An item in the Business section Oct. 6 incorrectly...

LIFE SCIENCES

October 06, 1992|By Liz Bowie

An item in the Business section Oct. 6 incorrectly identified the university that licensed to DNX Inc. a new technology that could be used to develop a blood substitute. The University of Maryland at Baltimore sold the rights to the Princeton, N.J., company.

The Sun regrets the errors.

Welders' Supply enters life sciences

Baltimore's life sciences industry has an unlikely convert: Welders' Supply Co., a family business that has been providing local companies with industrial gases for 70 years. Its business includes providing nitrogen to purge pipes and oxygen for welding.

But as the city's industrial base has declined, so has the company's business. So the brothers who represent the family's second generation -- President Bradley Fountain and Vice President Jeffrey Fountain -- began thinking about how to restructure their business.

Maybe it was because the company is located behind Maryland General Hospital, or because the brothers kept hearing about Baltimore's life sciences initiative. Whatever the reason, they decided to try to break into the life sciences industry.

Over the past several months, they have invested $150,000 in a laboratory that will allow them to analyze and manufacture high-purity gases that can be used in the area's hospitals, laboratory equipment and biotechnology companies.

And they founded a subsidiary, WSC Specialty Gases and Cryogenics Inc., to manufacture the gases. Bradley Fountain says the company can manufacture a specific blend of high-purity gases for individual clients. "This is a very high-end niche market."

The new subsidiary represents about 5 percent of a business that has $6 million to $7 million in annual sales and 32 employees. But the company president believes there is lots of growth potential. The laboratory is already serving clients, including Johns Hopkins University.

"We see an opportunity to make an investment in our company" and blend into the biotech market, he said. "As that market gets stronger then that helps us grow."

State hires consultant as technology adviser

The Maryland Department of Economic and Employment Development has hired a Washington consultant to be technology adviser. Mitchell Horowitz, who will be based in Baltimore, will help develop state policy on technology and will act as a liaison among the state, industry and academic institutions.

Mr. Horowitz is the former director of state and local development for the Corporation for Enterprise Development, an economic development consulting firm. While there, he helped develop Maryland's life sciences strategy.

He can be reached at 333-6901.

Blood substitute for humans from pig

Human blood from swine? That's what DNX Inc. of Princeton, N.J., says it will use to create a blood substitute that can be used in the battlefield, on the operating table or at an accident scene.

The biotech company says it has genetically engineered a pig to produce red blood cells that are identical to human red blood cells. Hemoglobin, the constituent in those cells that is responsible for transferring oxygen to tissues, can be removed and made into a blood substitute.

But the company needed several other ingredients for the mix, including a chemical that was patented by the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

The problem with hemoglobin is that once you take it out of the blood, the cell breaks apart and its oxygen-carrying capacity is lost. So DNX needed a chemical that would keep the cells together -- in science lingo, a cross-linking technology.

DNX says it looked across the country for the best cross-linking technology and found the two components it needed at Columbia University and UMBC.

UMBC has licensed the technology to DNX for an undisclosed amount. The payoff for the university could be substantial if the product becomes successful in a billion-dollar market.

But the university must wait for the big payoff, because DNX says its product won't reach the market before 1996.

"We think it has tremendous potential, but it is a difficult area to get into," said Maria Freire, director of technology transfer for UMBC and the University of Maryland at Baltimore.

There will be much competition. Ever since problems arose from AIDS and hepatitis tainting the blood supply, companies have been trying to develop a blood substitute. The ideal product: one that could be used in anyone, no matter what blood type, and wouldn't need to be refrigerated.

Five or six companies are competing to get a product to market, including Baxter International and Burns Laboratories, an Owings Mills company that uses an earlier version of cross-linking technology developed by UMBC.

Companies have tried different techniques. But Paul Schmitt, DNX chief executive and president, believes that his product will be superior because it will be inexpensive and "has to be produced in tanker-car sizes."

DNX's product won't last more than 24 hours in a patient. So anyone who receives it during an operation may have to get more blood later.

Scios Nova raises $7.94 million

Scios Nova Inc. has raised $7.94 million through the exercise of warrants held by Marion Merrell Dow Inc.

The Kansas City, Mo.-based pharmaceutical giant, which has a five-year collaborative agreement with Scios Nova to develop treatments for Alzheimer's disease, will own about 4 percent of the outstanding shares in the company.

Scios Inc. of Mountain View, Calif., merged with Nova Pharmaceutical Inc. of Baltimore in September to form Scios Nova.

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