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Florida Innovation Incentive Program, Eli Lilly, North Carolina Biomanufacturing and Pharmaceutical Training Consortium, Biotechnology Greenhouse of Southeastern Pennsylvania, Massachusetts Workforce Training Fund, Koch Membrane, Integra Radionics, Univer

Bill Regulating Florida’s Innovation Incentive Program Passes State Senate
A bill requiring greater legislative oversight of Florida’s Innovation Incentive program is headed for the state House of Representatives after passing the state Senate last week — though not without some changes, as well as an unsuccessful attempt to tie the bill to Florida’s ongoing spring training baseball attraction effort.
The amendments to Senate Bill 2778, available here, require the state to set aside $20 million of general revenue in the fiscal year starting July 1 to guarantee loans by rural and cash-strapped municipalities seeking to attract employers in the life sciences and six other industries targeted for attraction. The six are aerospace, alternative energy, aviation, information technology, nanotechnology, and robotics.
Florida requires local governments to match state subsidies awarded under the Innovation Incentive program, a key incentive credited with attracting a half dozen research institutes to the state — the Burnham Institute for Medical Research, the Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Science, SRI International, the University of Miami’s Institute for Human Genomics, and Germany’s Max Planck Institute. [BRN, Jan. 14; Oct. 8, 2007]. 


The program’s ability to repeat that success over the next few years is constrained, however, since some municipalities have exhausted their available funds for subsidies, typically used for roads, water and sewer systems — while other municipalities have lacked the cash to compete with more affluent neighbors for life sciences employers and their jobs.
“It will be a critical support to local governments with a focus on those that are rural, who have constrained local resources, as well as their private partners to help get traditional financing from a local bank,” Gregory Giordano, chief legislative assistant to state Sen. Mike Fasano (R-New Port Richey), who introduced the original bill and chairs the state Senate’s Transportation and Economic Development Appropriations Committee.
Previous versions of the bill did not include the loan guarantee program, officially known as the Building Florida's Future Revolving Trust Fund and initially covered by a separate bill, Senate Bill 2714, available here.
Not included in the amended Bill 2778 were amendments proposed from the state Senate floor, then withdrawn, with the goal of boosting Florida’s competitiveness with Arizona and other states in attracting and retaining the spring training facilities of major league baseball teams.

Lilly Cutting 500 Jobs in Restructuring of Indianapolis Manufacturing Operations
Eli Lilly said it will cut 500 jobs in a restructuring of its manufacturing operations in its headquarters home of Indianapolis. The job cuts will affect sites that manufacture active pharmaceutical ingredients for the insulin products Humalog and Humulin as well as for the osteoporosis medicine Forteo.
Lilly said in a press release the cuts would allow the company to better align its needs with its manufacturing capacity and engineering support services.
Lilly will offer a voluntary exit program to selected employees, with unspecified “enhanced financial incentives” for those who leave the company. While most of the affected jobs are in manufacturing, the company said “a small portion” will be in selected areas of research and development.
John Lechleiter, Lilly’s president and CEO, said in the release Lilly will take a charge against second-quarter 2008 earnings, with the size of that charge depending on the number of employees that take the exit package. Lilly’s latest cuts bring to 12 percent or 5,500 the number of jobs eliminated since mid-2004.

With New Name, NC Biotech Workforce Training Partnership Seeks Greater Impact

The educational partnership created to develop a workforce for North Carolina’s life sciences industry has changed its name to NCBIOIMPACT from the North Carolina Biomanufacturing and Pharmaceutical Training Consortium. The partnership said its new name was intended to improve its public recognition as well as atreamline access to its component groups.

The new group, which also has a new logo, will continue to combine education, industry and nonprofit organizations. They include the Golden LEAF Biomanufacturing Training & Education Center on North Carolina State University’s Centennial Campus; the Biotechnology Research Institute and Technology Enterprise, also called BRITE; the NC Community College System BioNetwork; the North Carolina Biotechnology Center; and the North Carolina Bioscience Organization.

The partnership is credited with drawing several biomanufacturing plants to North Carolina — including the $300 million vaccine manufacturing facility Merck will open next year in Durham County, set to bring 200 jobs; and a $267 million vaccine manufacturing plant for Novartis in Holly Springs, to employ 350 people.

Golden LEAF, a non-profit foundation that invests in long-term economic development projects in the state, provided $70 million in startup funding for the consortium – its largest investment in a single enterprise.

BRITE plans to dedicate a 52,000-square-foot laboratory and classroom building in June at NC Central University. The facility will house new undergraduate and graduate degree programs in pharmaceutical science.
The new name and logo were developed with the assistance of Forma, a Raleigh-based marketing firm specializing in biotech, life science and high technology.

Greenhouse’s VC Fund Joins Series B Round for Diabetes Therapeutics Maker
A venture capital fund established by BioAdvance, operator of the state-created Biotechnology Greenhouse of Southeastern Pennsylvania, participated as an investor in a Series B financing round for Diasome Pharmaceuticals, a Conshohocken, Pa., clinical-stage developer of diabetes therapeutics.
BioAdvance Venture Fund joined the two leaders of the round, Philadelphia-based Quaker BioVentures and Devon Park Bioventures of Wayne, Pa. The value and other terms of the financing round were not disclosed.
Diasome said it plans to use the financing to fund late-stage human clinical testing of its oral HDV-Insulin drug delivery system, and to continue development of the various dose forms of HDV Insulin.

Two Massachusetts Companies Win $259K in State Workforce Training Grants
Two Massachusetts-based companies with a life sciences focus were among eight recipients of state Workforce Training Fund grants totaling a total $517,193 toward training for 850 workers. The awards were part of the $18 million for 200 companies to train 16,000 workers announced earlier this month by Gov. Deval Patrick as part of an economic stimulus plan.
The Workforce Training Fund, administered by the Department of Workforce Development, under the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, provides business and labor organizations with matching grants of up to $250,000 — or more, in certain cases — to finance incumbent worker training. More details are available here.
Among the grants:
  • Koch Membrane — The Wilmington, Mass., maker of membrane filtration systems serving the life sciences, other industries and municipalities will receive $201,860 to train 210 workers in lean manufacturing tools to addresses challenges in the company’s three families of membrane products.
  • Integra Radionics — The Burlington maker of medical devices for minimally invasive procedures will receive $57,150 to train 34 workers in leadership management development, communications, human resources and technical skills.
Since the fund’s inception in 1999, more than 4,100 grants have been awarded totaling over $150 million to train more than 208,000 Massachusetts workers.

UW Bothell Launches New Biotechnology and Biomedical Technology Institute
The University of Washington Bothell has launched a Biotechnology and Biomedical Technology Institute that promises to serve the region’s life sciences industry.
According to its web page, available here, the institute “seeks to engage government and business leaders, and the citizens of Washington State, in an ongoing conversation about the future of these technologies, their implications for society, and their role in the local, state, national, and global economies.”
Among the institute’s activities will be providing information, educational opportunities, and research; serving as a forum for scholars, business leaders, government officials, students, and citizens to exchange information; and promoting UW Bothell as a life sciences industry leader.

Alliance Worknet Wins $240K US Labor Dept. Grant for Biotech Retaining of Idled Workers
The US Dept of Labor has awarded a grant of nearly $240,000 to Alliance Worknet, a workforce development group serving Stanislaus County, with the goal of developing strategies to retrain laid off workers for jobs in the biotechnology sector, California Job Journal reported.
The initiative is intended to serve mortgage-industry workers who lost their jobs as their industry has shriveled in recent months — as well as workers idled since last December when chocolate giant Hershey shut down its Oakdale, Calif., plant and shifted the plant’s operations to a facility in Mexico, according to minutes available online of the Feb. 25 executive committee meeting of an umbrella group of Stanislaus County agencies, the Stanislaus Economic Development and Workforce Alliance.

DIA Hosting 1st Indian Regulatory Conference April 28-29 in Mumbai
The Drug Information Association will take the first step in a three-year plan for expansion into India when it hosts its 1st Indian Regulatory Conference from April 28-29 in Mumbai. The conference is intended to highlight the challenges and opportunities in quality and clinical trials, safety, and post-marketing.
Headquartered in Horsham, Pa., DIA has an office in Mumbai as well as Tokyo and Basel, Switzerland. DIA has hosted two earlier conferences in India focused on drug discovery and clinical development in India, and is working to develop a volunteer and member network in Mumbai.
Registration fees range from $150 for government, academic and nonprofit attendees to $225 for industry attendees. For information, contact Constance Burnett at 215-293-5800 or [email protected].

Life Sciences-Focused RiverVest Venture Partners Closes on Fund II
RiverVest Venture Partners, a St. Louis venture capital firm focused on investments in life sciences companies, has completed fundraising for its second fund, RiverVest Venture Fund II LP, with total committed capital of $75 million from private investors.
Fund II will pursue the same investment strategy as Fund I, with a focus on early-stage medical device and biopharmaceutical opportunities. The Fund II portfolio currently includes six active companies, three of them co-founded by RiverVest.
RiverVest's first fund, a licensed small business investment company, had total private capital of $45 million, plus one tier of leverage from the US Small Business Administration. Of the 10 active companies in RiverVest's Fund I portfolio, five are in medical devices, three in biopharmaceuticals, one in specialty pharmaceuticals, and one in healthcare services. Eight of the 10 are fully funded to profitability or an exit. Half of Fund I’s 16 investments were made in Midwestern companies, including three in St. Louis. 

Affitech Joins Norwegian Stem Cell Tumor Therapy Consortium
Affitech, a Norwegian human antibody therapeutics company, has joined the Norwegian Center for Stem Cell Based Tumor Therapy, a new academic-industry consortium in Oslo that receives funding from the Research Council of Norway. Affitech will use its proprietary Cell Based Antibody Selection platform to identify molecules of clinical interest in fighting cancer cells with stem cell-like features.

The Scan

Unique Germline Variants Found Among Black Prostate Cancer Patients

Through an exome sequencing study appearing in JCO Precision Oncology, researchers have found unique pathogenic or likely pathogenic variants within a cohort of Black prostate cancer patients.

Analysis of Endogenous Parvoviral Elements Found Within Animal Genomes

Researchers at PLOS Biology have examined the coevolution of endogenous parvoviral elements and animal genomes to gain insight into using the viruses as gene therapy vectors.

Saliva Testing Can Reveal Mosaic CNVs Important in Intellectual Disability

An Australian team has compared the yield of chromosomal microarray testing of both blood and saliva samples for syndromic intellectual disability in the European Journal of Human Genetics.

Octopus Brain Complexity Linked to MicroRNA Expansions

Investigators saw microRNA gene expansions coinciding with complex brains when they analyzed certain cephalopod transcriptomes, as they report in Science Advances.