Talks look promising for biotech centerIt appears that a...


June 01, 1993|By Liz Bowie | Liz Bowie,Staff Writer

Talks look promising for biotech center

It appears that a big local bet is close to paying off.

In March, the board of the Maryland Bioprocessing Center rejected a local company's proposal to operate the center, a manufacturing plant designed for small biotech companies. Instead, the board entered into exclusive negotiations with Boehringer Mannheim International, a large German pharmaceutical company that was interested in operating the facility.

The risk was that the board would spend months and months negotiating with the company without reaching an agreement.

But serious negotiations have continued, and board members seem encouraged. Boehringer's "enthusiasm is quite high," said Lewis J. Shuster, a member of the board. "They have made a very strong indication of interest in proceeding with this."

Why choose the German company? It has expertise and deep pockets, and appears ready to invest up to $25 million in the state-funded center, which is designed to help biotech companies bring lab discoveries to market. In addition, luring the pharmaceutical giant to Baltimore could have a long-term benefit for the fledgling industry.

Company officials have said that if enough business develops from the center, they would be interested in building a drug manufacturing plant next to the bioprocessing center at the Johns Hopkins University Bayview Campus in East Baltimore. Such a plant would be a major economic development coup for Baltimore.

Mr. Shuster says Boehringer has spent a considerable amount of time doing marketing studies, financial analyses and planning for the facility.

Group's newsletter focuses on technology

The Technology Council of the greater Baltimore area has started a newsletter, Technology Update, which includes notes about local companies, legislation that effects technology companies, a calendar of events and other information. For a copy, call Valerie S. Gaydos at 385-1546.

Former Nova chief lands job in Pa.

Hans Mueller, who talked himself out of a job when he negotiated the merger between Nova Pharmaceutical Corp. in Baltimore and Scios Inc. of Mountain View, Calif., has landed a new position at Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories of Philadelphia.

As chief executive of Nova, Dr. Mueller decided to merge the company with Scios. Analysts said the cash-rich California biotech company needed Nova's research portfolio and that Nova needed Scios' money. But in the deal, Dr. Mueller gave away his job as CEO and his role of life sciences promoter in the local business community.

Dr. Mueller was one of the earliest proponents of the Greater Baltimore Committee's push to promote the life sciences and biotechnology in local economic development strategies.

In his new job as senior vice president for business development at Wyeth-Ayerst, Dr. Mueller will be responsible on a worldwide basis for licensing and acquisition of products. He also will head a team that seeks out joint ventures and collaborations with other companies.

L Wyeth-Ayerst is a subsidiary of American Home Products Corp.

In Vitro's top executive finalist for Md. honor

Paul M. Silber, chief executive of In Vitro Technologies Inc., has made the list of finalists for Maryland's entrepreneur of the year awards. Seventeen finalists were chosen from a group of 78 around the state.

Baltimore-based In Vitro is developing clinical tests that could replace animal testing.

Pikesville man founds Mass. biotech company

A Pikesville entrepreneur has founded a Woburn, Mass., biotech company that is developing DNA tests used to diagnose illnesses. Mento A. Soponis, chief executive of Tm Technologies Inc., says he wanted to bring the company to Maryland but that its scientists wished to stay in New England.

Mr. Soponis plans to run Tm Technologies from Baltimore. The business is the result of a merger between Tm Technologies and Consolidated Dasher Resources Inc., a Canadian company. That company, which is listed on the Vancouver Stock Exchange, has raised $2 million and is setting up lab facilities. It has a staff of eight, including four doctors.

Mr. Soponis, a former employee of Life Technologies Inc. of Gaithersburg, says his company does not expect to manufacture or market any of the technologies it develops. Instead, it will sell the rights to larger companies.

Tm Technologies will develop DNA probes -- a technique used to find a piece of DNA -- that could be used to diagnose a type of sepsis. Sepsis, a blood disorder, kills about 70,000 Americans each year.

The company expects to file a patent soon on what Mr. Soponis says is a new technique.

Protein could help treat Parkinson's

Synergen Inc. of Boulder, Colo., said recently it had discovered a protein that might one day be used in a new treatment for Parkinson's disease.

Company scientists say they have found a protein that appears to stimulate the growth of nerve cells damaged when people get the degenerative nerve disorder. The company has yet to test the protein in monkeys.

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