Biotech show is a hit

Paying off: Some exhibitors at the city's first Bio/Med Conference are walking away with new business.

December 04, 2003|By William Patalon III | William Patalon III,SUN STAFF

THE WESTMINSTER COMPANY — For Intellitech Inc., yesterday's opening of the MidAtlantic Bio/Med Conference and Exhibition downtown was akin to a debutante attending the annual town ball - and coming away with four marriage proposals.

The Westminster company - which over the past year had shifted its business from designing products for others to making machinery for the biotechnology and pharmaceutical markets - wasn't sure what to expect from the trade show visit. Even so, it brought along both versions of its new "I-Fill" in-line filling machines, one priced at $30,000 and the other at $49,500.

The decision - and the trade show - paid off big: By lunchtime, Intellitech had two orders for each machine, said Anthony Biller, the firm's manager of new business development.

"We have six months and $150,000 in this," the clearly happy Biller said as he pointed at the more expensive unit, the first of the two machines developed by the 19-employee firm. "We surveyed over 300 local biotech companies to find out precisely what they needed. We developed our own niche."

The two-day Bio/Med Conference, which concludes today, featured workshops, high-level industry leaders and roughly 60 exhibitors, including biotechnology companies, service providers, trade groups and government-related economic development organizations. It was added onto the yearly Maryland Technology Conference & Expo, running concurrently at the Baltimore Convention Center.

Though many of the biotechnology-side exhibitors were from Maryland, five other states - Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, New Jersey and North Carolina - were represented, making it a true Mid-Atlantic exhibition, said Addy Kennedy, a sales-and-marketing manager for trade show organizer E.J. Krause & Associates Inc. of Bethesda.

"Bio[technology] is a core business for the state," Kennedy said. "It is core to this region's growth."

The goal of the first-year show was to bring together biotech and medical-device companies, potential investors, economic development agencies and even the federal laboratories that want to see some of their discoveries commercialized.

Technology transfer

One such exhibitor was the Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer, which represents about 700 federal labs. Of the 70 labs in the Mid-Atlantic area, about 40 are in the Maryland-D.C.-Virginia metroplex, according to the consortium.

"There are a lot of technology-transfer opportunities," said Ronald Repp, a consortium representative.

The Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, active in its efforts to market the state as a major biotech center, was a co-host of the exhibition.

"For a first-year [event], this has been pretty good," said Lawrence C. Mahan, director of DBED's Biosciences & Advanced Technologies Investment Group. "It looks like it will become a regular program, since it's been fairly well attended."

Competitive edge

Maryland firms had various reasons for attending. Some wished to heighten their profile for possible investors, while others were trolling for new customers.

Gene Logic Inc. of Gaithersburg had several of its genomic database products on display and was also able to talk about the progress and benefits of its acquisition this year of TherImmune Research Corp.

The deal broadened its customer base as the original company was expanding its product array - a one-two punch that gives Gene Logic a competitive edge during a "very competitive period," said Ron Hencin, senior director of business development for the company.

For Cytimmune Sciences Inc. of College Park, the conference and exhibition was an opportunity to detail the progress the company has made as it continues its transition from a test-kit manufacturer to a biotech firm with a new drug delivery system for solid tumors. Already eight years into this transformation initiative, Cytimmune hopes to start Phase I clinical trials in humans next spring.

Like the move Intellitech made, it's a bet-the-company strategy. But Cytimmune President and Chief Executive Officer Lawrence Tamarkin believes it's a worthy risk.

The delivery system, if successful, would treat "people with whom all other treatments have failed," Tamarkin said.

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