Donald Fry: Maryland’s bioscience and technology industries are well worth nurturing

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By Donald C. Fry

Why should state government aggressively nurture the development of the bioscience and technology industry in Maryland?

Because Maryland has extraordinary potential for growth in these industries that will make them major drivers of our state’s post-recession economic growth, say advocates for a strong biotech investment tax credit program and for the passage of the O’Malley administration’s proposed Invest Maryland initiative to generate $100 million in private investment funding for early-stage companies.

Maryland is lagging behind other competing states in making early-stage financing available in the bioscience and technology industry sectors, according to experts. That’s an economic development shortcoming that must be addressed in a state so rich in research and innovative ideas produced within its plethora of research facilities.

The effects of the recession have largely evaporated early-stage funding, say bioscience leaders in Maryland. Currently, there is potential demand for as much as $500 million in early-stage investment in Maryland’s bioscience and technology sector, estimates Robert A. Rosenbaum, president of TEDCO, the state's technology economic development agency.

A good way to illustrate the value of bioscience investment initiatives, for example, is to look at Maryland bioscience companies that have made it through the early stages of their development are accomplishing, and to also look at what’s happening in the start-up bioscience community.

Remember, Maryland already has a substantial biosciences industry. There are more than 400 core bioscience companies in Maryland representing eight percent of the industry total in the United States. This is the second largest cluster of bioscience companies in the U.S.

About half of our companies are engaged in developing therapeutics. Another 25 percent provide research services, and remaining companies provide gene-based diagnostics, medical devices and R&D technology platforms. There are 45 Maryland companies engaged in 160 clinical trials.

Consider the following examples of what some are accomplishing.

Martek, a Columbia-based leading innovator in the development of nutritional products that promote health and wellness and one of Maryland’s largest and most profitable bioscience companies, was acquired in December by Royal DSM N.V. It was Royal DSM’s first acquisition after its successful transformation to a life sciences and materials sciences company. The acquisition is expected to produce increased revenues through expanded distribution, marketing and product development.

Baltimore-based Gliknik, which has been on a upward trajectory for several years, started this year off by announcing that it had raised $3.5 million in equity financing. Located at the UMB BioPark on Baltimore’s west side, Gliknik is a biopharmaceuticals company that is creating new therapies for patients with cancer and immune disorders. Its expertise is in modulation of the immune system to fight disease.

Profectus Biosciences, Inc., located in Baltimore’s Holabird Industrial Park, also reached both research and financial milestones. Profectus started Phase I clinical trials to assess the safety and immunogenicity of its multi-antigen HIV DNA Vaccine. Profectus received $4.4 million in grants last October to develop an HIV prophylactic vaccine. Profectus will use the funds to further evaluate its transition-state vaccine (TSV) approach that has generated significant protective responses in several pre-clinical models of HIV.

Of course, we are hoping that soon one of Maryland’s companies will have the next big blockbuster drug, and we may be close. Rockville’s Human Genome Sciences is seeking FDA approval for its lupus drug Benlysta. Late last year an FDA advisory committee voted 13-2 to recommend approval of Benlysta for sale in the United States. The FDA approved Benlysta on March 9, making it the first new approved drug for lupus in more than 50 years.

In addition to companies like Human Genome Sciences and Martek that are bringing products to market, start up companies continue to emerge from our research universities.

At the Science + Technology Park at Johns Hopkins in East Baltimore, two new companies developing Hopkins technologies have found a home in the park – Curveda and Personal Genomic Diagnostics. The new Lieber Institute, a private research foundation focused on new diagnostics and therapies for schizophrenia, is also located there.

At the UMB BioPark, the $44 million Maryland Forensic Medical Center is now housed in Building Four. The park will also be home to a new Proton Therapy Cancer Treatment Center.

It’s important to understand that Maryland is already a leader in bioscience. The challenge is to keep that leadership position in a highly competitive global climate. This means making sure that key funding mechanisms like Maryland’s biotech tax credit are funded at reasonable levels and that innovative new funding sources such the Invest Maryland initiative are supported.

The companies and projects that I cited above are just a few examples of the innovation that is percolating in our bioscience and technology industries, even in these challenging economic times.

They give us glimpses of Maryland’s future as a national and global center for innovation. It’s a vision that is eminently attainable here. But we must make sure that we smartly nurture our own capacity to fully realize that vision.

Donald C. Fry is president and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee. He is a regular contributor to Center Maryland.

Previous Center Maryland columns by Donald C. Fry:

Maybe it’s time to change Maryland’s transportation funding model

Addressing the city’s towing kickback scandal head-on

Transportation funding bills get attention in Annapolis, but face major hurdles

Tapping into Maryland’s potential for innovation

A 23-year old leadership lesson from the Persian Gulf

Gauging the business contribution to state government funding

How the state lost its way on transportation funding

Budget proposal will be first big 2011 defining moment for lawmakers

GBC to lawmakers: ‘Make job creation and business growth top session priority’

Helping city’s new prosecutor implement a vision

A culture of ‘giving back’ lives in Maryland’s business community

Budget challenges will test government’s capacity for strategic planning

Facing the disconnect over the concept of ‘business climate’

Tax commission delivers refreshing change of pace

‘Reform’ commission to mull tax increase for Maryland corporations

No tsunami in Maryland, but voters deliver ripple of transition

Why isn’t transportation infrastructure crisis on lawmakers’ radar?

Market expert tells a pre-Halloween scary story

Entrepreneurs provide inspiration in a recession

Military is driving Maryland’s anticipated biggest economic spurt in 60 years

MedImmune CEO frames bright future for bioscience

Making transportation a top-tier priority

Primary voters in a mood for transition

Reading Maryland's fiscal tea leaves

Getting beyond sound bites and bumper stickers

Biotech tax credit more popular than ever, but the ‘rock-concert’ lines are gone

Bad timing for upcoming business tax report

For economic indicators, the ‘whipsaw’ effect continues

Do census data foretell a Baltimore city population rebound?

Remember the value of business after the election

New report ranks Baltimore among stronger regions to weather the recession

New living wage proposal: wrong idea, wrong time for Baltimore

Northeast needs more attention from federal rail planners

New national report has familiar ring for Maryland bioscience advocates

New report underscores Maryland’s work force development challenges

State’s health initiative: a ‘win-win’ for employers and their workforces

As Baltimore hikes taxes, are state’s counties next?

After the ‘fiber from heaven’ scramble, what’s next?

BRAC growth no longer a future event – it’s happening now

Economic development is a contact sport

Despite the recession, bioscience growth still percolates in Baltimore

State stumbles in enacting new education collective bargaining process

Wind power has potential in Maryland, but solar emerges as early renewable option

It's not good to be clueless in cyberspace

Amid fiscal shuffle, Maryland lawmakers pass measures to spur business growth

Thankfully, Baltimore leads with substance over style in luring Google

Leave damaging transportation provisions out of the budget

Amended budget continues recession-induced fund shifts and stimulus rescue

General Assembly setting stage for combined reporting push in 2011

Wrong timing for proposal to change Baltimore City school board

Baltimore City isn’t alone in facing pension funding challenges

A government investment program that delivers

Proposed transportation fund raid -- a bad habit continues

Where's the outrage over crime?

Small business is where innovation lives
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Donald C. Fry has been the president and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee (GBC), the central Maryland region's most prominent organization of business and civic leaders, since November 2002.

Under Don’s leadership, the GBC is recognized as a knowledgeable and highly credible business voice in the Baltimore region, Annapolis and Washington, D.C. on policy issues and competitive challenges facing Maryland. Its mission is to apply private-sector leadership to strengthening the business climate and quality of life in the region and state.

Fry served as GBC executive vice president from 1999 to 2002. From 1980 to 1999 Fry was engaged in a private law practice in Harford County. During this time he also served in the Maryland General Assembly. He is one of only a handful of legislators to have served on each of the major budget committees of the General Assembly.

Serving in the Senate of Maryland from 1997 to 1998, Fry was a member of the Budget and Taxation Committee. As a member of the House of Delegates from 1991 to 1997 Fry served on the Ways and Means Committee and on the Appropriations Committee.

Fry is a 1979 graduate of the University of Baltimore School of Law. He earned a B.S. in political science from Frostburg State College.