Monday, March 31, 2008

BIO Welcomes Two New State Organizations Aboard Industry Council

BIO Welcomes Two New State Organizations Aboard Industry Council

Oklahoma and Nevada Join Coalition Promoting Growth and Understanding of the Biotechnology Industry

WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Today the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) announced that newly-formed bioscience organizations in Oklahoma and Nevada have agreed to join the Council of State Bioscience Associations (CSBA), an autonomous council operating within BIO.

“We are very pleased to welcome the Nevada Biotechnology and Biosciences Consortium and the Oklahoma BioScience Association as members of the CSBA," said Patrick Kelly, Vice President of State Government Relations and Alliance Development at BIO. "The CSBA is an integral part of BIO's advocacy infrastructure. We work closely CSBA member organizations to improve understanding of the bioscience industry and advocate for policies that help promote industry development throughout the United States. With the addition of Nevada and Oklahoma, the CSBA grows to 47 organizations in 42 states."

“As members of the CSBA, these new biotechnology associations will be able to draw upon the support of their colleagues in the other state capitals across the country,” said Mark Herzog, chairman of the CSBA and executive director of the Virginia Biotechnology Association. “That network has been essential over the last several years as state legislatures weigh the risks of not adequately investing in the growth of this life saving industry.”

About BIO

BIO represents more than 1,200 biotechnology companies, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers and related organizations across the United States and in more than 30 other nations. BIO members are involved in the research and development of innovative healthcare, agricultural, industrial and environmental biotechnology products. BIO also produces the BIO International Convention, the world’s largest gathering of the biotechnology industry, along with industry-leading investor and partnering meetings held around the world.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Georgia Program Encourages Biotech Careers

Another great program from our friends at Georgia Bio!

Group urges students to biotech industry
By Tom Corwin | Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Ashleigh Gardner has seen the change in her classmates at A.R. Johnson Health Science & Engineering Magnet High School after they visited the laboratories and clinics at Medical College of Georgia.

"It's allowed us to see many different career fields that I know a lot of people weren't thinking about before, and it's opened up a lot of options for us," the 18-year-old senior said. "And that's a really good thing."

Georgia thinks so, too. Through a group called Georgia Bio, the state is working to encourage more students to think about going into the biomedical field. The group is helping to push for approval of a high school biotechnology curriculum by the State Board of Education this summer. It has started a pilot project in four counties that link high school programs with technical schools to produce biotechnology-related degrees, said Cinda Herndon-King, the director of education programs for Georgia Bio.

"We're trying to make sure there's a pipeline of workers (for biotech companies)," she said.

Dr. Herndon-King was in Augusta on Tuesday to look at the MCG-A.R. Johnson partnership and talk about how the school can take advantage of an educational mission that teacher Carl Hammond-Beyer will make in June to a biotechnology education program and the 2008 Biotechnology Industry Organization's international convention in San Diego.

The convention is an annual highlight for the industry and brings together thousands of biotechnology companies. The state is keen to make a bigger splash in biotechnology, particularly with Atlanta playing host to that convention next year, Dr. Herndon-King said.

"Industry isn't just in Atlanta. Industry is all over the state," she said.

The state ranks seventh in terms of publicly traded biotechnology companies, Dr. Herndon-King said.

"We have the ability to do much better," she said.

Mr. Hammond-Beyer is expected to conduct some training for his fellow teachers when he returns, and he is eager to do more with his students in biotechnology, such as study DNA fragmentation and "some of the stuff that CSI does," he joked. Now is the time for education to step up to biotech, although Assistant Principal Tim Parker said the biotechnology curriculum could probably not begin until the 2009-10 school year.

"You can't sit on the sidelines too long and wait," Mr. Hammond-Beyer said. "You have to jump in the game. Our students have science aptitude. They just eat that stuff up."

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

VCU Massey Cancer Center to partner with Israeli biotech firm

The Virginia Commonwealth University Massey Cancer Center will open a Phase I pancreatic cancer study later this year in conjunction with leading researchers from Israel, marking the first time cancer researchers at VCU have partnered with their counterparts in Israel.

The study is supported by a $950,000 grant from the U.S.-Israel Bi-National Industrial Research and Development Foundation (BIRDF). Leaders from the Virginia Israel Bioscience Commercialization Center (VIBCC) helped to foster Israeli interest in research at VCU.

The clinical trial, designed by Massey principal investigator Ray Lee, M.D., Ph.D., involves a novel targeted therapeutic agent developed by BioCancell of Jerusalem and will offer new hope for one of the most difficult-to-treat cancers.

This collaboration is a tangible outcome of the initiative launched by the Virginia BioTechnology Research Park more than a year ago to recruit Israeli life science companies with innovative products and technologies to Virginia and the Research Park, said Robert T. Skunda, President and CEO of the research park.

The world, indeed, is getting flatter, said Donna Edmonds, executive director of the Virginia Israel Bioscience Commercialization Center. By importing and exporting high-quality medical research and building collaborative clinical studies such as this, we can work toward saving more lives of people with cancer in Virginia and across the globe.

Gordon D. Ginder, M.D., director of the VCU Massey Cancer Center, said, Having an organization dedicated to promoting Virginias academic, clinical and biotechnological expertise is a boon to the Commonwealth. As federal funding for cancer research in the United States has shrunken in the face of expanding scientific opportunities for better treatment and prevention, its vital that we explore international collaborations and funding sources, too. We are grateful to the VIBCC for serving as a beacon to guide international funding and research opportunities to us.

About Pancreatic Cancer

About 30,000 people die from pancreatic cancer each year. It has a high mortality rate and ranks as the fourth leading cause of cancer-related death as its symptoms often do not present until the disease is in a late stage. Fewer than 5 percent of patients survive for more than five years, giving pancreatic cancer the lowest survival rate of any common cancer type.

Currently the best treatment option for pancreatic cancer is through high-risk surgical removal of part of the pancreas. However, if the cancer affects surrounding vessels and lymph nodes, surgery often is not an option. Chemotherapy and radiation provide alternative treatment options, however, the median survival rate on those protocols is just one year.

About the Clinical Trial

This study involves a novel, gene-based therapy for pancreatic cancer developed by BioCancell. Its new therapeutic agent links a DNA fragment that is responsible for tumor-specific expression of a gene, with a suicidal toxin gene. When the agent is injected directly into the tumor, the DNA fragment will induce the expression of the suicidal toxin in the cancer cells but not in normal tissue. The researchers expect to avoid damaging normal tissue while killing tumor cells.

Candidates for the study are adults with locally advanced pancreatic cancer who are not candidates for immediate surgical resection. Researchers will inject the new agent into cancer directly through a laparoscopic procedure.

Using this approach in pancreatic cancer, they hope that tumors could be down-staged from unresectable status, or inoperable, to resectable, giving patients a better chance of remission.

This agent has been tested and shown to be effective in animal models and anecdotally in two metastatic cancer patients in Israel. The liver lesions of those two patients showed success in shrinkage.

Beginning in the summer of 2008, Massey expects to begin enrolling patients. Lee is the principal investigator, and Brian Kaplan, M.D., a surgical oncologist at Massey, will be the co-principal investigator performing the laparoscopic surgery. Abraham Czerniak, M.D., Ph.D., of Sheba Medical Center, Ramat Gan, Israel, will be responsible for the Israeli arm of the study, which expects to enroll one-third of the total patient base.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Virginia Science Fair: April 12


The Virginia State Science Fair is coming up on April 12 at George Mason University in Fairfax. VaBIO will once again send judges to select and present awards for the best in biotechnology. Those interested in serving as a judge should contact VaBIO at 804-643-6360.

Posted by Picasa

Pictures from the SWVA Science Forum

More than 100 people attended the VaBIO and NCTC "Southwest Virginia Science Forum last Thursday at the Fralin Biotechnology Center at Virginia Tech. Check out the pictures...

Check out the VaBIO gallery here:

A big thanks to our sponsors Matt Latimer and Aric Bopp.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Jerry Nadler to Leave UVA for EVMS

Published on | (
U.Va. researcher is EVMS' first catch in new initiative


In renowned diabetes researcher Dr. Jerry Nadler, Eastern Virginia Medical School has landed its $8 million man in the hope that he'll pay off big in more medical research dollars and better health care for Hampton Roads.

"He serves as the epitome of the kind of people we need," said Gerald Pepe, EVMS' dean, who hired Nadler away from the University of Virginia's medical school to head its internal medicine department.

Nadler is the first big recruit for a research initiative Pepe announced in the summer of 2006.

At the time, he envisioned increased study of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and women's and infant health issues. Established researchers would mentor promising beginners. And coveted National Institutes of Health grant money would roll in.

Nadler has all of those areas covered, Pepe said.

Nadler is chairman of the endocrinology and metabolism department at U.Va. that in 2007 was ranked eighth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.

His research focuses on the cardiovascular effects of diabetes and how heart disease - and its treatments - differ between men and women. He also has served as a mentor, helping promising researchers get NIH grants.

With financial help from Sentara Healthcare, Nadler was lured to EVMS in part by an $8 million package that will pay for him to "recruit a cadre of top-notch faculty and provide each with nationally competitive research development packages," Pepe said. The result will be an expanded diabetes center and a new cardiovascular research center.

While $8 million may sound like a lot of money, Pepe characterized the package as "modest" for "highly recruited leaders like Nadler" who typically could ask a school to invest as much as $40 million in a new research team.

When Pepe began his initiative, he intended to recruit established research stars rather than people just starting out in their careers.

"It's less expensive to do it the other way," said Nadler, who will be replacing the retiring Dr. Leon-Paul Georges at EVMS in July. "But it doesn't work."

Nadler said he will be bringing about $1 million in NIH grants to EVMS, which in 2007 had about $3.5 million. His move to Norfolk also means that an NIH-funded research program from the U.Va. endocrinology department will be jointly run at EVMS.

But beyond the immediate research dollars, Pepe said that NIH is increasingly looking for research that takes an interdisciplinary team approach and can demonstrate the possible health benefits down the line. That's the centerpiece of his research initiative and something Nadler is especially good at, Pepe said.

Pepe said he has gotten calls from researchers saying, " 'I hear Dr. Nadler is coming.' It's an opportunity to bring in the rising stars."

EVMS has traditionally had strength in its clinical and teaching aspects, but has been less successful in attracting NIH grants, considered the gold standard for medical research.

The school's amount of NIH funding was ranked 115th out of 123 medical schools in 2005, the latest year NIH ranked the schools. U.Va.'s medical school was ranked 33rd.

But what EVMS does have, Nadler said, is a dean who is an NIH-funded researcher himself - referring to Pepe, a scientist who studies the effects of estrogen on pregnancy.

Nadler said he was drawn to EVMS, in part, by the prospect of "working for someone who understands what you want to do.... A dean who understands research. That's very exciting for me."

What EVMS also has is a much larger patient base than U.Va. in Charlottesville. That area had a significantly smaller population and lower rates of diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure in 2005 than all of the cities in Hampton Roads, according to the Virginia Atlas of Community Health.

"It's a big moment for the dean and the faculty, and it's also good for what ails us in our community. We've got another star working on diabetes" and cardiovascular disease, said EVMS President Harry Lester. "He's working on things that can translate for better health care in Hampton Roads."

Nadler said EVMS has the facilities now for him and his team to get started but "in two years, that's going to be saturated." A new building to house classrooms and labs is critical and would attract more researchers to EVMS, Nadler and Pepe said.

School officials are advocating for the $59 million cost of the building to be included in a higher education bond package now before the General Assembly.

"Everything is here to make it work," Nadler said. "I bring another component to foster what's already here."

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Bob Eaton Merges Two Biotech Associations in AZ

Former MdBio President, Bob Eaton, has succeeded in merging two competing biotech associations in Arizona! Great job, Bob!

PHOENIX - (Business Wire) The Arizona BioIndustry Association (AZBio) has restructured its operations, in order to better support the growth and success of its member companies and to unify, empower and advance the bioscience industry throughout Arizona. AZBio has integrated with the Bioindustry Organization of Southern Arizona (BIO-SA), and a new Board of Directors has been selected to lead the association.

"One of the key actions recommended in Arizona's Bioscience Roadmap is to strengthen the state's industry representation by creating a true statewide organization," said Saundra Johnson, executive vice president of the Flinn Foundation, which commissioned the 2002 Roadmap study by Battelle. "The new statewide structure for AZBio addresses this gap. It will help provide greater support and services for Arizona's bioscience companies and enable the state's industry to speak with a unified voice."

The new AZBio structure will allow the organization to balance its statewide programs and activities with a strong regional presence in the Tucson, Phoenix and Flagstaff areas. The association’s annual calendar will feature two major statewide anchor events, complemented by a variety of regional events throughout the year. AZBio’s public policy advocacy, business development and workforce development efforts will likewise have both statewide and regional components. The association’s annual conference, renamed BIOZONA 2008, will take place April 8 in Tucson.

The following individuals comprise AZBio’s new Board of Directors:

Rob Ashley, Ashley BioPharm, LLC, Tucson

David Cohen, Can-Am Pharmaceutical Services, LLC, Tucson

Michael Cusanovich, Arizona Research Labs, University of Arizona, Tucson

Gordon Goodyear, 3d Biosurfaces, Tucson

Saundra Johnson, The Flinn Foundation, Phoenix

Rob Kennedy, Apthera, Inc., Scottsdale

Edward Koeneman, Kinetic Muscles, Inc., Tempe

Loretta Mayer, Senestech, Inc., Flagstaff

Christine McAuliffe, Jennings Strouss & Salmon, Phoenix

Jon McGarity, InSys Therapeutics, Inc., Phoenix

Michael Mobley, Biodesign Institute at ASU, Tempe

Jacqueline Nicol, BioVigilant, Inc., Tucson

Nina Ossanna, BIO5 Institute, University of Arizona, Tucson

Thomas Rainey, Northern Arizona Center for Emerging Technologies, Flagstaff

Debbie Snyder, TGen Drug Development Services, Scottsdale

Diane Williamson, Earth Friendly Fuels, Inc., Flagstaff

The Arizona BioIndustry Association is a not-for-profit, 501 (c) (6) trade association that promotes the growth of the bioscience industry in Arizona through member services, educational programs, business networking, public policy and entrepreneurial endeavors. The staff includes Robert Eaton, who serves as the organization’s President & CEO, and Natascha Hebell Fernando, the Chief Operating Officer. AZBio is the state affiliate in Arizona for the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), the preeminent trade association for the biotechnology industry in the United States.

Arizona BioIndustry Association, Phoenix
Robert Eaton, 602-495-2937

Bill Gates to Congress: Invest More in Science!

Bill Gates argues that we need to invest more in science-- otherwise we will not be competitive...

Microsoft Corp. chairman Bill Gates told the House Science Committee Wednesday that America's "position as the global leader in innovation is at risk."

To keep its edge, the U.S. must improve math and science education, change immigration policies to allow more skilled foreigners to work here, increase federal funding for basic research, and make the research and development tax credit permanent, Gates said.

The committee invited Gates to testify to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its founding. Congress created the panel in March 1958 after the Soviet Union beat the United States into space by launching the Sputnik satellite.

"Today, with the rapid economic and technological advances of other countries, I fear we are now on the cusp of another Sputnik moment," said committee Chairman Bart Gordon, D-Tenn. "I fear that our country has coasted on the investments we made 50 years ago."

Fifty years from now, Gates said, "the U.S. may not have the same relative share of innovation" compared with the rest of the world, "but with the right policies, we can have the leading share."

Other countries are working to duplicate America's "magic formula" -- an entrepreneurial culture combined with great universities, he said.

"We're still the envy of the world," he said.

U.S. companies, however, face a shortage of scientists and engineers, and not enough American students are prepared for, or interested in, careers in these fields, he said. The U.S. should insist on higher standards in K-12 education and require three to four years of math in high schools, he said.

Enrollment by U.S. students in science and engineering programs increased in the late 1990s during the Internet boom, but has declined since then.

Now that the credit bubble has burst, "maybe some of the bright minds going into finance will go into science and engineering," Gates said.

House Republicans Drop Stem Cell Language from Budget

According to the Washington Post, House Republican Conferees agreed in a compromise to drop language that would ban the use of state funds for embryonic stem cell research. The language had stated the following:

Item 4-0.01 #1h

General Provisions
Operating Policies Language

Page 496, after line 9, insert:
"d. No funding in this budget, or matching funds related to funding included in this budget, may be provided for human stem cell research from stem cells obtained from human embryos; however, research conducted using stem cells other than embryonic stem cells may be funded.
e. No funding in this budget, or matching funds related to funding included in this budget, may be provided for research on cells or tissues derived from induced abortions on humans."

(This amendment would prohibit state funding of embryonic stem cell research itself, but it would also permit entities that conduct such research (without using state money) to receive state funding. Entities that receive funding for embryonic stem cell research from federal and private sources may also receive state dollars for purposes other than embryonic stem research. State funding of research on aborted fetuses would be prohibited.)

The same confrontation occurred two years ago but the language was slightly different in that it would have cut off all state funding to any entity that conducted human embryonic stem cell research, regardless of where the funding came from. Had such language survived that year, all state funds would have been cut off to Virginia's major research universities such as VCU and UVA.

This year, the language made it clear that the ban would only apply to state funds being used for such research. According to the WP article, the GOP dropped this language in return for the Democrats agreeing to strike amendments that were perceived to help collective bargaining efforts by unions.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

MiddleBrook Considers its Future...

What is next for MiddleBrook? Another great story by the WBJ staff.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008 - 10:42 AM EST
MiddleBrook narrows loss, considers future
Washington Business Journal - by Tucker Echols Staff Reporter

MiddleBrook Pharmaceuticals Inc. narrowed its loss in the fourth quarter and continues to explore all options for the company's future.

The Germantown company, which won Food and Drug Administration approval for its first developed drug in January, reported a net loss of $9.1 million, 19 cents per share, for the quarter ending Dec. 31, in a statement released Tuesday. That compares with a loss of $13.8 million, 44 cents per share, in the fourth quarter of 2006.

Revenue in the quarter more than doubled to $2.9 million compared with $1.2 million a year ago.

For the year, MiddleBrook reported a loss of net loss of $42.2 million, 96 cents per share, compared with a net loss of $42 million, $1.38 per share, for the full year of 2006. Revenue in 2007 more than doubled to $10.5 million.

Revenue in 2007 was generated by sales of Keflex, a drug whose rights MiddleBrook purchased.

Moxatag is the first drug MiddleBrook has developed. It was approved by the FDA on Jan. 23, and the company's future may well rest on it. Edward M. Rudnic, president and chief executive officer of MiddleBrook, said in the statement, "having received FDA approval for Moxatag and raising more than $20 million in the first quarter of 2008, we believe we are now in a very favorable position to be considering strategic alternatives for the company."

Alternatives under consideration include the sale of some or all of the company's assets.

Shares of MiddleBrook (NASDAQ: MBRK), which have more than tripled since the approval of Moxatag, were down 9 cents to $4.25 in early morning trading.

WBJ: Celera Leaving Maryland?

Celera moving to SF? This is from the WBJ...

Montgomery County fears Celera Group may move west
Washington Business Journal - by Vandana Sinha Staff Reporter

The once-behemoth Celera Group is preparing to split from its parent company and decide whether to shift its headquarters from Rockville to California. That has Montgomery County officials scrambling to keep the biotech company's address local.

By the end of March, Celera will choose Rockville or Alameda, Calif., for its corporate headquarters, announcing the decision in a registration statement it will file to sever the business from Norwalk, Conn.-based Applera Corp. and become a stand-alone public company.

Rockville's prospects, however, do not look good.

Celera mentioned Alameda as its headquarters in its latest quarterly and annual financial reports, printed on corporate letterhead with Alameda's Harbor Bay Parkway address because most corporate activities stem from there, said David Speechly, a Celera spokesman.

But he added that the company has yet to decide which coast it will call home.

Moving west makes sense: Head count in Rockville has dwindled from more than 550 in 2001 to roughly 25 people today, including only one senior executive who is one of the founders.

After owning 220,000 square feet on West Gude Drive in its heyday, the company now subleases 64,000 square feet and is marketing an additional 51,000 square feet of sublet space.

Meanwhile, Celera made two acquisitions last year that bumped up its San Francisco Bay Area presence to three locations and roughly 525 employees.

"It makes sense for [a California move] to occur given where management is and where a majority of employees are," Speechly said.

Montgomery County officials said they are pursuing agreements with Celera to keep the headquarters nestled in Maryland's Interstate 270 corridor. The county has "discretionary income" it can use for potential incentive packages, but only if Celera increases its presence there.

"We are going to see if there is anything we can do to persuade them to stay," said Bernadette Musselwhite, a business development specialist with the county's Department of Economic Development.

Even if Celera keeps a Rockville office open, the headquarters departure would be a psychological blow. A homegrown company founded 10 years ago by bioscience maverick Craig Venter, Celera made global headlines when it mapped the human genome in 2000 and its stock price soared to nearly $250 a share.

"That does take away a keystone company," said Ric Zakour, executive director of MdBio, a division of the Tech Council of Maryland. "It would be unfortunate if they left, but I don't know that they have really deep ties to this area [now] other than historical ones."

A change in Celera's business model has restricted its Rockville reach. Although the company became famous as a genomics leader, that success brought few sales. Celera turned to drug development, then switched in 2006 to the more revenue-friendly molecular diagnostics field, halting drug discovery programs based mostly in Rockville.

Since August, two rounds of layoffs have deflated the Rockville team from 100 in 2006 to roughly 25. The company's lease of its 115,000-square-foot building, one of two that had made up its campus before both were sold in 2005 to Columbia-based Corporate Office Properties Trust, expires in 2010.

Celera is growing in revenue and narrowing its losses, expecting to approach break-even status by the end of June, Speechly said.