Bioprocessing Center loses bid for drug company

December 01, 1992|By Liz Bowie | Liz Bowie,Staff Writer

Maryland has lost its bid to bring an internationally known drug manufacturing company to Baltimore to operate a facility for small biotechnology companies.

The directors of Bioprocessing Center Inc. said yesterday that they broke off negotiations with Celltech, a British company, after the company signed an agreement Friday with the state of New Hampshire.

But the center's officers said yesterday that they have begun negotiations with two other companies that they believe are qualified to run the facility.

New Hampshire had offered various incentives to get the company to locate there, including $25 million in bond financing -- $7.9 million more than Maryland had offered.

But what killed the deal for Maryland was its insistence that Maryland companies be given priority over other companies to use the facility. Celltech did not want any restrictions on what business it could accept from out-of-state companies.

"We think it is better to walk away from a good deal than to deal with a company that would have made that an issue," said Barbara Plantholt, who negotiated with Celltech in her role as a director of the BioCenter.

Maryland taxpayers are footing $15 million of the bill to build the facility on the Johns Hopkins Bayview Campus, which is designed as an economic development tool for the state.

The facility would help small biotech companies "scale up" and turn laboratory inventions into products. The center was designed to house companies for short periods of time -- just long enough for companies to make enough drugs to use in tests required by the Food and Drug Administration.

Internationally known for its expertise in that field, Celltech was the only company able to turn a profit at the business, Ms. Plantholt said. And during negotiations, which lasted from May until last week, the center's board had touted Celltech's expertise when it originally announced in mid-July that the company would operate the Maryland facility.

"If there weren't any real possibilities, I can see being depressed," said Mitchell Horowitz, technology adviser to Mark L. Wasserman, secretary of the state's Economic and Employment Development. "But we are going to be fine."

Mr. Horowitz and Ms. Plantholt said the two other companies, which came to the state seeking to operate the facility, were qualified.

They declined to identify the companies, except to say that one of the companies was a large foreign pharmaceutical company that has been operating a its own scale-up facility and is now opening it to other companies.

Ms. Plantholt said the company had originally planned to build a $50 million facility in Indianapolis, but had put the project on hold.

Negotiations with that company would begin almost immediately, she said, with a visit from officials to Maryland.

"We are hoping to make a new award very early in the new year," said Lewis Shuster, a member of the BioCenter's board, adding that he expected to see the center built within 18 to 21 months.

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