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Lexington Venture Club, George I. Alden Trust, Rhode Island Science and Technology Advisory Council, Georgia Bio, Maryland Department of Buisiness and Economic Development, Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, Academic Medicine Development Company, Empire


Survey: Funding Nearly Doubles for Lexington, Ky., Early-Stage Companies
The Lexington (Ky.) Venture Club’s annual survey recorded an 82 percent year-over-year increase in the funding received in 2007 by 55 early-stage companies in the region — to $64.5 million, including $37 million in venture capital.
The survey included biotechnology businesses as well as companies in the healthcare, information technology, advanced manufacturing and other sectors. The companies recorded a cumulative employment growth of 35 percent last year, to 422 people.
“This survey demonstrates the strong growth that is possible if we focus our economic development efforts in key areas, such as horse, healthcare and high-tech industries,” Lexington Mayor Jim Newberry said in a statement.

WPI Receives $6M for New Undergraduate Life Sciences Laboratory Center
Worcester (Mass.) Polytechnic Institute has recently received a $6 million grant from the George I. Alden Trust for the renovation and integration of several undergraduate laboratories into the school’s new Undergraduate Life Sciences Laboratory Center to be built within Goddard Hall.
The new center will consolidate the lab instruction of four departments in a single place, becoming WPI's main facility for undergraduate teaching and research in biology and biotechnology, biomedical engineering, chemistry, biochemistry, and chemical engineering. Renovation of the center’s 21,300 square feet is slated to begin this July, with occupancy planned for February 2009.
The gift was the largest in the Alden Trust's 95-year history, and the second given by the trust to WPI toward improving undergraduate academic facilities. The Alden Trust has contributed a total $11 million toward WPI's effort to improve undergraduate life sciences education.
The undergraduate life science lab center will be a counterpart of WPI’s Gateway Park, which was completed last year at 60-68 Prescott St., within a former industrial section north of the city’s downtown. Gateway Park serves as the school's focal point for graduate education and research in the life sciences and related bioengineering fields [BioRegion News, Sept. 10].

Rhode Island STAC Seeks Incubator Relocation and Expansion, More Aid for Research Alliance
Rhode Island officials should expand the Slater Technology Fund's life sciences incubator and relocate it to Providence's Jewelry District, as well as increase funding for the statewide Research Alliance so it can expand its activities.
Those were two recommendations made to Gov. Donald Carcieri by the Rhode Island Science and Technology Advisory Council at its quarterly meeting on Jan. 25. STAC made its recommendations in its 2008 annual report, “Innovate RI: Innovation and Economic Prosperity in Rhode Island,” which can be read here.
Later this year, Slater will issue a formal request for proposals from one or more organizations willing to join the technology fund in fitting out a space with approximately 10,000 square feet, with options to enable the center to grow further in future years. The center would initially accommodate up to 10 or more seed stage, life sciences ventures.
This year, STAC’s Collaborative Research Award program will award $1.5 million to nine projects representing 24 scientists from 14 research organizations across Rhode Island. Last year the program awarded nearly $1.5 million to 32 scientists from 15 research institutions.
To make a case for greater research alliance funding, STAC will develop a formal engagement plan this year “that deepens support for the alliance among participating institutions and defines new opportunities for collaboration,” the organization said in a Jan. 25 announcement.

GaBio, Innovation Crescent Partners Awarded $500,000 Workforce Development Grant
Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue’s Office of Workforce Development has awarded a $50,000 Work Ready Region Grant to Georgia Bio, the state’s 330-member life sciences industry group, and several partner organizations with the goal of growing and training the state’s life sciences workforce.
The workforce development effort will focus on a 13-county region called the Innovation Crescent. It stretches from Cobb County east to Oglethorpe County, and includes Atlanta and Fulton, DeKalb, Clayton, Gwinnett, Barrow, Jackson, Walton, Morgan, Oconee, Athens-Clarke, and Madison Counties. Education and workforce development programs developed in the region could be implemented statewide.
The goals of the effort are to create a life sciences career pathway from high school to technical colleges to universities; create training for the existing life sciences industry workforce; eliminate the skills gap using Work Ready Certificates and Work Ready job profiling; and increase high school graduation rates through Certified Work Ready Communities.
In addition to GaBio and the Governor’s Office of Workforce Development, partners include the Georgia Bioscience Technology Institute, a joint program of the Athens and Gwinnet Technical Colleges; Biotechnology Institute of Arlington, Va.; Georgia Research Alliance; Georgia Department of Technical and Adult Education; Georgia Department of Economic Development; Atlanta Regional Commission; and University of Georgia’s Fanning Institute. Work on the 18-month grant project begins this year.

Maryland DBED Awards $50,000 to Small-Molecule Drug Development Company
The Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development has approved a $50,000 grant for Neuronascent, a small-molecule drug development company based in Clarksville, Md.
The grant is being awarded through DBED’s Challenge Investment Fund, and will cover part of the initial costs associated with bringing to market a new drug intended to treat Alzheimer’s disease. Companies must provide matching funds to be eligible for grants from the fund, which assists small start-up companies in the life sciences and other high-tech sectors, to a maximum of $150,000. To be eligible, a company must have no more than 25 employees and annual sales revenues of $1 million or less.
Founded in 2004 by Judith Kelleher-Andersson, the company’s president and chief scientific officer, Neuronascent has laboratories in Rockville, Md., and Walkersville, Md.

UK Awards $10,000 from President’s Fund to Each of 13 Research Projects
The University of Kentucky has awarded $10,000 from its President’s Fund, controlled by UK president Lee Todd, to a life sciences project among 13 research projects or “Commonwealth Collaboratives” intended to tackle quality-of-life issues.
The Advanced Manufacturing Partnership is a collaboration of Robert Gregory of the Center for Manufacturing and UK’s Martin School of Public Policy and Administration. The project aims to strengthen Kentucky’s biotechnology and nanotechnology sectors into key components of the region’s economic development effort.

Consortium Selects Strategic Vendor Partner for Shared-Use Mouse Facility
The Academic Medicine Development Company — a consortium of 28 of New York State’s medical schools, academic health centers and major medical research institutions better known by the acronym AMDeC — has selected Taconic Farms as its strategic vendor partner for the planning, development and management of a shared-use mouse breeding facility at the i.park N-Valley campus planned for the New York City suburb of Yonkers, NY.
“Over the next four to six weeks, bids are scheduled to go for the design phase of the project. Construction should rapidly follow,” AMDeC spokeswoman Cheryl Fiandaca told BioRegion News last week.
The facility is expected to be completed and occupied by AMDeC by the spring of 2009. The mouse facility is projected to house 40,000 mouse cages and related support services within 50,000 square feet space at i.park N-Valley, a former industrial building at 470 Nepperhan Ave. that is now a multi-tenant commercial building. The facility will be built by i.park N-Valley owner National RE/Sources, a Greenwich, Conn., developer.
The breeding facility is being funded with $7 million secured from the New York State Senate to begin the project’s design phase.
AMDeC said in a press release that the Yonkers facility will be the first of its kind in the nation. Four New York area research institutions have committed to using the breeding facility: Rockefeller University, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York University School of Medicine and the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System. AMDeC contends the Shared-Use Mouse Facility will allow its affiliated researchers and institutions to cut costs and attract high level scientists capable of generating federal research-grant dollars.
Taconic Farms has six breeding facilities and three service laboratories in the US and Europe as well as distributors in the Far East, and a global staff of more than 900 employees.

GaBio’s 2008 Deal of the Year Winners Highlight Life Sciences Industry Activity in Georgia
Georgia Bio has announced four winners of its 2008 Deal of the Year awards, all of which were honored at the GaBio Annual Awards Dinner held Jan. 24 at the Westin Buckhead Atlanta.

Deal of the Year awards recognize financings, partnering agreements, government grants and other transactions by life sciences companies deemed to be significant to the development of Georgia’s life sciences industry.

The 2008 winners:
  • Sciele Pharma for its $110 million acquisition of Alpharetta, Ga.-based Alliant Pharmaceuticals, a pediatric specialty pharmaceutical company. Sciele develops prescription drugs for cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and products for the women's health and pediatrics markets
  • GeoVax of Atlanta, for its $15 million Integrated Preclinical/Clinical AIDS Vaccine Development grant from the National Institutes of Health in October 2007. The grant will fund the Phase II clinical trial of its HIV/AIDS vaccine, as well as expansion of the company’s scientific team. GeoVax is a developer of human HIV/AIDS vaccines;
  • Metastatix of Atlanta, for its $35 million Series B financing, the state’s largest venture capital funding of 2007, to conduct clinical trials of Metastatix’s lead drug candidate for cancer. Metastatix is a developer of orally administered small-molecule drugs for diseases such as cancer, inflammation and HIV; and
  • The Innovation Factory of Duluth, Ga., a privately funded healthcare incubator with a portfolio of eight companies, for its success in starting and developing medical device companies. Two of these companies, OsteoLign and AqueSys, raised $10 million and $2 million, respectively, in venture capital funding in 2007.

Akrimax Buys Wyeth Plant in Rouses Point, NY; Wins $3M on Job Retention Promise

Akrimax Pharmaceuticals has agreed to retain all of the nearly 800 jobs at the Rouses Point, NY, plant it has agreed to purchase from Wyeth Pharmaceutical, in return for a $2 million capital grant from the Empire State Development Corp., New York state’s economic development agency, and another $1 million in state money secured through state Sen. Elizabeth O’Connor Little (R-Queensbury).

During a two-year transition period, Akrimax will lease part of the facility to Wyeth, and Wyeth will continue operations until Akrimax integrates its own products into the facility’s operations. Akrimax has promised to eventually hire all of the plant’s Wyeth employees.

Wyeth’s plans mark an about-face from the company’s October 2005 announcement that it would shut down the Rouses Point manufacturing plant this year. Some 900 jobs linked to the plant would have been lost in the Canadian border village, state officials estimate.

The Wyeth pharmaceutical plant in Rouses Point includes about 1 million square feet of manufacturing space, and currently produces products that include Premarin, a menopause hormone therapy drug, and Effexor XR, an anti-depressant. Akirmax is expected to bring additional business through contracts with third parties.

New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who announced the Akrimax acquisition Jan. 16, said in a press release that the job-retention promise would continue his state’s largest pharmaceutical manufacturing operation. He and Wyeth also announced the pharma giant would retain two other upstate operations, its R&D facility in Chazy, NY, and its packaging plant in Plattsburgh, NY.

Wyeth Pharmaceuticals will maintain chemical separation operations at Rouses Point, Wyeth R&D in Chazy, and Wyeth Packaging in Plattsburgh.

New Jersey EDA Invests in Equity Fund for Life Science, Medical Device Companies

The New Jersey Economic Development Authority has finalized an investment of an undisclosed amount in the limited partnership NewSpring Health Capital II, a healthcare equity fund managed by NewSpring Capital.

The fund will invest $2 for each $1 EDA invests in companies in the life sciences, medical devices and healthcare services fields.

EDA made its investment under the state’s Edison Innovation Fund, created to support technology and life sciences companies throughout their discovery, development and commercialization stages.

Formed in 1999, NewSpring Capital is a family of dedicated funds totaling more than $500 million.

The EDA is responsible for managing the Edison Innovation Fund in consultation with the New Jersey Commission on Higher Education and the New Jersey Commission on Science and Technology. To date, the EDA has committed over $30 million in venture capital funds, resulting in more than $90 million being invested in New Jersey companies.

New York Biotechnology Association Sets Feb. 12 as Lobbying Day in Albany

The New York Biotechnology Association, the Empire State’s life sciences industry group, will send a delegation of members to the state capital of Albany Feb. 12 to meet with legislators and their staffers and to seek continued support for increased funding and other industry priorities.

Nathan Tinker, the association’s executive director, said in a statement that NYBA will emphasize the industry’s size in New York — more than 58,000 people, earning an average annual wage of $63,000 — and workforce increase of 53 percent over the past decade.

New York ranks third, behind California and Massachusetts, in total biomedical research funding awarded by the National Institutes of Health.

Outsourcing Services Provider Expands Presence within Central and Eastern Europe

ICON, a global provider of outsourced development services to the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device industries, said it has opened new offices in Prague, Kiev, and Bucharest, as part of an expansion of its clinical research activity in Central and Eastern Europe.

ICON said its new facilities are strategically located near leading teaching hospitals and national clinical research sites, providing access to investigators and patient groups.

Alan Morgan, president of ICON Clinical Research Europe, said in a statement the region’s large homogenous patient populations, competitive approval timelines and a networks of investigators “offered great opportunities and facilities for drug development.”

The company already has two offices in Russia, in Moscow and Novosibirsk, and one office each in Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Hungary.

French Ultrasound Treatment Firm Retains New York Investor Relations Agency

EDAP TMS SA, a Lyon, France, company specializing in high intensity focused ultrasound treatment of localized prostate cancer, announced this week that it has retained the Ruth Group of New York as its investor relations agency.

EDAP said the Ruth Group “will work to increase awareness of EDAP's corporate focus and growth strategy across the investment community.”

Henderson, Nev., Honors NeoStem with Economic Development Award for Expansion

NeoStem, a developer of adult stem cell technologies, was honored as a leading biotechnology company by the city of Henderson Nev., at its Ninth Annual Economic Development Awards on Jan. 24.

The award follows the expansion of NeoStem's adult stem cell collection center network into Henderson, allowing individuals to store their own stem cells for future medical use.

The Scan

UK Pilot Study Suggests Digital Pathway May Expand BRCA Testing in Breast Cancer

A randomized pilot study in the Journal of Medical Genetics points to similar outcomes for breast cancer patients receiving germline BRCA testing through fully digital or partially digital testing pathways.

Survey Sees Genetic Literacy on the Rise, Though Further Education Needed

Survey participants appear to have higher genetic familiarity, knowledge, and skills compared to 2013, though 'room for improvement' remains, an AJHG paper finds.

Study Reveals Molecular, Clinical Features in Colorectal Cancer Cases Involving Multiple Primary Tumors

Researchers compare mismatch repair, microsatellite instability, and tumor mutation burden patterns in synchronous multiple- or single primary colorectal cancers.

FarGen Phase One Sequences Exomes of Nearly 500 From Faroe Islands

The analysis in the European Journal of Human Genetics finds few rare variants and limited geographic structure among Faroese individuals.