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Dan Gerlach, John Blake, Edward Rendell, Dennis Yablonski, Katherine Wang, Michael Becker, Gov. Bill Ritter Jr., Denise Brown, Jay Gershen, Chris Lepore, Brenda Dempsey, Chirag Patel, Jeff Ghannam

New President of NC’s Golden LEAF Foundation Eyes Biotech Growth in Nash, Edgecombe Counties
The new head of a nonprofit group charged with weaning North Carolina’s rural and distressed communities away from the tobacco industry told the Rocky Mount (NC) Telegram that biotech is among industries he hopes to draw into Nash and Edgecombe counties.
Dan Gerlach, the president of the Golden LEAF Foundation, said in an interview that the counties should prove attractive both to life-sci employers as well as to advanced manufacturers in aerospace, biotechnology or automotive part manufacturing.
Gerlach said Nash and Edgecombe counties have the potential to lure in life-sciences and other tech businesses like those found at North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park. He cited the presence of elected officials interested in attracting such industries, as well as several nearby universities, such as East Carolina University in Greenville, NC, and NC Wesleyan College.
“It’s a challenge, but let’s remember, it took awhile for the Research Triangle to get up and started,” he told the Telegram.
Gerlach joined Golden LEAF on Oct. 1, succeeding Valeria Lee, who retired after leading the organization since 2000. Under Lee, the foundation awarded 689 grants totaling more than $354 million to various projects in agriculture, economic development, workforce preparedness, and education.
Gerlach had served since 2001 as senior policy advisor for fiscal affairs to North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley, a Democrat who will step down at year’s end. Easley will be succeeded in January by Bev Perdue, the Democrat who won the state’s Nov. 4 gubernatorial election. Earlier, Gerlach worked as project director for the NC Budget and Tax Center and, prior to that, worked as a budget analyst in the New York state legislature.
Headquartered in Rocky Mount, NC, Golden LEAF was created by the state legislature in 1999 using half of the funds received by North Carolina under the national tobacco settlement of the previous year. Golden LEAF awards grants to nonprofits and governmental entities focused on economic development and job creation.

Pennsylvania DCED Executive Deputy Secretary Promoted to Acting Secretary
John Blake, executive deputy secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Community and Economic Development since February 2007, has been promoted to acting secretary of the agency by Gov. Edward Rendell. Blake succeeds Dennis Yablonski, who resigned from the post late last month [BRN, Oct. 20].
As executive deputy secretary, Blake had been responsible for the daily administration and operational oversight of the department. Prior to joining DCED, Blake was the director of Rendell’s Northeast Pennsylvania regional office where, for four years, he served as the primary liaison to local government and to the business and economic development community in 15 counties. 
Previously, Blake worked as vice president and senior development advisor for PNC Bank’s northeast and central Pennsylvania markets, where he helped manage and grow a $35 million portfolio of community development loans and investments; served as the primary community development advisor; and served on the PNC Foundation’s allocation committees in both markets.
In 1998, Blake was selected from among 9,000 applicants nationwide to serve a two-year Community Builders Fellowship with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in Philadelphia. He represented HUD in 17 eastern Pennsylvania counties, marketing programs and monitoring contracts for compliance and performance.
Blake earlier served as executive director for the Lackawanna County Redevelopment Authority where he secured and leveraged more than $50 million in federal, state and private investment for housing, public works and infrastructure improvement projects over 15 years.
Blake is a graduate of Villanova University and holds master’s degrees from Marywood College and the University of Scranton.

Life Sciences Lawyer Joins Shanghai Office of Law Firm Sidley Austin
Katherine Wang has joined Sidley Austin as a counsel in the law firm’s life sciences practice. Wang will work from Sidley Austin’s Shanghai office, focusing on corporate, commercial and regulatory aspects of life sciences matters, the law firm said.
Wang previously headed AstraZeneca's legal departments in China and the Asia-Pacific region. At AZ, Wang advised on critical strategic and operational initiatives to ensure statutory compliance and realization of business objectives. Earlier, she worked for McKinsey & Company, a management consulting firm, advising clients in the pharmaceutical and technology industries across Greater China.
Wang received an LLM from Harvard Law School; an LLM from National Taiwan University, where she graduated first in a class of 20; and an LLB from National Taiwan University, where she graduated first in her class of 300.

Michael Becker Establishes Management Consultancy With Focus on Life Sciences
Michael Becker, a veteran life sciences executive and former chairman of the New Jersey industry group BioNJ, has established MD Becker Partners, an independent management consulting firm in Newtown, Pa., with concentrations in the biotechnology, pharmaceutical and medical device industries, as well as in financial services.
Becker, the company's founder, president and CEO, said in a statement his firm will assist clients in the disciplines of investor and public relations, strategic advisory, and operational improvement.
At BioNJ, Becker helped build the organization’s current brand — it was founded in 1994 as the Biotechnology Council of New Jersey — and proposed the establishment of the annual Dr. Sol J. Barer Award, Debbie Hart, president of BioNJ, said in a press release.

Colorado BioScience Association Bestows 2008 Awards on Gov. Ritter, Ex-Director, Three Others
The Colorado BioScience Association has named five people among the seven winners of its 2008 Awards Program, designed to honor individuals and companies deemed to be making a significant difference in advancing the life-sci industries in Colorado. Awards will be presented Nov. 13 at the Denver Grand-Hyatt, during CBSA’s annual awards dinner, to:
  • Gov. Bill Ritter Jr. will receive one of two Chairman’s Awards being bestowed by CBSA, and serve as the dinner’s keynote speaker.
  • Denise Brown, former executive director of CBSA, is being honored for growing the group’s membership from 20 to more than 400 members, and its staff from herself to five people, during her five years at the group’s helm.
  • Jay Gershen, vice chancellor for external affairs at the University of Colorado Denver, will receive the Lifetime Achievement award. Gershen was one of the original board and executive committee members in 2002 of the Colorado Biotechnology Association, forerunner of the CBSA.
  • Chris Lepore, director of state government affairs for Johnson and Johnson, will receive the Volunteer of the Year award. Lepore is a CBSA board member and has been active on the board’s public policy committee.
  • Brenda Dempsey, a biology teacher at Castle View High School in Castle Rock, Colo., will receive the Educator of the Year award. Dempsey is being cited for working to increase awareness and understanding of the bioscience field to her students.
Medical device company CaridianBCT will receive Company of the Year honors, while Sierra Neuropharmaceuticals will be honored as a Rising Star.
CBSA is celebrating its fifth anniversary this year at the dinner, which is being held in conjunction with the 2008 BioWest Conference & Expo. Registration information is available here.

Public Relations Society of America National Capital Chapter Announces 2009 Officers, Board Members and Assembly Delegates
Jeff Ghannam, vice president of communications and membership for the Biotechnology Institute in Arlington, Va., has been elected president-elect of the board of directors of the Public Relations Society of America’s National Capital Chapter for 2009. NCC is the largest PRSA chapter with more than 1,400 members.

PRSA-NCC’s officers, directors and assembly delegates oversee the chapter's more than 50 annual professional development and awards programs designed to advance professionalism and career growth.

Ghannam previously served as treasurer of PRSA-NCC’s board [BRN, Nov. 5, 2007].

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.