Antech leaves for more spaceAntech Inc., a consulting firm...

LIFE SCIENCES

December 15, 1992|By Liz Bowie

Antech leaves for more space

Antech Inc., a consulting firm that plans and evaluates clinical trials, is graduating from the Alpha Center, a renovated brick building on the Johns Hopkins Bayview Research Campus that nurtures young biotech companies.

Antech won't move far -- just next door into the Mason Lord Building. But the company will double its square footage from 1,000 to 2,000.

And its move will free some needed space in the corporate incubator, which is full. Two other Alpha Center companies, Chektec Corp. and Molecular Tool Inc., will be able to grow.

Chektec, which is developing a laboratory test for breast cancer, has doubled its space since it came to the center in 1991. The company is based on the work of Hopkins scientists Gary Pasternack and Frank Kuhajda. They discovered a protein whose presence increases the likelihood that breast cancer will recur.

Molecular Tool, which is developing a genetic test to establish the parentage of thoroughbred horses, will boost its square footage from 2,500 to 3,100.

The incubator hopes to expand its 30,000-square-foot building with a $1.2 million renovation to the vacant third floor. That project, which still must be funded, would add as much as 8,000 square feet.

Werner named BioWhittaker CFO

BioWhittaker Inc. of Walkersville yesterday named James D. Werner Jr., a former president of Cellmark Diagnostics, as chief financial officer. The former CFO, Philip L. Rohrer Jr., became general manager of clinical diagnostic products.

Gene patents, orphan drugs will be issues

Gene patenting and orphan drugs are likely to be two topics of debate for the next Congress, according to the Industrial Biotechnology Association, which detailed its legislative agenda in a report last week.

The association will be watching for another attempt to prohibit the patenting of human genes and animals.

Republican Sen. Mark O. Hatfield of Oregon believes Congress should consider the economic, ethical and environmental issues surrounding patents on pieces of human beings before further patents are issued. His push for a prohibition was rebuffed this year.

The biotech association believes such a prohibition would curb the industry's ability to make new products.

A second controversy about the patenting of gene sequences also could emerge.

A former National Institutes of Health researcher, Craig Venter, has proposed to Congress that companies or research institutions be allowed to patent a gene, even if information about a part of the gene has been previously published in scientific journals.

Dr. Venter supports a free exchange of information on scientific discoveries. But the industry association believes the proposal is unfair because a researcher could receive a patent for doing only a small part of the work of identifying a gene and its use.

The association also predicts an effort to change the orphan drug law, which grants a company seven years of exclusive commercial rights when developing a drug. Changes could be devastating, the association says.

The law was designed to provide incentives for developing drugs that companies didn't see an economic reason to pursue.

But some critics charge that drug companies have reaped windfall profits from such protections. In the past, there has been a move to end the exclusive rights when sales of a drug reach more than $150 million to $200 million.

More board members at Columbus Center

The Columbus Center Development Inc., the private, nonprofit corporation that will build and run the $160 million Christopher Columbus Center in the Inner Harbor, has expanded its board from eight to 15 people to gain broader public support.

The board, which has been without a chairman since Stanley Heuisler resigned to become chief executive of the corporation, is expected to grow to 20 or 24 people in the next several months and to include scientists and representatives from the black community.

Additions to the board include:

* George Bunting Jr., president of Bunting Management Group and former president of Noxell Corp.

* Samuel Lewis of McLean, Va., president of the United States Institute of Peace and former ambassador to Israel.

* Sally Michel, a longtime civic volunteer.

* Dr. William Nierenberg of La Jolla, Calif., director emeritus of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography.

* Mayo Shattuck III, president and chief operating officer of Alex. Brown Inc.

The project, expected to open in the spring of 1995, will house centers for marine biotechnology, for marine archaeology, and for training and development.

Walter H. Plosila an Inc. award finalist

Walter H. Plosila, who heads the Montgomery County High Technology Council, was one of three finalists for Inc. magazine's 1992 entrepreneurship awards. Mr. Plosila was nominated as one of the "individuals who have applied management skills to support, encourage, and facilitate others in the development of growth companies."

The winner, June Lavelle, started a business incubator in a poor Chicago neighborhood. The incubator has helped businesses while employing local residents.

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