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BioRegion Newsmakers: Feb 9, 2009


In Cabinet Shakeup, Mass. Gov. Patrick Names Greg Bialecki Econ. Dev. Secretary; O’Connell Leaves Administration

Greg Bialecki has been named secretary of Massachusetts’ Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development by Gov. Deval Patrick, in a Cabinet shakeup that saw Bialecki’s predecessor, Daniel O'Connell, step down and leave the administration as of Feb. 6.

Bialecki is a lawyer who most recently served as undersecretary of the Massachusetts Department of Business Development. In an interview with the Boston Globe, he said he plans to focus on retaining jobs, spending federal stimulus money, and preventing foreclosures. Before joining Patrick's administration, Bialecki worked more than 20 years as a real estate, business, and environmental lawyer at the law firms of Hill & Barlow and DLA Piper Rudnick, where he focused on major urban redevelopment projects. He is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School.

O'Connell had held his state position since soon after Patrick took office in 2007. A spokeswoman for EOHED, Kofi Jones, told the Globe that O’Connell was not forced to resign, and was leaving for personal reasons.

"Dan is going to take a pause from his professional life for a while and do some traveling," Jones told the newspaper, adding, "He will make a decision on his professional life when he returns." O’Connell declined the newspaper’s request for direct comment on his departure.

"Dan O'Connell has helped us position Massachusetts as a global leader in key sectors such as life sciences, and I thank him for his service and commitment to the job,” Patrick said in a statement. “Greg Bialecki will pick up where Dan leaves off as we continue to prepare the Commonwealth for a strong economic recovery once the recession ends."

O’Connell is one of two Cabinet secretaries to leave the Patrick administration in recent days; the other was Michael Festa, secretary of elder affairs, who left office Jan. 30, according to the Globe. Those resignations follow departures earlier this year of state transportation secretary Bernard Cohen, and David Simas, a top aide to Patrick who left for a position with David Axelrod, senior adviser to President Obama.

David Edgerley, Former Maryland DBED Secretary, Joins HarVest Bank as Executive VP

David Edgerley, former secretary of Maryland’s Department of Business and Economic Development, also called DBED, has joined HarVest Bank of Maryland, a full-service, commercial bank, as executive vice president, effective Feb. 18.

Prior to his appointment as DBED Secretary by Gov. Martin O’Malley in early 2007, Edgerley had served for 12 years as Montgomery County’s Director of Economic Development under County Executive Doug Duncan. Earlier, he served for 19 years in economic development roles in Allegany County, Md., the last 12 as director.

Edgerley left DBED on Jan. 30. O’Malley has named Christian Johansson to succeed Edgerley, an appointment that requires confirmation by the state Senate [BRN, Feb. 2].

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HarVest President & CEO Jack Hollerbach said in a statement that the Edgerley appointment was intended to signal HarVest’s intent to continue building a locally-oriented commercial bank focused on businesses in the I-270 Corridor and adjacent areas in the face of the ongoing economic upheaval, as is the bank’s plans to open new branches in Silver Spring, Ellicott City, and Laurel; and its recent move to expanded offices in Gaithersburg, Md., at 15810 Gather Drive.

“In addition to strengthening our management team, we expect that he will help to expand our services to companies based in Maryland that have overseas business needs, such as those we have met on recent trade missions to India, Korea and China,” Hollerbach said in the statement.

Edgerley earned a BSci in economics and political science at Frostburg State University, and an MBA at Mount Saint Mary’s University.

Indiana EDC Selects Lawyer/Developer for Executive VP Post

Chad Pittman, a lawyer and veteran land developer, has been named executive vice president of the Indiana Economic Development Corp., an appointment that took effect on Feb. 9. Pittman succeeds Chad Sweeney, who served with the agency since its creation in February 2005 in roles ranging from chief financial officer to executive vice president and general counsel.

Pittman joins the state's job attraction agency following a year-long deployment to Iraq with the Indiana Army National Guard and a more than three-year stint as a corporate land developer with Indianapolis-based homebuilder CP Morgan.

Pittman served as corporate director of new market development and land development for CP Morgan from 2005 to December 2007. He also served as the company's director of government affairs in 2004 and 2005. Prior to his roles with CP Morgan, Pittman served as a lawyer with Bose, McKinney and Evans LLP; treasurer and vice president of finance of Indianapolis-based DynoMed; and founder of GDI Homes in Carmel, Ind.

Pittman is a 2002 graduate of the Indiana University School of Law in Indianapolis, and holds a BSci degree in business from Indiana University. The Zionsville, Ind., resident is a graduate of the Indiana Economic Development course at Ball State University, and served as a board member of the Boone County Economic Development Corp. from 2004 to 2007.

BayBio Board Elects Chairman, Four New Members, for 2009

The board of directors of BayBio, the life sciences industry group for the San Francisco Bay Area and northern California, has elected William Young, the chairman and CEO of Monogram BioSciences, as board chairman for 2009.

The board also named four new members for this year: Pierre Cassigneul, president and CEO of XDx; Steve Engle, chairman and CEO of XOMA; John Melo, CEO of Amyris; and Howard Robin, president and CEO of Nektar Therapeutics.

With the addition of these four new members, the BayBio board of directors has 39
members, of which 26 are executives in life sciences companies, and 13 employed in key stakeholder organizations, ranging from accounting and law to venture capital and real estate.

SRI International Taps Jim Rurka as Executive Director of Biosciences Commercialization

James Rurka has been appointed executive director, biosciences commercialization at SRI International, an independent, nonprofit research and development organization in Menlo Park, Calif. Rurka will lead efforts to bring SRI's pharmaceutical products and technologies to market through licensing and partnership agreements.
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Rurka comes to SRI with many years of experience in large pharmaceutical companies as well as start-up and established biotechnology companies. Over the course of his career, Rurka has successfully closed more than 20 licensing and venture deals, launched new pharmaceutical products onto the market, and served as CEO of both private and public healthcare companies.

Prior to joining SRI, Jim was co-owner and chief business officer of Blanca Pharmaceuticals, a closely-held private biopharmaceutical company focused on late-stage preclinical development of antibiotics for serious bacterial infections.

Before Blanca Pharmaceuticals, Rurka served as president and CEO of SLIL Biomedical, where he focused on advancing anti-cancer compounds. He also served as president and CEO of Microcide Pharmaceuticals, where he closed three pharmaceutical corporate partnerships, took the company public, and created Iconix, a spin-out company designed to extend Microcide's microbial genomics technologies to human genomics drug targets.

Earlier, Rurka served as president of the Cetus oncology division of Chiron, following the merger of Cetus and Chiron. Rurka earlier had several executive management roles within Cetus, and established a profitable and fully integrated domestic oncology therapeutics division.

Before entering the biotechnology healthcare sector, Rurka held a variety of marketing positions at Bristol-Myers Squibb and Schering-Plough Corporation, with responsibilities in the oncology and infectious disease therapy areas.

Rurka has a BA in English literature from Seton Hall University, and served in the US Navy. He is a former director of the Emerging Companies Section and Governing Board of the Biotechnology Industry Organization.

Life-Sci VC Firm Clarus Ventures Promotes Two Principals

Clarus Ventures, a life sciences venture capital firm with more than $1.2 billion under management in two funds, and offices in Cambridge, Mass., and South San Francisco, Calif., has announced the promotions of two principals: Emmett Cunningham has been promoted to partner, while Scott Requadt has been promoted to transactional partner.

Cunningham joined Clarus in 2006 and represents the firm as a director on the board of SARcode, and as a board observer at FerroKin, Pearl, Taligen and Zogenix. He is also a member of the scientific advisory boards of ESBATech and CoMentis.

Cunningham joined Clarus from Eyetech Pharmaceuticals, where he was senior vice president of medical strategy, and helped lead the development and commercialization of Macugen for the treatment of age-related macular degeneration. Prior to Eyetech, Cunningham worked at Pfizer, where he was responsible for the clinical development of early-phase CNS compounds and the in-licensing of early- and late-stage therapeutic candidates in ophthalmology.

An adjunct clinical professor of ophthalmology at Stanford University, Cunningham received his MD and MPH degrees from Johns Hopkins University, and his PhD degree in neuroscience from the University of California, San Diego. He completed his residency in ophthalmology and his fellowship training in corneal disease and uveitis at the University of California, San Francisco.

Requadt joined Clarus in 2005 and represents the firm as a drector on the board of TyRx Pharma, and as a board observer at Biolex, Oxford Immunotec, Link Medicine, and Variation. He joined Clarus from TransForm Pharmaceuticals shortly after the company’s sale to Johnson & Johnson. While at TransForm as director of business development, Requadt was responsible for corporate development, business development and legal activities, including managing the intellectual property group.

Prior to TransForm, Requadt was an attorney specializing in mergers and acquisitions at the New York City-based law firm of Davis Polk & Wardwell. Earlier, he was a law clerk for a senior judge at the Supreme Court of Canada. Requadt holds a BCom in economics and finance from McGill University, a JD from the University of Toronto, and an MBA from Harvard Business School, where he was a Baker Scholar.

Partnership for Defense Innovation Hires Two for Business Development Posts

The Partnership for Defense Innovation, a Fayetteville, NC, tax exempt 501(c)(3) organization that promotes economic development, has hired two professionals for business development roles.

Gary Mitchell has been hired as a senior business developer based at PDI’s Charlotte, NC, satellite offices in the Ben Craig Center, while Randy McLean has been hired as business developer for the Centennial Campus Office at NC State University in Raleigh. Both will be responsible for recruiting client and affiliate companies for the Defense and Security Technology Program, a PDI-managed business accelerator program that assists entrepreneurs and innovators with developing new business and dual-use technologies in timelines of between eight and 18 months, with a focus on both military and commercial needs.

Before joining PDI, Mitchell was the district director, and a senior staff member for former US Rep. Robin Hayes, a Republican from Concord, NC, where his primary role was economic development, specifically in the defense arena. During the latest round of Base Realignment and Closure defense installation shutdowns and consolidations, Mitchell assisted with the recruitment of defense contractors to the district and ensured that the interests of Fort Bragg and Pope Air Force Base were represented.

McLean joins PDI from Global DataGuard, a provider of network security services, where he served as vice president of strategic alliances, responsible for worldwide partnerships with value added resellers in the information technology industry.

Before joining PDI, McLean held an economic development position with Harnett County, NC, where he facilitated the master plan of the biotechnology park in Lillington, NC, and assisted in obtaining grant awards of $2 million dollars for the park’s infrastructure. Earlier, McLean served as vice president of customer relations for National Distribution Services, a supply chain management software company that grew from about $4 million to almost $20 million in just under three years.

The Scan

Omicron's Emergence

The World Health Organization has called Omicron a SARS-CoV-2 "variant of concern," the Los Angeles Times writes.

Not as Much

Merck's pill to treat COVID-19 reduces the risk of hospitalization and death among COVID-19 patients by less than previously reported, the New York Times says.

Bats That Hang Together

Discover magazine writes that researchers have found a social microbiome among vampire bats.

PLOS Papers on CEWAS, Simian Varicella Virus Transcriptome, Dermatomyositis Markers

In PLOS this week: multi-omic approach to home in on genetic risk variants, transcriptomic analysis of the simian varicella virus, and more.