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Mass. Gov. Patrick, Legislative Leaders Plan Mid-February Approval for Biotech Bill
 
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and leaders of the state General Assembly have agreed on a timetable for action on his proposed $1 billion, 10-year Life Sciences Initiative — confirming comments made to BioRegion News last month by the chairman of the Joint Legislative Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies, Rep. Daniel Bosley (D-North Adams).
 
Patrick, state House of Representatives Speaker Salvatore DiMasi (D-Boston) and state Senate President Therese Murray (D-Plymouth) issued a joint statement in which they agreed to a mid-February deadline for “full legislative action,” following hearings on portions of the bill by Bosley’s committee and two others.
 
Bosley told BRN he foresaw legislative approval of the bill early in 2008: “I’m looking at the very latest, it will be the end of January.” [BioRegion News, Nov. 5].
 
The agreement followed complaints by Patrick — leveled Oct. 30 in testimony before Bosley’s committee — that state lawmakers have been too slow to act on his bill, leaving life sciences businesses reluctant to undertake large investments in the state. Patrick blamed “inaction” by the legislature for Novartis’ decision to choose Singapore over Massachusetts and Switzerland, where the company is headquartered, as the site of a planned 700,000-square-foot manufacturing plant set to employ 400 people.
 

 
Ben Franklin Tech Partners Sues Opko for Leaving State, Not Paying Relocation Fee
 
Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania has sued Opko Health for allegedly breaching a contractual obligation requiring it to pay it more than $800,000 worth of stock warrants if one of its business components was to move out of the state before an agreed-upon date, according to a BRN sister publication, RNAi News.
 
The suit, filed in a US District Court early this month, accuses Opko of refusing to make good on a promise made by Acuity Pharmaceuticals to provide BFTP-SEP with the warrants if it moves out of Pennsylvania before March 2, 2009.
 
An Opko spokesperson said the company does not comment on pending litigation. Officials from BFTP-SEP did not return requests for comment.
 
Click here to read the complete RNAi News story.
 

 
Alexandria, UF Join to Develop New Innovation Center for Life Sciences Startups
 
The University of Florida has reached agreement with Alexandria Real Estate Equities, a publicly traded real estate investment trust, to develop up to 160,000 square feet of life science- and technology-related laboratory and office space on the UF campus.
 
Alexandria has begun planning for the first of the two buildings that will comprise the project. The approximately 80,000-square-foot building, to be called the Innovation Center, will rise south of UF’s Cancer & Genetics Research Building, near the intersection of Archer Road and Gale Lemerand Drive. The building will combine Alexandria’s proprietary amenities with space for companies and neighborhood retail space. The Innovation Center is expected to be completed in 2010, with a second building “expected to be constructed within several years,” UF said in a statement.
 
Headquartered in Pasadena, Calif., Alexandria owns and operates about 12 million square feet of office/lab properties, and has more than 7 million square feet of office/lab space under development.
 

 
NYC Planning Commission OKs Modified Rezoning Plan for Columbia U. Expansion 
 
New York City’s Planning Commission on Nov. 26 voted to approve a modified version of Columbia University’s rezoning plan for the 17-acre Manhattanville manufacturing zone in the West Harlem section of Manhattan. 
 
The commission approved rezoning the zone for academic mixed-use, in return for commitments by Columbia to build nearly 1,000 units of below-market housing for employees. Columbia would develop approximately 820 new units of university housing in the project area, and another 159 units of graduate student housing on other land already owned by the university.
 
Columbia also agreed to change the planned use of one building from academic research to housing; change the use of a second academic research building to an unspecified other use; reduce the scale of its new buildings; widen the public walkway leading to public open space between 130th and 131st streets; and commit $4 million to expand the university’s support for legal aid services to tenants facing unlawful eviction or harassment.
 
Columbia has previously pledged to relocate residents of about 130 apartments now living within the project zone to “high-quality, alternative affordable housing” within the community. The university has also agreed to provide $20 million in seed capital to an affordable-housing revolving loan fund intended to create and preserve a total of 1,100 below-market housing units within Community Board 9, whose jurisdiction includes the project zone, under an agreement announced in September with Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.
 
But the promises have not been enough to stave off opposition from a coalition of residents, civic groups, and owners of commercial property, who have demanded Columbia rule out acquiring properties for the project via eminent domain, and scale down the project as recommended by CB9 earlier this year in a land use plan prepared under Article 197-a of the City Charter. 
 
Opponents restated those demands the day after the planning commission vote at a rally outside City Hall. The final decision rests with the City Council, which is expected to take up the issue Dec. 19.
 

 
Science Foundation Arizona Joins ASU, BP on Renewable Biofuel Research Partnership
 
Arizona State University has formed a research partnership with energy company BP and Science Foundation Arizona to develop a renewable source of biofuel. The research effort focuses on using an optimized photosynthetic bacterium to produce biodiesel for conventional engines.
 
The partnership will develop a rooftop pilot production facility in which a series of photobioreactors will allow blue-green cyanobacteria to be grown in transparent tubes that capture sunlight. The renewable biofuel project is the latest in a series of SFAz’s Strategic Research Group awards, designed to cultivate research partnerships within the state by leveraging state funds with matching industry investment.
 
"This collaborative effort gives Arizona the opportunity to lead the world in solar technology development in a span of five to 10 years and reap enormous benefits: environmental impacts, wealth generation resulting from commercialized technologies, and economic implications for entire regions," SFAz president William Harris said in a press release announcing the partnership.
 

 
Commercialization Center Marks Launch in Central Texas Bioplex as Third Tenant Signs
 
The nonprofit Texas Life Sciences Commercialization Center in Georgetown, Texas, celebrated its official launch Nov. 29 with a formal ceremony, and an announcement that a third tenant business has signed a lease. Nanotech company Quantum Logic Devices joins Radix BioSolutions and Orthopeutics, two tenants based at TLCC since it opened in September.
 
Located on 5.5 acres off Interstate 35B, north of Inner Loop, TLCC is designed to support companies in the post-incubator commercialization stage. Facilities include a biotechnology wet lab and fume hood, a nanotechnology Class-100 clean room with atomic force microscope and other semiconductor-level equipment, and common space for video conferences and receptions.

Georgetown’s economic development department has joined the Greater Austin Chamber, the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce, Southwestern University, and the University of Texas to recruit additional tenant companies. More than four years in development, TLCC is affiliated with the Texas Healthcare and Bioscience Institute, and governed by a seven-member board that includes Georgetown Mayor Gary Nelon, Georgetown chamber president Mel Pendland, Georgetown Independent School District school board of trustees president Bradley Smith, representatives from Southwestern University, the law firm Fulbright and Jaworski, the Georgetown Healthcare Foundation, and the Georgetown Economic Development Department.
 

 
Ann Arbor SPARK Awards $1.5M to Startups from Michigan's 21st Century Jobs Fund
 
Ann Arbor SPARK has awarded a total $1.5 million to five life sciences companies that have committed to employing staffers about to lose their jobs when Pfizer shuts down its Ann Arbor, Mich. R&D operations by mid-2008:
  • Integrated Nonclinical Development Solutions, a provider of toxicology consulting and informatic services, received $50,000.
  • Lycera, a developer of small molecule drugs for psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and cancer, $400,000.
  • Phrixus Pharmaceuticals, a heart-failure pharmaceutical company, $350,000.
  • SensiGen, a gene-based molecular diagnostics company, $300,000.
  • TransPharm Preclinical Solutions, a contract research organization, won $400,000.
TransPharm is based in Jackson, Mich.; the rest, in Ann Arbor. Combined, the companies employ 20 people and project adding another 49 jobs in 2008.
 
The money is part of $3.75 million the nonprofit group has received from Michigan’s 21st Century Jobs Fund, specifically its company formation and growth fund, which offers loans at below-market interest rates.
 

 
Biotech Park Captures Awards for Economic Development, Brownfield Reuse
 
Gateway Park LLC, a joint venture of Worcester [Mass.] Polytechnic Institute and the public-private Worcester Business Development Corp., has won a pair of national honors.
 
The venture won the 2007 Excellence in Economic Development Award for Urban or Suburban Economic Development from the US Department of Commerce at a Nov. 29 ceremony at the biotech park. The award recognized the transformation of a 19th century industrial site into Gateway Park’s first structure, the WPI Life Sciences and Bioengineering Center at 60-68 Prescott St. The center opened in April, and will be followed over the next few years by three additional buildings, one each of 140,000, 100,000, and 80,000 square feet [BioRegion News, Sept. 10].
 
The award honors projects that use “innovative, market-based strategies to improve urban or suburban economic development results.” Urban-suburban is one of seven categories for the economic development excellence award, intended to recognize “innovative economic development strategies of national significance.”
 
Days earlier, WPI and WBDC received the national Phoenix Award for US Environmental Protection Agency Region 1. Phoenix award criteria include the magnitude of the project and its problems, the use of innovative techniques, the cooperative efforts of multiple parties to undertake the project, the positive impact on the environment, and the project’s general and long-term economic impacts on the community.
 
The center includes WPI's corporate and professional education division, the WPI Bioengineering Institute, and faculty researchers from several academic departments, including biology and biotechnology, biomedical engineering, chemistry and biochemistry, and chemical engineering. The building also houses Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives, a non-profit incubator; and will soon house RXi Pharmaceuticals, a startup co-founded by Nobel laureate Craig Mello. RXi has signed a 20-month lease to locate in the WPI Life Sciences and Bioengineering Center with the option to become the lead tenant of the planned 100,000-square-foot building. [BioRegion News, Oct. 29].
 

 
Alamance Community College Dedicates New Biotech/Health Building
 
Alamance Community College in Graham, NC, has dedicated a $6.4 million, 35,312-square-foot new building completed in October as a new home for students in the school’s biotech, nursing and other allied health fields.
 
The Powell Building is named for several members of the Powell family, who founded Carolina Biological Supply and LabCorp, and started construction in October 2006 after the state and county both issued bonds for the purpose. Architects Moser Mayer Phoenix Associates of Greensboro designed the facility and Central Builders of Mebane was the general contractor.
 
The third floor of the building is dedicated to biotechnology, which has more than double the space in the new facility. The nursing, nursing assistant and medical assistant programs are located on the second and first floors, which includes areas set up to look like a hospital and physician offices.
 

 
Kansas Bioscience Authority OKs $3.5M for Lawrence Drug Development Company
 
The Kansas Bioscience Authority has awarded $3.5 million to drug development company Deciphera Pharmaceuticals of Lawrence. Kan., toward an expansion projected to yield up to 175 new jobs.
 
Deciphera will initially receive $3 million toward the purchase of equipment and development of a laboratory and office complex in a business park on the eastern side of Lawrence, then $500,000 once it fulfills its goal of adding between 125 and 173 new workers to its current work force of 26.
The average annual wage of the new Deciphera jobs will be about $70,000.
 
Founded in 2003, Deciphera develops drugs for cancer, cardiovascular disease and other ailments. The company’s president and CEO, Daniel Flynn, is an adjunct professor of medicinal chemistry at the University of Kansas.
 

 
Singapore's Pharmaceutical Production Output Continues to Lag Behind Last Year
Paced by a 19.5 percent drop in pharmaceuticals production, Singapore has recorded a 15.3 percent decline in the output of biomedical products manufactured there in October versus the year-ago month, according to the nation’s Economic Development Board. The board cited a different composition mix of active pharmaceutical ingredients" compared to last year.

The October results mark an improvement over those of September 2007, which showed a 37.1 percent plunge in manufacturing output from the pharma sector compared with September 2006. But the pharma falloff helped lower total manufacturing output in October by 0.9 percent over October 2006, the board reported.

 
But biomedical firms questioned in a board survey remain optimistic about 2008, with 22 percent of firms expecting conditions to improve over the next six months, up from 10 percent at the close of the second quarter 2007.
 

 
Pennsylvania DCED OKs $250,000 Grant for Keystone Innovation Zone
 
A regional partnership of four colleges and universities and four economic development organizations in northwest Pennsylvania has received a grant of $250,000 from Pennsylvania’s Department of Community and Economic Development to establish the Northwest Pennsylvania Keystone Innovation Zone.
 
The new zone’s goals include assisting up to 20 companies, launching four start-up businesses, creating at least 20 new full-time jobs, providing research support to 50 entrepreneurs, filing three patent applications, placing up to 15 interns at companies within the zone, and helping bring up to $500,000 in companies within the zone.
 
The zone is intended to help create technology-based jobs in Clarion, Crawford, Mercer, and Warren counties. Life sciences is one of four industries targeted by the zone; the others are clean tech, energy conservation and environmental sustainability; advanced manufacturing; and information technology.
 
Four different KIZ areas have already been approved, all in Clarion County — including the Biotechnology Business Development Center at Trinity Point, which will house a 13,000-square-foot incubator as well as Clarion University’s Small Business Development Center.
 
The partnership consists of Allegheny College, Clarion University, the University of Pittsburgh-Titusville, and Thiel College, as well as financial institutions, economic development service providers and private companies. The Northwest Pennsylvania Regional Planning and Development Commission will serve as fiscal agent and administrator for the newly designated KIZ.
 

 
Karolinska Institutet Opens New Science Park, CTMH in Flemingsberg, Sweden
 
The Karolinska Institutet Science Park and the Center for Technology, Medicine and Health has opened in newly renovated premises south of Stockholm in Flemingsberg, Sweden, near Karolinska University Hospital and several academic institutions.
 
Karolinska Institutet will incorporate the older Novum Research Park and offer to tenants a business incubator with experienced coaches, plus space for lease and support services. Next to the science park will be CTMH, a cross-border venture established through the joint agency of the medical university Karolinska Institutet, the Royal Institute of Technology, and the Stockholm County Council with the goal of developing scientific innovations.
 

 

Northwest Development Agency Names Winners of 2007 Bionow Awards

The UK’s Britain’s Northwest Development Agency has announced its winners of its Bionow Awards 2007. Biomedical Project of the Year was won by Epistem, while biomedical start-up of the year was claimed by Ioata Nanosolutions. University of Liverpool's ESC Substrates won the translational technology prize. Healthcare project of the year was given to Osteodent, while the biomedical company of the year prize, which was sponsored by Cheshire-based AstraZeneca, was won by Renovo.

Renovo, which specializes in scar prevention and reduction, anounced in October it will lease another 25,000 square feet at the University of Manchester Incubator Company's core technology facility. Renovo

will also retain 4,100 square feet of its current 8,500 square feet within UMIC's Manchester Incubator at Grafton Street, near the university campus.

 

The Scan

Not as High as Hoped

The Associated Press says initial results from a trial of CureVac's SARS-CoV-2 vaccine suggests low effectiveness in preventing COVID-19.

Finding Freshwater DNA

A new research project plans to use eDNA sampling to analyze freshwater rivers across the world, the Guardian reports.

Rise in Payments

Kaiser Health News investigates the rise of payments made by medical device companies to surgeons that could be in violation of anti-kickback laws.

Nature Papers Present Ginkgo Biloba Genome Assembly, Collection of Polygenic Indexes, More

In Nature this week: a nearly complete Ginkgo biloba genome assembly, polygenic indexes for dozens of phenotypes, and more.