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GlaxoSmithKline, University of Massachusetts, Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, Rules-Based Medicine, Gene Logic, High Tech Rochester, Haryana Urban Development Authority, Virginia Council on Advanced Technology Skills

GSK, Montana Officials Cut Ribbon on $137M Expansion of Hamilton Plant
GlaxoSmithKline dedicated a $137 million addition to its Hamilton, Mont., biotechnology production plant in an Oct. 18 ceremony attended by company executives and state and local officials.
The 130,000-square-foot addition will allow the plan to triple its production of monophosphoryl Lipid A, an adjuvant to be added to vaccines. The plant expansion is part of a global expansion of GSK’s vaccine production effort announced in 2005.
Construction of the addition is almost complete, and full-scale production is set to begin sometime in the middle of 2008. When that happens the plant’s workforce will reach 290 employees, up from the current 260 – double the number of employees based there in June 2006.
In December 2006, Montana’s Department of Commerce awarded a $400,000 community development grant to Ravalli County toward the training of 53 employees through a 14-week lab technician program through the University of Montana.

UMass Survey Cites 74-Percent Support by CEOs for $1B Massachusetts Biotech Bill
A survey released by a project of the Boston and Lowell campuses of the University of Massachusetts reported staunch support among CEOs across the state for the $1 billion, 10-year biotech bill proposed by Gov. Deval Patrick.
Patrick’s Life Sciences Initiative found support from 74 percent of CEOs surveyed by the Massachusetts Economic Assessment and Analysis Project, in a study released last week. An equal percentage said they believed the bill would likely increase the state’s overall rate of economic growth.
"An Act Providing for the Investment In and Expansion of the Life Sciences Industry in the Commonwealth" would have the state spend $500 million on public education and other facilities, and life sciences equipment; $250 million on fellowships, research grants, and workforce training programs; and $250 million on tax subsidies targeted to job creation. State-funded UMass stands to benefit from the measure, since it includes $66 million toward a stem cell bank and $38 million toward an RNA interference center, both to be built at the university’s Worcester campus.
The stem cell bank would make available for public and private research stem cell lines held by eight institutions — Boston University, Brigham & Women's Hospital, Children's Hospital, Harvard University, Massachusetts General Hospital, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Partners HealthCare, and the University of Massachusetts.
According to MEAAP, only 13 percent of CEO respondents said their companies were involved in any way in the biotechnology, pharmaceutical, or medical device or instrumentation industries – yet 38 percent said they thought the governor’s overall approach would be helpful to their companies.
MEAAP surveyed more than 500 CEOs of companies with 20 or more employees. The poll has a margin of error of 4.5 percent. Full results of the poll can be found here.
MEAAP was established by the state legislature in 2003 to inform policy makers, the media, and the public about economic trends in Massachusetts and to track the performance of state economic stimulus programs.

Mass. Biotech Council to Hold Ninth Annual Biotech Investor Conference Nov. 8
The Massachusetts Biotechnology Council will explore investment trends and opportunities in life sciences, with a focus on public and venture-stage growth companies, at its ninth annual Mass Opportunities Investor Conference, to be held Nov. 8 at the Hilton Boston Logan Airport hotel.
Former investment banker and biotechnology entrepreneur Stelios Papadopoulos, whose career in the industry spans more than two decades, will provide the keynote address, titled “The Declining Role of Innovation in Biotech.” Papadopoulos co-founded Exelixis, Anadys Pharmaceuticals, Inc., and Cellzome, and is vice-chairman of the board of directors of BG Medicine.
More than 30 local public and private companies are set to showcase their technologies and products at the conference, expected to be attended by more than 500 CEO's, portfolio managers, venture capitalists, healthcare analysts, and professionals from the academic, clinical, and technology transfer communities.
Participating companies include Acceleron, Alnylam, Alseres, Arqule, BioVex, Coley, CominatoRx, Critical Therapeutics, Dyax, Dynogen Pharmaceuticals, Epitome Biosystems, Exact Sciences Corporation, Genstruct, Gwalthmey, Helicos Biosciences, Inotek Pharmaceuticals, Molecular, Biometrics, Molecular Insight Pharmaceuticals, Momenta Pharmaceuticals, Nitromed, Oscient Pharmaceuticals, Primera Biosystems, Targanta Therapeutics, Transmolecular, Transport Pharmaceuticals, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, and Ziopharm.

Texas Biomarker Testing Lab Raises $25M in Series A Funding Round
Rules-Based Medicine, a multiplexed biomarker testing laboratory in Austin, Tex., has raised $25 million in a series A private financing round led by the Sam Zell-founded Equity Group Investments. Joining EGI in the round were Cross Creek Capital, the private equity affiliate of Wasatch Advisors; and Stephens Capital Partners. The financing will provide growth capital, debt repayment, and funding for acquisitions and investments to discover and validate biomarkers for medical diagnostics, RBM said. In conjunction with the funding, EGI managing director Matt Zell has joined RBM’s board of directors.
Stephens Inc. served as RBM’s exclusive placement agent and financial advisor for the offering, the first since RBM was formed in 2002.

Gene Logic Exits Genomics in $10M Deal; Will It Also Exit Gaithersburg, Md.?
Gene Logic of Gaithersburg, Md., may leave Maryland as a result of a $10 million deal announced last week in which it agreed to sell its founding genomics business to Indianapolis-based Ocimum Biosolutions.
Gene Logic President and CEO Charles L. Dimmler III told the Daily Record of Maryland his company will stay in Maryland at least through 2008, but has not seriously studied what it will do after that: “We are not in any hurry to relocate,” he said. “If we decide to relocate … it’ll have to be for a good reason. At this point, we’re not even thinking about it.”
Gene Logic operates a 58,000-square-foot plant in Gaithersburg where 65 genomics employees are based. The company also employs 55 in Cambridge, Mass., a number Dimmler said could grow to 75 by the end of 2008.
The deal leaves Gene Logic with only its drug repositioning and development division, launched three years ago to join pharma companies in repurposing failed drug candidates.
Ocimum has said it plans to retain the former Gene Logic team in Gaithersburg.

Partnership Agreement Turns High Tech Rochester Into University Subsidiary
High Tech Rochester, a nonprofit organization that promotes the creation and growth of technology companies, will become a subsidiary of the University of Rochester under a partnership agreement announced last week. The new arrangement will create an integrated system of technology commercialization services within UR by bringing legal and intellectual property services, financial assistance, business support, and incubation facilities for technology start-ups all under one roof.

In a press release announcing the partnership, University of Rochester president Joel Seligman said the agreement would promote local growth of biotech and other tech sectors.

Under the agreement, the University of Rochester will be the sole member of HTR. Its other current members — including the city of Rochester, Monroe County, Nixon Peabody, Rochester Business Alliance, Rochester Gas and Electric, and the Finger Lakes Manufacturers Council — will continue to appoint members to serve on the organization’s board of directors. The board will be expanded by adding regional economic development stakeholders including academic institutions, entrepreneurs, and other private sector leaders.

HTR operates two technology incubators, including the region’s only biotech incubator on behalf of UR. These services and facilities will continue to be available to any eligible company regardless of their affiliation with the university, UR said.


India’s Haryana Urban Development Authority Launches Panchkula Tech Park
India’s Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) has allotted 97 acres of land for development of a technology park in Panchkula, between the hills adjoining Gurudwara Nada Sahib along National Highway No 73 and Ghaggar River. A sum of more than Rs 8.50 crore ($2.1 million) has so far been incurred on various developmental works in the park, The India Times reported.
HUDA projects the technology park would generate 40,000 jobs and promote the growth of local biotech companies, as well as businesses in IT, ITES, robotics, nanotechnology, mobile computing, mobile communication, chip manufacturing, genetics and other R&D specialties.

MichBio Announces Formation of Biotechnology Legislative Caucus
MichBio, the statewide trade group for Michigan's life sciences industry, announced the formation of a new Biotechnology Legislative Caucus during its annual Expo and Conference held last week in Lansing.
Stephen Rapundalo, MichBio executive director, said in a press release the caucus will be a bipartisan body whose membership is open to any interested legislators. Its leadership group will include state Reps. Dave Hildenbrand (R-Lowell), Bill Huizenga (R-Zeeland), Robert Jones (D-Kalamazoo), and Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor), along with Sens. Tupac Hunter (D-Detroit), Randy Richardville (R-Monroe), Tony Stamas (R-Midland) and Gretchen Whitmer (D-Lansing). Their districts in large part reflect the distribution of key research and commercial hubs in biotechnology and life sciences around Michigan, Rapundalo said.

VCATS Wins Technology-Based Economic Development Award from SSTI
The Virginia Council on Advanced Technology Skills has received the Excellence in Technology-based Economic Development Award, the highest honor for exceptional achievement in technology-based workforce development from the State Science and Technology Institute. The award was presented to VCATS project director Sheryl Bryan at SSTI’s national convention Oct. 18, in Baltimore.
VCATS – a statewide initiative co-led by the Virginia Biotechnology Association and the Virginia Manufacturers Association and Training & Development Corporation – is leading a new employer-validated certification system and an employer-designed training program for advanced manufacturing technicians.
The SSTI award is the third national honor for the one-year-old VCATS initiative. VCATS won a $1.5 million grant from the US Department of Labor as well as the 2007 Southern Growth Innovator Award, given by the Southern Growth Policies Board.

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.