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2008 Mid-Atlantic Bio, Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority, Texas Emerging Technology Fund, South Texas Regional Center for Innovation & Commercialization, Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development

Mid-Atlantic Life Sciences Survey Conclusion: Financial Crisis Serious, Yet Survivable

Nearly all the Mid-Atlantic life sciences industry professionals who responded to a survey issued before a regional conference last week agreed that the financial upheaval will affect their companies or institutions — but not adversely enough to drive them out of business.
"More than 90 percent of respondents believe the current state of the economy is serious and will significantly impact their enterprise, but that it is survivable and will ultimately rebound," said Douglas Doerfler, steering committee chairman for 2008 Mid-Atlantic Bio, and the president and CEO of MaxCyte, in a statement. "Our companies are taking the current decline very seriously and responding with swift and certain actions.” 

Those actions, according to the poll, include seeking alternative forms of revenue while managing expenses, collaborating and more aggressively pursuing partnering opportunities, and aggressively pursuing private equity investment.
Respondents said that obtaining adequate early stage, or A round, funding was the biggest challenge to developing a bioscience company in the Mid-Atlantic region today. Another significant challenge, said respondents, was access to adequate angel funding.
In addition, respondents foresee considerable merger and acquisition activity ahead involving life sciences companies and large pharmaceutical firms. When asked what they believed would likely be the ultimate outcome for a biotechnology company in the Mid-Atlantic today, two out of three predicted acquisition by a pharma giant, while only one in five believed companies of like sizes would merge. The remainder predicted companies would grow into standalone, independent companies with marketed products.
Respondents were also asked about one of the most hotly discussed topics in the biotech industry today — follow-on biologics, also known as biosimilars or generic biologics, which are under consideration by the US Food and Drug Administration.  Two thirds of respondents viewed FDA approval of a pathway for these products to be positive for the biotech industry.
The 2008 Mid-Atlantic Bio conference was held Oct. 22-24 in Chantilly, Va., by the Mid-Atlantic Venture Association, the Tech Council of Maryland/MdBio, and the Virginia Biotechnology Association, known as VaBIO.  The conference attracted more than 850 attendees from 30 states and 10 countries, according to organizers.
Virginia Gov. Timothy Kaine, a Democrat who took office in 2006, encouraged mid-Atlantic life-sci companies to work together in finding new ways of sustaining growth through the current economic upheaval, adding: “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.”

Pennsylvania’s Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority Awards $13M in Grants
Pennsylvania’s Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority has approved a total $13 million in seed funding for grants designed to stoke venture capital investment, promote university research, and fund new lower-tax economic-development Keystone Innovation Zones.
At its quarterly meeting last week, the authority approved:
  • A $4 million venture capital investment program grant for Novitas Capital of Wayne, Pa., to support seed and early stage investments in Pennsylvania technology and life sciences companies. Novatis has committed to invest at least $16 million in promising Pennsylvania companies.
  • A $2.5 million University Research Grant to the University of Pittsburgh toward new technologies for the Armed Forces Institute for Regenerative Medicine. The funds will be used to provide additional partnering and financial resources for technological development and commercialization from regenerative medicine research. In addition, the project will receive a $20 million match in federal funding.
  • A $2 million grant through the venture capital investment program to Radnor, Pa.-based Laurel Capital Partners to provide growth equity for investments in Pennsylvania manufacturing and business services firms. Laurel has committed to invest at least $8 million in Pennsylvania companies.
  • A $1.6 million University Research Grant to Temple University toward establishing the Pennsylvania Environmental Technologies for Pharmaceutical Industry, which is designed to address the needs of pharmaceutical companies, equipment manufacturers, and engineering design companies that work with the industry to reduce environmental impacts of its operations.
  • A $1.5 million Technology Development Grant for the Ben Franklin Center of Excellence for Northwest Pennsylvania, to support the Center for eBusiness and Advanced Information Technology, formed to raise the awareness, use, and advancement of information technology throughout Pennsylvania. EBizITPA is expected to assist at least 800 companies statewide in the areas of IT and e-business implementation, technology transfer and advanced IT product development, and IT workforce development. The project is expected to create 200 jobs and retain another 500.
  • A $1 million Technology Development Grant for Philadelphia University and the Green Building Alliance, for their Pennsylvania Green Growth Partnership, which assists in the design, manufacture, and labeling of green building products; promotes commercialization and innovation; and carries out community outreach and training. PaGGP will assist at least 175 businesses statewide and is projected to create 75 jobs and retain another 150.
  • $187,500 in round-two Keystone Innovation Zone funding to the James Street Improvement District, for the Northwest Lancaster Keystone Innovation Zone. The KIZ is expected to create 48 new jobs while helping in the start-up of three new companies. The KIZ will join with the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce & Industry will hire a full-time coordinator who will also serve as the first entrepreneurial ombudsman for the region.
  • $131,250 in round-two KIZ funding to the North Central Pennsylvania Regional Planning and Development Commission, based in Elk County, received for administration of the Tri-County Keystone Innovation Zone. The KIZ, which covers Jefferson, Elk, and Clearfield counties, is expected to create 20 new jobs and help in the start-up of three new companies as it continues its work with local companies and faculty from its educational partners, including PSU DuBois, Jefferson Technical School, and DuBois Business College on three patent applications.
  • A $100,000 Technology Development Grant for the Institute for Hepatitis and Virus Research in Bucks County, to launch the Translational Medicine Commercialization Fund. TransComm will offer funding to scientists and entrepreneurs in eastern Pennsylvania to help commercialize new technologies. The project is expected to create five new companies and leverage an additional $300,000 in other funding.
  • $62,500 in round-four KIZ funding to the Capital Region Economic Development Corp., for the Harrisburg Market Keystone Innovation Zone, a partnership of nine institutions of higher education. This KIZ is committed to creating 35 new jobs, assisting in the start-up of six new companies and increasing the rate of technology transfer.

Corpus Christi Medical Device Maker Wins $2M from Texas Emerging Technology Fund
A Corpus Christi biotechnology company has been approved for $2 million worth of funding from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund, the South Texas Regional Center for Innovation & Commercialization told the San Antonio Business Journal
The center, based in San Antonio, is a panel that makes recommendations for funding through TETF for a 31-county region from Corpus Christi to San Antonio. The center also helps technology companies raise early-stage financing.
CryoPen develops cryosurgery technology for removing skin lesions without the need for more specialized equipment, facilities or training. The company says its technology could potentially make skin-lesion procedures available to a larger group of patients than are currently being treated today.
The Texas Emerging Technology Fund is a $200 million fund created by the Texas Legislature in 2005 at the request of Gov. Rick Perry. The fund was reauthorized in 2008 and will award more than $165 million in available funds over the next two years.

Six Biotechs Among 17 Winners of $5K Export MD Grants from Maryland DBED
Six life sciences companies were among 17 Maryland small businesses that received $5,000 grants from the state Department of Business and Economic Development’s Export MD program, toward helping them market products and services in overseas markets.
The six were: Amarex, a clinical trial manager in Germantown, Md.; American IV Products,a Harmans, Md., medical device maker; BioAssay Works, an Ijamsville, Md., maker of nano-sized gold balls used in tests to detect antibodies and antigens; Rafagen, a developer of synthetic gene expression technologies for use in bio-pharmaceutical applications; Sequella, a Rockville, Md., clinical stage biopharmaceutical company; and Tetracore, a Rockville developer of diagnostic reagents and assays.
The grants are designed to help businesses offset the cost of international marketing initiatives, including trade show fees, travel expenses, brochures and website development.
“We will use this grant to increase the BioAssay Works international exposure for our growing point-of-care, rapid assay diagnostics market,” said Stephen Mefferd, vice president of business development for BioAssay Works, in a DBED press release.
“The grant will allow us to expand our distribution of medical devices in the European Union,” Jim Huggins, director of business development for American IV Products, said in the same release.
In Fiscal Year 2008, the Export MD program awarded a record number of grants totaling $105,000 and the demand for the program is continuing to grow.
Established in 1999, the Export MD program provides matching grants on a quarterly basis capped at $5,000, as well as up to 80 hours of marketing consulting from DBED’s Division of International Trade and Investment. More information or eligibility requirements for Export MD is available here.

The Scan

Tens of Millions Saved

The Associated Press writes that vaccines against COVID-19 saved an estimated 20 million lives in their first year.

Supersized Bacterium

NPR reports that researchers have found and characterized a bacterium that is visible to the naked eye.

Also Subvariants

Moderna says its bivalent SARS-CoV-2 vaccine leads to a strong immune response against Omicron subvariants, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Science Papers Present Gene-Edited Mouse Models of Liver Cancer, Hürthle Cell Carcinoma Analysis

In Science this week: a collection of mouse models of primary liver cancer, and more.