Hopkins' Bayview campus picked as 'incubator' site


February 14, 1992|By Liz Bowie | Liz Bowie,Staff Writer

A $21 million center designed to help Maryland's baby biotechnology companies grow into healthy teen-agers will be situated on five acres of city-owned land at the Johns Hopkins University's Bayview Campus in Baltimore, the center's board said yesterday.

Billed as a boost for economic development, the center will try to nurture companies that are trying to turn laboratory creations into commercial products. The center will rent space and will provide the expertise of Hopkins scientists and University of Maryland Baltimore County bioengineers.

Hopkins and UMBC had vied for the bioprocessing center to anchor their biotechnology industrial parks.

But the board said it chose the Bayview Research Campus, in East Baltimore near the Francis Scott Key Medical Center, partly becauseit already has water, sewer and road systems.

In addition, UMBC's neighbors were vehemently opposed to putting the center there because of concerns that genetically engineered organisms could escape into the environment and harm the community.

Barbara Plantholt, chairman of the board of the non-profit Maryland Bioprocessing Center Inc., which will own and run the planned center, emphasized the strength of UMBC's bioengineering department as a key to making the center work.

Delegate Howard P. Rawlings, D-Baltimore, said there was "a lot of sentiment for it to be placed at UMBC", a state institution easily accessible from the cluster of biotech companies in Montgomery County.

But delegates from Baltimore County met with Gov. William Donald Schaefer to oppose putting the center at UMBC, he said.

The 30,000-square-foot center is expected to open in 1994 if the General Assembly authorizes $17 million for it in the 1993 capital budget.

An additional $3 million is expected from private and public sources. The legislature already has authorized $1.5 million to design the building.

"There are many companies that have teaspoonful-size products. Now they have to figure out how to go to the gallon size," said Ms. Plantholt, who is also chief executive of Triad Investors Corp., a venture capital company created by Hopkins.

The bioprocessing center, with special equipment and a staff of 15, would help companies produce enough of a product -- such as a drug made through genetic engineering -- to complete tests for U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval.

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