Seeking profits from research GBC calls for statewide "biotech blueprint."

October 01, 1991|By Sue Miller | Sue Miller,Evening Sun Staff

What must be done to make the Greater Baltimore Committee's dreams come true for a regional economy that is driven by the life sciences, creating high skill and high paying jobs for thousands of people?

Mark Wasserman, the new secretary of the Maryland Department of Economic and Employment Development, says, "We need a 'Maryland Biotechnolgy Blueprint,' a road map of how we can make the most of the state's rich technology-related resources."

The road map is needed because "we are Maryland -- rich in research, stunted in the creation of commercial products," he told some 400 leaders from the region's scientific, academic, entrepreneurial and business communities last night at the 2nd Annual GBC High-Tech Dinner.

The event, held at the Hyatt Regency, kicked off three weeks of high-tech related programs, medical and scientific symposiums, international conferences and openings of high tech facilities.

The programs are sponsored by the GBC High-Tech Forum, a coalition of business and scientific leaders working together to promote the development of technology-based firms in the region.

Wasserman said that DEED has assembled a core group that has solicited input from private industry, universities and government to develop the blueprint strategy. He said a comprehensive report will be ready by the end of the year.

Very soon, however, he said he will submit a report to the state legislature on "Commercial Biotechnology Development in Maryland: A Strategy for the 90's."

"The purpose of this report is to make it clear to the legislature, and to the public at large, just where the state is heading and why each of the individual portions of a broad technology development program are important," Wasserman said.

Maryland receives the highest amount of biomedical research dollars from the National Institutes of Health and, nationally, it ranks third in the number of biotech companies -- most of them small. In addition, 90 percent of NIH labs are located in Maryland.

"We appear to have it all," Wasserman said. "But, do we? Not when it comes to commercialization of research in actual products."

He said biotech firms need more technician level workers with access to life-long learning and that biotech firms need more management talent.

Dr. Jared Cohon, vice provost for research at Johns Hopkins University, reported that a new corporation -- the Maryland Bioprocessing Center Inc. -- has been established.

The bioprocessing center is intended to help young biotech firms meet "one of their most pressing and practical needs" -- bringing their products to market. It is expected to open in 1992 and will have space for four manufacturing companies that will help produce sufficient quantities of the firms' products for U.S. Food and Drug Administration clinical trials.

The center, which will be at the University of Maryland Baltimore County or at Hopkins' Bayview Park, has already received approval and $1.5 million in planning funds from the General Assembly.

"We're on the move," said Cohon. "We're currently organizing a board of directors, commissioning engineering studies and recruiting a chief executive officer. We hope this group begins its work this month."

Dr. Hans Mueller, the chief executive officer of Nova Pharmaceutical Corp., who heads the GBC High-Tech Forum, set priorities in two new areas -- access to capital and the need to "catch up" in a competitive battle.

"High risk, early-stage capital needed to bring university-based research to commercial reality is scarce and difficult to raise," he said. "We will need to involve the financial community in this process -- the venture capitalists, the regional investment bankers, the local banks and among others, investors with a stomach for high-tech investments."

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