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New Jersey Stem-Cell Venture Fund, Galveston Economic Development Partnership, North Central Indiana Business Assistance Center, MichBio, BIOCOM Institute, Workforce Alliance, Edison Innovation R&D Wraparound Program

New Jersey Life-Sci Group Sticks With Stem-Cell Venture Fund Bill Despite Assembly Sponsor’s Resignation
New Jersey’s life sciences industry group said last week it would continue championing an Assembly bill that would create a $500 million, five-year venture fund charged with investing in state-based stem-cell research, despite the resignation last week of the measure’s chief sponsor.
Neil Cohen, the state Assembly’s second most powerful member behind Speaker Joseph Roberts (D-Camden), submitted a one-paragraph letter of resignation July 28, four days after two colleagues confirmed that they turned him in to the office of state Attorney general Anne Milgram, alleging that he had downloaded child pornography  
Cohen, a Democrat from Union, NJ, gained national attention in late June after he introduced the stem-cell venture fund bill, known as the New Jersey Stem Cell Research Assistance Act, or A3131 [BRN, July 21]. Cohen’s bill was referred to the Assembly’s Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee, which has taken no action.
Debbie Hart, president of BioNJ, formerly the Biotechnology Council of New Jersey, told BioRegion News last week she saw no reason why state legislative leaders won’t continue to advance the bill. And as they do, she added, BioNJ would be supportive, though its board has yet to adopt a formal position statement.
“In general, anything that supports biomedical research — and stem-cell research is one such — is something our board is certainly behind. Our hope would be that the way the final bill is written, we would hope that it will allow for funding of larger areas of biomedical research,” Hart said.
Hart cited a local news report saying A3131 would be advanced by one of the bill’s supporters or “co-sponsors.” Their names could not be learned at deadline, since unlike many other states, New Jersey bills do not always include lists of supporting co-sponsors.
But a legislative staffer told BRN the news report cited by Hart was inaccurate, and that Cohen’s successor will have first shot at sponsoring A3131. If that person — whom Gov. Jon Corzine has yet to appoint — passes on the opportunity, a co-sponsor would then emerge to champion the bill.
Union County Democrats were expected within a month to name someone to fill Cohen’s seat until voters in his former 20th Assembly District choose a successor on Election Day Nov. 4.
A-3131 was one of 342 bills introduced this legislative session by Cohen, 94 more than any other New Jersey lawmaker.

Galveston, Tex. Voters to Decide $4M Tax Extension; Incubator Among Proposed Uses
Voters in Galveston, Tex., will decide whether the city can proceed with an extension of its half-cent economic development or “4B” tax, approved last week by the City Council — an extension that business leaders want the city to use part of toward creating a biotech incubator, the Galveston County Daily News reported.
The public-private Galveston Economic Development Partnership wants the council to set aside part of its 4B tax revenues toward the incubator, contending it can help expand the biotechnology industry now drawn to Galveston Island because of the presence of the National Biocontainment Laboratory at the University of Texas Medical Branch.
Last week the council approved the extension, which would be divided equally between infrastructure, beach reconstruction, park facilities and job creation and retention projects. The council would set aside $1 million per year for each category, toward bonds for large projects. But if voters turn down the extension, the city stands to lose about $4 million in tax revenue.

Indiana Awards $100K for Two-Year, Regional Tech Commercialization Program
Indiana will spend$100,000 over two years to launch a new program aimed at linking patent-producing businesses in the life sciences and other industries, and academic institutions with manufacturers and marketers in the state’s North Central region deemed capable of commercializing new technologies.
The two-year grant will fund the North Central Indiana Business Assistance Center in Elkhart, Ind., as it works to link businesses and entrepreneurs with technologies capable of creating new jobs in Elkhart, as well as nearby Fulton, Kosciusko, Marshall and St. Joseph counties.
The business assistance center will hire a professional to actively identify research from the state's research universities and find companies interested in using the new technologies. The center already maintains an online listing of patents and companies, available here.
The center plans to announce the hiring “in the coming weeks,” according to a press release.
The grant is part of the state's Regional Economic Development Partnership Program, first announced last year. The program, operated by the Indiana Economic Development Corp., provides matching grant dollars to multi-county efforts aimed at creating and implementing programs “that increase regional competitiveness in job creation, workforce development, entrepreneurship and the development and targeting of industry clusters,” the press release stated.

MichBio Announces Program for 2008 Expo and Conference, Set for Nov. 18-19

MichBio, Michigan’s statewide life sciences industry association, has announced the program for its 2008 Expo and Conference, set for Nov. 18-19 at the Rock Financial ShowPlace in the Detroit suburb of Novi, Mich.


The first day will, for the first time, feature the Michigan Emerging Life Sciences Showcase, a preview of up-and-coming regional bioscience companies. The showcase will host presenters from both “emerging”/ “pre-seed” companies, and seed/early-stage companies conducting proof-of-concept research, or further along in executing their business and product development plans.

The first day will also feature the Michigan Life Sciences Summit, a gathering of leaders from the state’s research institutions, scientists, entrepreneurs, CEOs of biosciences companies, economic development organizations, investors, and policymakers. The summit’s goal is to develop a “roadmap” or policy plan for growing Michigan’s life sciences industries. Participants will discuss Michigan’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities; as well as identify critical priorities, MichBio stated in an announcement.
Following the first-day reception, MichBio member CEOs will gather for an exclusive dinner forum to discuss a variety of industry challenges that include R&D costs, the decline in research productivity and pipelines, drug-pricing pressures, regulatory constraints, future trends in R&D innovation, corporate partnering, and the prospect of change in healthcare delivery.
The second day will begin with a breakfast forum, during which CEOs of Michigan’s leading health systems will discuss the effect of biotechnology on their industry, from diagnostics and predictive medicine, to the design, layout and mission of hospitals.
For the first time this year, the Expo will feature a session track focused on manufacturing companies looking to diversify or increase their business in the medical device industry. Other tracks include R&D, medical affairs and markets, and emerging business topics.
Last year’s Expo drew more than 450 attendees and 60 exhibitors. Click here for information on sponsorships, and exhibit space.

BIOCOM Institute Secures Non-Profit Status and $60,000 from Pfizer, San Diego Foundations
The BIOCOM Institute, a San Diego charitable organization focused on promoting life sciences education and careers among students in kindergarten through 12th grades, has secured non-profit status and $60,000 in funds toward its mission to serve as a bridge between learning institutions and biotechnology, pharmaceutical and medical device companies.
The funding consists of $30,000 grants from both the Pfizer Foundation and the San Diego Foundation. The funds will support the Science Education Speakers Bureau Project, a program of the institute that matches industry professionals with guest speaking and K-12 teaching opportunities.
The institute is a 501 (c) (3) arm of BIOCOM, the San Diego region’s life sciences industry group, with more than 570 member companies in Southern California.

Florida’s Workforce Alliance Honored for Biotech Training Program by US Labor Department
Workforce Alliance, the nonprofit operator of the workforce development system for Florida’s Palm Beach County, has received the US Department of Labor's Recognition of Excellence Award, in the category of “Educating America's Workforce to Serve Emerging Industries.” The annual award program honors workforce investment programs from around the country deemed to have achieved outstanding success.
Workforce Alliance was honored for its Biotechnology Training Program, which ended in 2007. The program was launched in 2004 with a $2.3 million labor department grant that funded a partnership with regional educators and employers, as well as the establishment of a certificate-granting program and opportunities for careers with biotechnology employers in Palm Beach County.
Nearly 100 participants undertook the training, in a partnership with Florida Atlantic University, Indian River Community College, and biotechnology employers in Palm Beach County. Of the participants, 56 earned bioscience certificates, six earned advanced bioscience certificates, and three are now pursuing master's degrees. Employers that have hired participants include Scripps Florida, Palm Beach Cancer Institute, the Florida Department of Health, and Molecular MD.
The Workforce Alliance program influenced the establishment a new biotechnology laboratory at Indian River State College, formerly Indian River Community College; as well as laboratory and distance-learning upgrades at Florida Atlantic University.
Randy Johnson, chairman of Workforce Alliance’s board; Doug Saenz, coordinator of the biotech program; and Ruben Garcia-Ordonez a graduate of the program now employed as a researcher for Scripps Florida, accepted the award from Brent Orrell, deputy assistant secretary of labor for employment and training, at a recent national conference held by the labor department.

Life-Sci Company Awarded a Working Capital Loan from NJ’s Edison Innovation R&D Wraparound Program
Aestus Therapeutics of North Brunswick, NJ, has been awarded a $100,000 working capital loan through New Jersey’s new Edison Innovation R&D Wraparound Program. The program allows Aestus and other recipients to fund non-research and development-related costs, including rent, capital, construction, and utilities.
Qualified companies must first be approved for an Edison Innovation R&D grant from the New Jersey Commission on Science and Technology; Aestus was approved for a $500,000 grant last December. Up to 20 percent of the approved grant can be issued by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, in the form of a 10-year subordinated convertible note with a fixed interest rate of 2-percent for the loan’s first five years. 

Aestus, a pharmaceutical company focused on the treatment of nervous system disorders, is a tenant at the Commercialization Center for Innovative Technologies, part of the larger Technology Centre of New Jersey in North Brunswick.

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.