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Comptroller of Maryland, Novartis, GlaxoSmithKline, BioEnterprise, Hertfordshire Business Incubation Center, Piedmont Triad Research Park, East of England Development Agency, Department of Communities and Local Government, Stevenage Borough Council, Unive

Maryland Comptroller Promotes State’s Biotech Sector at Life Sciences Summit
Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot told an audience at the day-long Life Sciences Summit on Dec. 13 that the state is the nation’s leader in biotechnology, and that the state’s future economic success must be linked to its life sciences industry.
“If Maryland is to maintain its economic prosperity and competitive edge, we must redouble our efforts to support the life sciences industry,” Franchot said at the summit, organized by his office.
During the summit, Franchot’s office released the Maryland Life Sciences Economic Impact Report, conducted by Sage Policy Research Group. The study concluded that Maryland's bioscience sector generates $29 billion in economic output, supporting 120,000 total jobs, $11 billion in income and nearly $600 million in state government taxes annually.
Jobs supported directly by the state's life sciences industry pay an average annual salary of $108,000, as almost one-fifth of bioscience workers hold doctorates and over half have graduate degrees. The sector supports nearly 5 percent of Maryland's total employment, more than 8 percent of its wage/salary income, and over 11 percent of gross state product, the study concluded.
Speakers included Johns Hopkins University President William Brody, University System of Maryland Chancellor William "Brit" Kirwan and National Cancer Institute Director John Niederhuber.

Novartis Goes ‘Forward’ With 2,500 Job Cuts; Sets $1.6B Annual Savings Goal by 2010
Novartis said it will cut 2,500 full-time positions worldwide, representing 2.5 percent of the company’s total workforce, as part of “Forward,” a series of corporate restructuring and cost reductions intended to yield $1.6 billion in annual savings by 2010. Many of the job cuts will be achieved through attrition and buyouts, the company said.
Like other pharma companies, Novartis has struggled with rising R&D costs, the challenge posed by generic drugs, and regulatory bodies slower to approve new drugs. Novartis will take a $450 million charge in the fourth quarter of this year to carry out Forward, which will be taken in 2007 fourth quarter, to support what the pharma giant projected in a statement will be “a new growth cycle expected to emerge in second half of 2008.”
“This will enable Novartis to more rapidly meet the needs of patients and customers by focusing resources on priority activities that include the research and development of new medicines,” the company added.

GlaxoSmithKline Plans $100M R&D Center in Shanghai, China
GlaxoSmithKline has announced plans to build a new £48.9 million ($100 million) R&D center in Shanghai, China that will employ more than 1,000 staff by 2010. GSK said the new facility will allow it to carry out its ongoing neural stem cell research, grow its natural product compound libraries, and increase its focus on neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease and neuroinflammatory disorders such as multiple sclerosis.
“For us, China is not about outsourcing and cheap labor," Moncef Slaoui, the chairman of research and development, told the Financial Times. “Within five to 10 years we will be moving from 'made in China' to 'discovered in China'.”
Slaoui coordinated a six-month review by GSK that concluded China was the next seedbed for future discoveries, especially in oncology and neurology. GSK cited the presence of an estimated 63,000 scientific PhDs in China — 35,000 of whom trained in the West and have returned in recent years to their homeland — as well as a check of published reports in leading academic journals such as Science, Cell, and Neuron.

St. Louis Life Sciences Venture Capital Firm Opening New Cleveland Office
RiverVest Venture Partners, a St. Louis life sciences venture capital firm, will open a new office at Cleveland’s BioEnterprise Building, 11000 Cedar Ave., Suite 100.
“Having a presence in Ohio will further our strategy of investing nationally, while capitalizing on underserved centers of research and clinical excellence in the Midwest,” RiverVest co-founder and managing director, Jay Schmelter, said in a press release announcing the Cleveland office.
BioEnterprise is a business formation and acceleration effort whose partners include Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, and Summa Health System.

Agencies Join to Fund Expansion of Hertfordshire Business Incubation Center
Great Britain’s Hertfordshire Business Incubation Center has obtained £7 million ($14.1 million) from a combo of agencies toward a building extension intended to allow more space for existing tenant businesses as well as accommodate more startup companies. The new building will increase HBIC’s space to more than 50,000 square feet, as well as provide space for additional business events as well as conferences, with catering and networking facilities.
HBIC’s financing includes a £2.9 million ($5.8 million) grant from the East of England Development Agency, as well as £2.7 million ($5.4 million) from the Department of Communities and Local Government, and £1.2 million ($2.4 million) from Stevenage Borough Council.
Over the past 12 months about 40 companies have had to seek accommodation elsewhere, HBIC said.
“This extension will result in new, high-quality jobs – particularly in the target sectors of aerospace defense, ICT, and biotechnology – which will be a significant boost for Stevenage,” said Mark Aspinall, head of innovation and enterprise at EEDA, in a statement announcing the financing.

Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse Invests $100,000 in ParentPlus

The Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse has invested $100,000 in ParentPlus, a commercializer of human fertility technologies, to help the company develop its initial product, FertPlus, and conduct a medical school study to compare binding of sperm exposed to hPSF with a control.
PLSG said in a statement ParentPlus will use the data to prepare for a pre-trial conference with the US Food and Drug Administration, at which time it will seek clearance to market FertPlus. The product is designed to increase the probability of couples becoming pregnant through a reduced number of insemination attempts, and at lower cost than conventional treatments.
PLSG invests in and supports the growth of life sciences companies in the greater Pittsburgh region

New York Senate Democrats Eye $200M for Biotech in Upstate Economic Plan
New York State Senate Democrats have issued a $1 billion economic-development policy platform intended to address the state’s depressed upstate economy — and enhance the party’s chances of replacing Republicans as the chamber’s majority party.
The policy platform, called Right-NY, would combine $1 billion in capital funding with $1.5 billion in private funding to create a fund to be spent on areas believed to be key rivers of future economic growth.
As part of the program, $200 million would be targeted to environmental biotechnology companies. Other highlights of Right-NY include spending $175 million for a state-of-the-art freight transportation system; $150 million for subsidies to encourage university relocations to downtowns; $100 million for “high-tech training” centers; and $50 million each for plans to improve distribution of agricultural products between upstate and downstate, as well as for no-interest loans for farm equipment purchases.

Memphis Bioworks Honored for Policies Supporting Minority Businesses
The Mid-South Minority Business Council has awarded the nonprofit Memphis [Tenn.] Bioworks Foundation its Creative Visionary Supplier award, for promoting and advancing the growth of minority and women-owned businesses in and around Memphis.
Memphis Bioworks, which promotes the region’s biomedical industry, was cited for its equal-business-opportunity commitment as reflected in its Program Supplier Diversity Policy, in soliciting minority contractors in the development of the University of Tennessee-Baptist Research Park, and in soliciting vendors for goods and services.
The award was presented to the foundation during the Robert R. Church, Sr. Achievement Awards Luncheon on November 16 during a ceremony held at the University of Memphis Holiday Inn.

Neurocrine Lays Off More Than Half its San Diego Staff in Restructuring
Neurocrine Biosciences has announced staff reductions of about 130 employees at its San Diego campus, as a part of a restructuring intended to cut its R&D program after the US Food and Drug administration delayed approval of the company’s insomnia drug candidate indiplon for the second time, pending additional data. Neurocrine said the layoff will leave it with about 120 employees.
“In order to meet our goals on other high priority programs, we have to refocus our resources as quickly as possible," Gary Lyons, Neurocrine’s president and CEO, said in a press release announcing the restructuring.

GeneSeek Selects the British Midlands as Base for New UK/European Operations
The British Midlands Development Corporation, the government-funded agency that promotes Central England to expansion-minded North American companies, said Nebraska-based GeneSeek has chosen the British Midlands as the location for its new European operation. GeneSeek will set up operations in BioCity Nottingham, the UK's largest bioscience and healthcare innovation center.
"European expansion is an important component of GeneSeek's growth strategy, which also includes new laboratory and offices in India to address the Asian market," said Abe Oommen, President and CEO of GeneSeek, in a statement.
Oommen told the Lincoln Journal Star the Nottingham location offered the company another advantage: Closer proximity than Nebraska to a client, Scotland’s Roslin Institute, where the sheep Dolly was cloned a decade ago. He also said GeneSeek planned to open a second overseas office in Hyderabad, India.
GeneSeek, which is based at the University of Nebraska Technology Park in Lincoln, Neb., provides R&D services for the Life Science, Agribusiness, Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology industries.

Minot Business Delegation learns About AgBiotech During NDSU Visit
A delegation of business leaders from Minot, ND, recently visited North Dakota State University to meet with NDSU President Joseph Chapman and learn more about the needs of agricultural biotechnology and other technology businesses. The group visited the NDSU tech park and discussed the need for infrastructure, education and workers, the university said in a statement.
"Ag is a big part of where we are headed as a community in terms of business attraction, creating capital investments and creation of jobs. It`s more of a relationship-building exercise. Number two, we wanted to explore and do a little bit of discovery on their research and technical center," said Jerry Chavez of the Minot Area Development Corporation, in a statement.
The delegation consisted of area business and agriculture leaders, city and state officials, and economic development leaders.

RCCC Launches Biotechnology, Agricultural Biotechnology Programs
Rowan-Cabarrus Community College in Salisbury, NC, will launch new associate-degree programs in biotechnology and agricultural biotechnology for the spring 2008 semester, which starts Jan. 9. The school said the programs are designed to prepare students for many of the positions being created at the North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis, NC.
Within the biotech program, students begin with a basic laboratory techniques course and a genetics course. Students in the ag biotech program start with a plant science course as well as the lab techniques and genetics courses.

The Scan

Germline-Targeting HIV Vaccine Shows Promise in Phase I Trial

A National Institutes of Health-led team reports in Science that a broadly neutralizing antibody HIV vaccine induced bnAb precursors in 97 percent of those given the vaccine.

Study Uncovers Genetic Mutation in Childhood Glaucoma

A study in the Journal of Clinical Investigation ties a heterozygous missense variant in thrombospondin 1 to childhood glaucoma.

Gene Co-Expression Database for Humans, Model Organisms Gets Update

GeneFriends has been updated to include gene and transcript co-expression networks based on RNA-seq data from 46,475 human and 34,322 mouse samples, a new paper in Nucleic Acids Research says.

New Study Investigates Genomics of Fanconi Anemia Repair Pathway in Cancer

A Rockefeller University team reports in Nature that FA repair deficiency leads to structural variants that can contribute to genomic instability.