Life Technologies seeks room to growLife Technologies Inc...

LIFE SCIENCES

January 26, 1993|By Liz Bowie

Life Technologies seeks room to grow

Life Technologies Inc. has begun looking for a way to expand its research and development work along the I-270 corridor in Montgomery and Frederick counties. The company wants to consolidate three offices at Shady Grove industrial park in a new building that would include space to grow.

The Gaithersburg company is one of the largest biotechnology companies in the area. It has 500 employees in Maryland, several offices around the world and a 62,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Frederick County. It also manufactures products in New York state.

The company wants to build a new facility or lease an existing one in the next 18 to 36 months, said Joseph Stokes, vice president for finance. But the company has only recently begun talking to architects and developers.

Life Technologies manufactures about 2,000 products that are used by laboratories doing life sciences research and by companies making genetically engineered products. For instance, it is a major supplier of cell growth media and enzymes.

Venture capitalists mark 50th IPO

Some people count birthdays in years, but venture capitalists see it differently.

One large local firm, New Enterprise Associates, just finished its TC 50th initial public offering last week when AutoImmune Inc., a Boston-based biotech company, raised $39 million. NEA, which was started in 1978 and which has offices in Baltimore and San Francisco, has $700 million in capital.

NEA recently sold 50,000 shares in Crop Genetics International, a Hanover company, as a way to liquidate its holdings in a 12-year-old investment fund and to raise money for other ventures. The venture firm retains 65,000 shares in Crop Genetics.

2 Md. biotech firms plan stock offerings

It's worth noting that two local biotechnology companies -- Univax Biologics Inc. of Rockville and Genetic Therapy Inc. of Gaithersburg -- are expected to hold secondary public offerings this week and next. Univax is selling 2.5 million shares at $11.50 a share next week. GTI hopes to sell 2 million shares at $11 a share at the end of this week.

The two companies are taking advantage of a rush to the market by biotechnology companies -- and investor interest in small-capitalization stocks. At least six biotech companies are expected to complete offerings this week.

Light used to adjust sleeping patterns

All you bleary-eyed night shift workers, jet-lagged executives and early rising elderly people: This one's for you.

Light Sciences Inc. has just patented what could be the answer to your problems. The Braintree, Mass.-based company says it has a way to quickly shift a person's circadian rhythm to a predetermined schedule.

The company doesn't have any products on the market, but President Matthew Weisman hopes to be selling the light technology to several groups of people in the next few years. For people flying to Tokyo, for example, the company would sell a visor to wear on the plane. The visor is fitted with illumination that sets your body clock -- and Mr. Weisman promises it won't disturb neighboring passengers.

The company's technique is already being used on NASA astronauts before they leave on missions.

About 23 million people work night shifts in this country, and an additional 10 million work rotating shifts that change every week or day, according to the 1990 census. Mr. Weisman said that studies have shown that most night workers never fully adjust to their schedules -- even those who work for 10 or 20 years. Those workers are asked to be at their most productive when their bodies are least able to do the work. From 4 a.m. to 6 a.m., when most people's bodies are at their lowest cycle, night shift workers are still several hours away from getting off. But by the time they get home and are ready for bed, their body clocks are beginning to speed up.

Light Sciences says it's able to install high-intensity lights that are controlled by computers to help workers adapt.

Developed by a group of Harvard Medical School doctors, the patented technique uses light to control the fluctuations in body temperature. A person's waking and sleeping times are determined by changes in body temperature and associated changes in hormone levels. Mr. Weisman says the company's products would expose people to light in order to stop the swings in temperature. The technique uses light again to readjust the body's internal clock.

Hormone replacement subject of 5-year study

Johns Hopkins University is one of 14 clinical centers across the country participating in a $40 million, five-year national study funded by Wyeth Ayerst Laboratories to study the effect of hormone replacement therapy in postmenopausal women with heart disease.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women in the United States, killing more than 250,000 women each year.

Several previous studies have suggested that women who take estrogen and progesterone have a reduced incidence of heart disease. In addition, the number of women who get heart disease increases significantly in later years, after menopause. Scientists have speculated that the hormones slow the buildup of plaque in the arteries.

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