Sunday, December 31, 2006

Recap of 2006 Biotech in Maryland and Virginia

Another recap from the DC Examiner-- This highlights biotech in Virginia and Maryland.

Biotech industry makes significant strides in 2006
Katie Wilmeth, The Examiner
Dec 28, 2006 3:00 AM (3 days ago)
Current rank: Not ranked

WASHINGTON - The region’s biotechnology industry took center stage in 2006 as several high-profile successes showcased Washington’s growth in the highly competitive sector.

The October opening of Janelia Farm — a $500 million, 689-acre state-of-the-art research campus dedicated to basic biological research in Ashburn, Va. — demonstrated the region’s ability to attract world-renowned scientists and drew the attention of even more investors to the region.

“It’s the single largest science investment of the decade and it will probably have the most impact for [Virginia], maybe for decades to come,” said Larry Rosenstrauch, director of economic development for Loudoun County, in a September interview. “We have to recognize this is a global asset that has landed in our region and we have to try and use it.”

October also saw a successful biotech fair that attracted hundreds of venture capitalists and numerous local biotech firms in search of capital. Though the event was only the second bio-focused venture capital fair for the region, it was a sign that biotechnology was on the same path as the region’s other highly successful industry: information technology.

“We wanted to create a platform where private equity and venture investors felt they could do business around the growing industry of life sciences,” said Julia Spicer, president of sponsoring organization Mid-Atlantic Venture Association, in a September interview.

MAVA launched a similar fair, Capital Connection, 20 years ago when the region’s technology industry was finding its footing and today the conference is one of the most respected in the industry.

Several individual biotech firms had notable successes in 2006. MedImmune, the region’s most successful biotech company by revenue, broke ground on a $250 million plant in Frederick, Md., that will allow it to manufacture vaccines in the state. While there are many biotech firms in the region, there is limited manufacturing capability. MedImmune’s plant points to a maturing of the industry, said economic development officials.

MedImmune’s expansion “is important. All of this is evolutionary,” said Aris Melissaratos, Maryland’s secretary of business and economic development, in September. “For every drug in the pipeline, you want to get [to the manufacturing stage].”

Several companies, including Vanda Pharmaceuticals, also went public, each one an important step in turning Washington’s research-focused industry into a commercial one.

“I really think [success] is when you have more publicly traded companies,” said Tim Priest, executive director of the Greater Washington Initiative, a regional organization that markets the Washington area to potential biotech companies looking for a home. “We have a handful of companies that are forces in their industry ... but there’s a deficiency in this region. We don’t commercialize as much as we should.”

As more investors look to Washington as a biotech region, local industry leaders expect to see the industry gain ground on competitors. There were also signs in 2006, that the industry was beginning to catch up to the region’s robust the IT industry. In the second quarter, for example, venture capital investments in local biotech firms overtook both software and telecommunications.


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