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Around the Regions: Dec 22, 2008

Massachusetts Life Sciences Center Launches Corporate Consortium Program
The Massachusetts Life Sciences Center — the quasi-public agency that oversees the state’s $1 billion, 10-year Life Sciences Act — announced Johnson & Johnson will become a charter member of a new Corporate Consortium Program created to provide matching funds for the center’s Life Sciences Accelerator program, and other activities.
Under an agreement approved by the center’s board of directors on Dec. 16, the Johnson & Johnson Corporate Office of Science and Technology will provide $500,000 in funding over the next two years, to be matched by the center. The resulting $1 million will be used to support translational research projects and early-stage life sciences companies throughout the state, the center said.
Other companies will join J&J as consortium members, the center said.
Under the program, the center’s staff will source and review prospective investments and manage the ensuing portfolio. Final investment decisions will be made by MLSC’s board of directors or its investment committee. Johnson & Johnson and other consortium members will hold non-voting seats on the center’s Scientific Advisory Board Investment Sub-committee.
“This follows the center’s strategy of leveraging private sector resources as we work to promote life sciences research, innovation and employment. This sort of creative and collaborative approach to job creation is what’s needed during these difficult economic times,” the center’s President and CEO Susan Windham-Bannister said in a press release.
The accelerator, which is the center’s flagship fund, seeks to invest in companies with scientific and business merit at critical stages of their development cycle with the aim of spurring economic development, creating new jobs and producing new therapies that will improve the human condition and address unmet medical needs.

Connect Report: Before Upheaval, San Diego Region Saw Rising Federal Research Funding, New Company Formation — and Drop in VC
During the second quarter, before the economic upheaval that has frozen the financial markets in recent months, federal research funding to life sciences and other technology companies in the San Diego region rose compared with the year-ago quarter, as did start-up activity — though venture capital funding fell during that period. Those were among findings of the Connect Innovation Quarterly Report released last week by Connect, an organization that promotes the growth of life science and other technology businesses in the San Diego region.
The report, available here and developed in partnership with the San Diego Institute for Policy Research, University of California-San Diego Extension, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Procopio, is designed to track the tech-based “innovation” economy in the San Diego region and the state.
Third-quarter data indicated that despite the financial upheaval of recent months, new technology company creation in San Diego has maintained the pace established in previous quarters. Biotechnology accounted for the largest portion of new businesses, with 30 new companies created, followed by software, with 25 new companies created.
The total in National Institutes of Health grants awarded to San Diego companies and research institutions jumped 27 percent over the past year, from $192 million in the third quarter of 2007 to $244 million in Q3 ‘08. The value of grants awarded to regional winners by the National Science Foundation jumped 86 percent year-to-year, to $82 million in the third quarter from $44 million in the year-ago period.
The third quarter of 2008 saw 1,388 patent applications, a 4 percent dip from the 1,346 applications in the third quarter of 2007. Patents granted dropped almost 16 percent, from 745 in Q3 2007 to 629 this quarter.
During the third quarter of 2008, 38 San Diego region companies received a total $374 million in venture capital — down from $530 million invested in 42 companies a year earlier, according to the report, which cited data from the quarterly MoneyTree Report, released by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association, with data from Thomson Reuters.
The report combines investments in life sciences companies with those in other tech fields and even healthcare and media/entertainment. When broken out, biotechnology accounted for the largest plurality of VC deals $118 million in Q2 deals — down from $227 million in Q2 ’07, though the number of deals stayed steady at 11.

New Indianapolis-Based Venture Capital Fund to Support Innovations in Food and Ag Development
Agribusiness venture capital firm IN Partners announced the successful initial close of its inaugural $27.8 million MidPoint Food & Ag Fund. The fund will focus its investments in bio-based products and processes, human wellness, food safety, animal health, environmental technologies and production technologies.
The concept for the fund originated in studies conducted by Indiana’s public-private life sciences industry group BioCrossroads, which identified an untapped potential of food and agricultural innovations it concluded could create attractive financial returns, new businesses and jobs. The Indiana State Department of Agriculture and the Indiana Economic Development Corp. assisted in the development of the fund.
The managing partners of IN Partners are Andy Ziolkowski and Ronald Meeusen. Ziolkowski previously served with Whitehead Associates, CS First Boston, and Forest Street Capital. Meeusen is an executive with experience in agricultural chemicals, field crop and vegetable genetics and development of food and renewable industrial components. 

Study: Univ. of Central Florida Eyes 30,000 Jobs, $7.6B in Activity During First Decade
The University of Central Florida College of Medicine in Orlando, Fla., set to welcome its first class next year, will create more than 30,000 local jobs and generate $7.6 billion in economic activity over the next 10 years, according to a study released Dec. 19 by the university.
The study, prepared for UCF by Arduin, Laffer & Moore Econometrics, also concluded the medical school could help generate nearly half a billion dollars in additional tax revenues for Florida by 2017.
UCF College of Medicine will welcome its charter class of 40 students on Aug. 3, 2009, and is expected to graduate 120 medical students each year. UCF received more than 4,300 applications for the 40 positions in the first class, helped in no small part by its offer of a $40,000 scholarship for tuition, living expenses and fees for each of the four years of the medical degree program. UCF said that it would be the first medical school ever to provide full scholarships for four years to an entire class.

Advaxis Receives $922,000 from NJ Economic Development Authority
Advaxis, a biotechnology company focused on developing cancer vaccines, has received $922,000 from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority in exchange for the company’s net operating tax losses.
In a related move, Advaxis Chairman and CEO Tom Moore has agreed to grant an extension on the current repayment date of the senior promissory notes with an aggregate principal amount up to $800,000 he extended the company Sept. 22. The new repayment date will be June 15, 2009, or the closing date of the next financing, whichever comes first, instead of Feb. 15, 2009.
Thus far, Advaxis has drawn down $475,000 on the notes and, in light of the current monies granted, the company’s board of directors has agreed to repay $50,000 of that amount in return for the date extension.

Oslo CancerCluster Unveils Plan Aimed at Rescue of Norway’s Life-Sci Sector
Norway’s government is set to decide by the end of January whether to approve a €300 million ($418.4 million) financing package intended to rescue the country’s life science sector from the current economic upheaval.
The package includes:
  • Doubling the size of the existing Governmental Innovation Loan Fund through Innovation Norway to €175 million. These are available to any life science company, private or public, and repayable with interest against set milestones, typically Phase 1 or Phase II results.
  • Creating a new €100 million Bio Innovation Growth Fund, with half the funding to come from government and the rest, from private venture capitalists. A similar fund already exists in Sweden.
  • Creating a new €30 million seed fund, with co-investors, along the lines of another existing proven model in Denmark.
  • Extending R&D tax credits to any company up to 8 years old investing over 15 percent of its revenues in R&D.
More than half of the country’s 25 oncology biotech employers alone expected to face liquidity problems over the next 12 months, the Oslo Cancer Cluster said in arguing that the funding package was needed.
“The entire Norwegian life science sector, not just oncology, is at a critical stage,” said Bjarte Reve, CEO of the Oslo cancer Cluster, in a written statement.

The Scan

Genetic Tests Lead to Potential Prognostic Variants in Dutch Children With Dilated Cardiomyopathy

Researchers in Circulation: Genomic and Precision Medicine found that the presence of pathogenic or likely pathogenic variants was linked to increased risk of death and poorer outcomes in children with pediatric dilated cardiomyopathy.

Fragile X Syndrome Mutations Found With Comprehensive Testing Method

Researchers in Clinical Chemistry found fragile X syndrome expansions and other FMR1 mutations with ties to the intellectual disability condition using a long-range PCR and long-read sequencing approach.

Team Presents Strategy for Speedy Species Detection in Metagenomic Sequence Data

A computational approach presented in PLOS Computational Biology produced fewer false-positive species identifications in simulated and authentic metagenomic sequences.

Genetic Risk Factors for Hypertension Can Help Identify Those at Risk for Cardiovascular Disease

Genetically predicted high blood pressure risk is also associated with increased cardiovascular disease risk, a new JAMA Cardiology study says.