Gov. William Donald Schaefer has agreed to include $2 million in the state's capital budget for design work on a proposed state-owned center where small biotechnology companies could share manufacturing space, sources familiar with the project said.
Proponents have said that the proposed center, the total cost of which would be about $22 million, would help Maryland biotechnology companies clear critical hurdles in developing new drugs.
Jared Cohon, an administrator of the Johns Hopkins University and a leading backer of the proposal, said the center probably would be at the Bayview Research Campus in East Baltimore or at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County in Catonsville.
"People like the idea of Baltimore as the manufacturing center of bio
tech," Dr. Cohon said.
Drug development, the business of many young biotech companies, is time-consuming and expensive. Among the biggest expenses is space for equipment and manufacturing to permit making enough of a drug to submit it to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for approval.
As young biotech companies have had increasing trouble finding venture capital or raising money through public stock and bond mar
kets, entrepreneurs have increasingly turned to big corporations to bankroll their research.
That type of deal usually includes giving much -- even most -- of the future profits from the drug to the big corporation that sponsors the research. The state-owned bioprocessing center would offer young biotech companies inexpensive access to manufacturing space and equipment so that they could begin manufacturing their products for FDA review without making the capital investment needed to build their own plants. J. Randall Evans, secretary of employment and economic development, confirmed that he had recommended the project to the governor and asked him to put the money in the budget. But he wouldn't say whether Mr. Schaefer had decided to recommend the expenditure to the General Assembly.