Md. called slow to market biotechnology

January 29, 1991|By Timothy J. Mullaney

Maryland has been slow to turn its edge in biotechnolog research into new products, companies and jobs, according to a Greater Baltimore Committee report released yesterday.

More help is needed to transfer technology discovered at local universities and federal research institutions out of the ivory tower and into the marketplace, the GBC said.

"This is the decade when things are supposed to take off," said Elizabeth K. Nitze, a consultant who was principal author of the report. In the 1990s, biotech companies nationwide expect to introduce an array of new products based on 1980s research, she said. "Maryland has to make sure it doesn't get left behind."

The report asks for public-policy changes to help the biotechnology industry, ranging from tax changes to more funding for state programs that provide capital and management support for biotechnology entrepreneurs. But the report doesn't put a price tag on its proposals.

The 65-page report said that Maryland ranks first among the 50 states in federally sponsored biotech research, but third in the number of biotechnology companies formed and fourth in the number of workers employed by biotechnological companies.

Technology-transfer efforts at Maryland research institutions -- both at universities such as Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland and at government entities such as the National Institutes of Health -- have lagged behind the efforts of national technology-transfer leaders such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University, the report said.

The study said MIT has an average of one deal, or license, for an outside company to make a product based on MIT-invented technology for every $5 million spent on research; Stanford has one license for every $4 million spent. By contrast, Johns Hopkins has only one commercial license for every $40 million spent on research, and the University of Maryland at College Park has one license per every $12 million.

"MIT and Stanford both have enormous budgets and staff

dedicated to technology transfer," Ms. Nitze said. "And they have larger amounts of revenue" that come back to the university in the form of royalties for products developed at the university but produced and sold by outside companies, she said.

Tom Chmura, deputy director of the GBC, said that some of the state's leading research institutions don't have any technology-transfer offices at all -- and those at places such as Hopkins and the University of Maryland are both young and small.

"Virtually all of our universities came late to the idea of technology transfer," Mr. Chmura said. He said that both the universities and federal institutions need to make technology transfer a top priority of leaders such as university presidents, complete with rewards for researchers and academics who can create commercially applicable technology. He said Stanford is one institution that has successfully made technology trans

fer a priority.

"It adds up to a whole culture," Mr. Chmura said. "What most of us see in Baltimore is that it's changing for the better, but the change needs to go a lot faster."

The report also said that the state's biotech industry is hampered by a lack of financing from venture capitalists and by a shortage of technicians with a strong enough education in mathematics and science to do the work that will be required.

The state programs designed to help fill the venture-capital gap are too small to help more than a handful of companies a year, said Mr. Chmura. "Imagine if we were hitting dozens," he said.

"Some of the [private-sector] money people are going to have to play a more active role," said Henry "Pete" Linsert, chairman of the GBC's Competitive Assessment Committee and chief executive of Martek Corp., a Columbia firm working on making food additives and other products from algae. "They have to assemble the parts when they see an interesting technology. I think the venture-capital people on the West Coast are more aggressive."

The report also endorses the biotech industry's plea for the state to build a facility where young biotech companies could share rented manufacturing space. That would enable the companies to cut the cost of making the small quantities of their products needed for clinical trials and for submissions to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a major expense to small companies that often is needed years before a product reaches the market and generates any return.

Gov. William Donald Schaefer's budget is expected to include $2 million to pay for design work on the facility.

Biotech at a glance

Companies in greater Baltimore area

Service companies 8 (15%)

Supplier companies 13 (25%)

Human diagnostics,therapeutics 15 (29%)

Instruments/equipment/supplies 10 (19%)

Agriculture 5 (10%)

Biochemicals 1 (2%)

Total 52

Companies elsewhere in Md.

Service companies 36 (22%)

Supplier companies 53 (34%)

Human diagnostics, therapeutics 31 (20%)

Instruments/equipment/supplies 24 (15%)

Agriculture 5 (3%)

Biochemicals 4 (2%)

Environmental products 3 (2%)

Veterinary 3 (2%)

Total 159


Biotech companies 181

Biotech employees 245,087

Total labor force 14.8 million

Percent in biotech 1.7%


Biotech companies 69

Biotech employees 19,830

Total labor force 3.2 million

Percent in biotech 0.6%

New Jersey

Biotech companies 61

Biotech employees 527,234

Total labor force 4.0 million

Percent in biotech 13.0%


Biotech companies 53

Biotech employees 5,481

Total labor force 2.5 million

Percent in biotech 0.2%

U.S. biotech companies: 1,100

San Francisco Bay area

169 (15% of total)

Boston area 137 (12%)

New York area 137 (12%)

D.C./Md./Va. 111 (10%)

San Diego 73 (7%)

Employees: 60,000

San Francisco Bay area

13,932 (23% of total)

New York area 9,177 (15%)

Boston area 8,183 (14%)

D.C./Md./Va. 3,870 (6%)

L.A./Orange County 2,815 (5%)

Source: Greater Baltimore Committee


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