Thursday, December 22, 2005

MdBio and TCM: Merger Before New Year?

According to the Washington Business Journal, the two Maryland bioscience organizations may have finally reached an accord.

MdBio, Tech Council merger inches closer

Neil Adler
Staff Reporter
The two main advocacy groups for Maryland's biotechnology industry appear ready to tie the knot after two years of negotiating in a somewhat tension-filled courtship.
At their most recent board meetings, leaders of MdBio and the Tech Council of Maryland voted to move forward with discussions, and officials say a deal could be wrapped up in the next couple of weeks. The two organizations expect to make an announcement soon, perhaps even before year's end.
Officials from both groups say there are two or three operational issues with the agreement that need to be ironed out before the merger can be completed. Officials declined to provide specifics.
More than a year ago, the organizations called off their attempt at a merger. Negotiations fell through in part because the two had different structures. The Tech Council is a member organization; MdBio was not.
However, in May MdBio announced it would become a membership-driven group. At the time offered it offered $500,000 to buy the Tech Council's biotech membership list. Tech Council officials said no thanks.
That caused a strain in the relationship, a strain that officials say no longer exists.
"We're very optimistic the deal can get done," says Jim Leslie, MdBio's chairman and a senior vice president in the Vienna office of executive search firm
Kincannon & Reed.
MdBio's board voted about two weeks ago to move forward with the merger talks. The Tech Council's board voted Dec. 20 to proceed.
Given the history between the organizations, however, officials are cautious in speaking about the deal until it's done.
"We've still got some things to clean up," says John Nyland, the Tech Council's chairman and an executive with
IBM Global Services in Bethesda.
In September, Nyland told Washington Business Journal that if an agreement was going to be reached by the two organizations, it would happen in 2005. Nyland now says the groups continue to exchange documents as they finalize the merger. They are currently drafting new bylaws for a combined entity.
Under the proposed deal, the Rockville-based Tech Council would have two divisions, one focused on advanced technology companies, the other focused on biotech firms and called MdBio.
Sources say Bob Eaton, president of Frederick-based MdBio, is likely to lead the biotech division.
Eaton declined to comment, saying there is "nothing new to report right now

This would be great news for the entire region. Let's hope they can get it done.

Monday, December 05, 2005

State Funding for Bioscience Research

Here is an article about the need for increased state funding for Virginia's research efforts. UVA and Tech are not in the top 50 yet, so additional funding is critical.

George Mason president calls for more research funds
By Neil Adler, Staff Reporter

George Mason University needs about $25 million in additional funds over the next five years from Virginia lawmakers to propel it into a top-notch research university that will better compete for jobs in biotechnology and other high-tech industries, says its president.

In a meeting Nov. 28 with delegates from Northern Virginia, George Mason President Alan Merten called on the legislators for additional funding, which the university would use specifically to recruit faculty members known worldwide for their focus in cancer biology and bioengineering, as well as the neurosciences.

Merten says the university is hoping to generate research dollars of about $150 million over the next five years, putting George Mason in the top 100 research universities nationwide. Investing in George Mason will benefit Virginia's economy over the long term, university officials say, by attracting additional researchers and biotech companies to the community.

While several hundred biotech and pharmaceutical companies have a presence in Virginia, the bulk of attention -- and research dollars -- still go to research organizations and private-sector companies along the Interstate 270 corridor in Montgomery County, where a much larger cluster of drug-development firms exists.

Local biotech industry officials say for Northern Virginia to rival Montgomery County, universities must do their part by improving education and convincing top scientists and lab researchers to conduct their work locally. Some officials in Virginia say a new campus of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, a roughly $500 million facility slated to open in Ashburn late in 2006, will do its part to command attention.

"George Mason University is poised to become a premier research facility in the world," Merten says in a statement. "The best way to achieve this goal, from an economic standpoint, is to invest in growing Mason's already solid base of highly regarded researchers."

The university says it recently hired Matthew Kluger as its vice president of research. Kluger previously was vice president of research and dean of the School of Graduate Studies at the Medical College of Georgia

Will Governor Warner include any funding for bioscience research or for recommendations from the State Biotech Commission? Rumors are rampant, but no solid info yet...