held multiple positions, including program manager and deputy director of the Strategic Technology Office, a systems-oriented technical office; DARPA chief of staff; and director of the Defense Sciences Office, a highly exploratory office that identifies and accelerates new technologies. In 2017 and into the beginning of 2018, she served as the acting deputy director of the agency.


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AstraZeneca announced on Monday that its vaccine was 79 percent effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 in Phase III U.S. testing with no safety concerns found.

The company said in a statement that the vaccine was also found to be 100 percent effective in preventing serious cases of the disease and hospitalizations.

AstraZeneca said it will submit the findings to the Food and Drug Administration in a bid for emergency use authorization in the U.S.


Rich Bendis

“Who do you know that others need to know?

We are always one conversation away from changing our lives, and Rich Bendis of BioHealth Innovations started the BioTalk podcast to connect the world of biohealth better.

In a world where medical science advances are growing at the fastest pace in human history, we can still run into a problem where the people who know each other don’t get connected to advance therapy, new medicine, or new approaches.”

Key Topics:

What is the goal of Biohealth Innovations (1:44)

How has the medical research changed as a result of COVID (3:24)

How was the COVID vaccine researched (8:06)

What made podcasting the right next step for BioHealth (10:22)

Who has benefited from the podcast (12:29)


Visit to listen.