Friday, September 26, 2008

David Mott Video: Join Me at Mid-Atlantic Bio

David Mott, General Partner, New Enterprise Associates and former CEO, MedImmune Inc. invites you to join him at Mid-Atlantic Bio on October 22-24, 2008 at the Westfields Marriott/Washington Dulles.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Academy to help train VA students in agriculture

9.23.2008By Jane W. GrahamAFP Correspondent

HALIFAX, Va. — Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine joined in the excitement Sept. 10 to cut the ribbon, opening the Governor’s Career and Technical Academy for Renewable Resources and Agricultural Sciences. The academy, one of eight in the county, is designed for pre-K-12 students, said Melanie Stanley, director of academies for the Halifax County School System. Stanley said she is excited about the academy, which she expects to enable county students to become part of the its agricultural industry as adults.

Stanley is a county native who left and came back when she was needed to help with her family’s business after her mother was injured. She stayed and surprised herself by joining the school system. She said that Halifax is a rural county in southern Virginia with approximately 6,000 public school students. About 1,800 of these are in high school. While the county is located in the state’s dwindling tobacco belt, forestry is its largest industry, Stanley said.

The county’s academy approach to education is different from magnet schools, Stanley said. There is no need to apply; the doors are open to all students who want to attend. The academies offer dual enrollment college level courses, she added. Stanley said the renewable resources and agricultural academy looks at agriculture sciences from several different viewpoints. She is developing four programs of study for the high school students. They are horticulture, pre-veterinary, biotechnology and renewable resources. The programs are being designed to meet the needs that have been identified through community participation.

Business partnerships and grants play important parts in the schools, she said. Examples of community participation include the Lowe’s Equine Center at the county fairgrounds that belongs to the school system and a 128-acre farm willed to the schools by the late Hula Moorefield. He stipulated that it be used to enhance agricultural sciences.

In outlining the four programs of study for high school students, Stanley said that each tries to teach a variety of skills and business practices that will help students work in the agricultural industry. The horticulture program offers the study of floriculture. Students work with plants in the high school’s greenhouse, learning how to care for plants, how to run a greenhouse and how to run a business. The pre-vet course of study is dealing with horse management this year. The barn at the fairgrounds is home to this program. She said she believes Halifax County is the only school system in the state to have its own equine barn. It is equipped with an interactive classroom that lets students learn with hands-on projects. Stanley said she is looking forward to adding small and large animal veterinary sciences to the curriculum in the coming year.

The biotechnology program will be a study of biological application. In 2009, Stanley said the program will be doing a lot in aquaculture, a need that has been identified locally. Students will be learning how to earn a livelihood in this field. The program of study may incorporate some catfish farming in the students’ schedules. The fourth course of study is in renewable resources. Its topics will include forestry and biofuels. Among the hands-on activities the students can expect is making biofuels. They will also be looking at forest mensuration, including harvesting and logging. This program will have help from WoodLINKS, an industry education partnership. In this part of the plan of study, students move from how to take rough cut lumber to making furniture, to using both hands-on methods and computerized machines, to marketing, and on to packaging and shipping. Stanley said this program will help give them tools with which to work, including math, finance and marketing capabilities. She said she hopes it will help them to begin to understand and see all aspects of the industry. Not every student can excel in hand scraping a chair seat, she said, but one might be able to market the product.

The program is trying to teach values and give the students a feeling of ownership for what they have created. The county’s students become involved in the program before high school with the younger students going on field trips and seeing what the older students do. In middle school, the students can take an introduction to agricultural science that includes some of the same components that are in the high school courses. A greenhouse is being constructed at the middle school to further this project. It is an indication that the academy is a work in progress.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

VaBIO Members Tour Wyeth

 Members of VaBIO enjoyed a private tour of the Wyeth Consumer Healthcare manufacturing facility in Richmond on September 17th. More than 700 work at this advanced manufacturing facility that produces more than a dozen Wyeth products. This exclusive event was sponsored by Latimer, Mayberry & Matthews IP Law, LLP and open to VaBIO members only.

Wyeth, ranked 113th on the Fortune 500 list, is one of the world’s largest research-driven pharmaceutical and health care products companies. They employ more than 50,000 worldwide. It is a leader in the discovery, development, manufacturing and marketing of pharmaceuticals, vaccines, biotechnology products, nutritionals and non-prescription medicines that improve the quality of life for people worldwide. The company’s major divisions include Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, Wyeth Consumer Healthcare and Fort Dodge Animal Health.

The next Virginia Biotechnology Association bioscience facilities tour is scheduled for October 14 in Charlottesville, Virginia. The tour, open exclusively to VaBIO members, includes tours of two emerging biotech companies, conveniently located in the same building. For details, please visit

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Job Posting: UVA Clinical and Translational Research Program Director

UVA Clinical and Translational Research Program Director

The University of Virginia School of Medicine seeks a manager with experience in biomedical technology and business to join an exciting new program for enhancing clinical impact of medical discoveries through promotion of clinical and translational research and facilitation of the transfer of innovative intellectual properties from University laboratories to commercial practice. Details about position responsibilities and qualifications can be found at: by searching on Position Number FP732.

To apply, complete a Candidate Profile and attach a cover letter, cv and contact information for three references. Salary will be commensurate with experience. Position is open until filled.

Contact Dr. Erik Hewlett at: for further information.

The University of Virginia is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.

BIOtech Now Podcast: Mark Herzog on Biotech in Virginia

From BIOtech Now:

Mark Herzog on Biotech Innovation in Virginia
Posted on September 12, 2008 by danmcgirt

BIOtech Now talks with Mark Herzog, executive director of the Virginia Biotechnology Association. Mark discusses the strengths of and recent developments in Virginia’s innovative biotech industry, as well as efforts the state is making to further accelerate the growth of the life sciences in Virginia.

With its strong research universities, advantageous location in the Mid-Atlantic, and a favorable business climate, Virginia is home to more than 175 biotechnology, equipment, pharmaceutical and medical device companies.

According to Mark, Virginia gives strong support to emerging biotech companies. One challenge that success brings is meeting the changing needs of young life science companies as they grow. Making sure Virginia’s homegrown biotech companies have access to the advanced laboratory space, trained workforce and investment capital they need to reach the next level will help ensure that Virginia remains a leader in biotech innovation.

Click here for the Podcast.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

VA Business: State Support for Biotech Poor vs. Neighbors

From this month's Virginia Business Magazine.

This article, probably written about a month ago, captures the general attitudes of the state's bioscience-focused economic developers regarding the Commonwealth's history with this industry. There is guarded interest in what comes out of this Virginia General Assembly panel chaired by Delegate Mark Sickles and Senator Janet Howell.

Support for biotech pales in comparison with leading states
September 01, 2008 12:01 AM
by Robert Burke

Backers of Virginia’s biotech industry went to the 2008 BioInternational Convention in San Diego in June hoping to show off in front of thousands of companies and industry insiders. The four-day convention, which pitches itself as the world’s largest biotech event, featured elaborate exhibits from dozens of countries and 30 U.S. states.
But Virginia wasn’t among them. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine attended the event but was relegated to walking the exhibit floor and schmoozing with the masses instead of hosting guests in a Virginia pavilion. “We had nothing,” says John Avellanet, a Williamsburg consultant who attended the event.
Now in October comes the 2008 Mid-Atlantic Bio conference, a three-day event co-sponsored by the Virginia Biotechnology Association, the MdBio/Tech Council of Maryland and Mid-Atlantic Venture Association, which has offices in Northern Virginia and Maryland. This is the event’s first time in Virginia — at the Westfields Marriott in Chantilly.
The commonwealth might feel like a weak sister, though, because in many ways Maryland far outpaces Virginia. In the past six years, for example, Maryland firms garnered $1.96 billion in venture capital, compared with $193 million in Virginia over the same period, according to a report released in June by the Biotechnology Industry Association. Virginia outpaces many states in some areas — it ranked 14th in the number of bioscience-related patents during that six-year period, with 2,884 patents. But Maryland ranked seventh, with 3,680 patents. It has built a thriving, centralized biotech community on anchors such as the National Institutes of Health and Johns Hopkins University.
And in July, Gov. Martin O’Malley unveiled a $1.1 billion Bio 2020 Initiative, designed to boost the life sciences industry through tax credits, money for stem cell research and new lab and incubator space.
Don’t expect a similar plan in cash-strapped Virginia.
Mark Herzog, executive director of the Virginia Biotechnology Association (VaBio), says even modest proposals fall flat here. Three years ago a 43-member Governor’s Commission on Biotechnology, which included legislators, businesspeople and educators, recommended steps the state could take, such as funding efforts by Virginia universities to find commercial applications for bioscience discoveries. “We all spent about four years on the initiative and nothing came out of it. Not even a press release,” Herzog says.
Lackluster promotion
To Herzog and others, the state’s effort to promote its biotech sector is listless at best and is starting to hurt. “The general industry feeling seems to be that Virginia is well positioned … to be a player in the biosciences,” says Robin Sullenberger, CEO of the Shenandoah Valley Partnership, who also attended the San Diego event. “But there is some amount of confusion in regard to the political will and the commitment to invest to make that happen.”
Virginia obviously offers some significant assets. Northern Virginia has the Food and Drug Administration at its doorstep in Washington, D.C., for example, and that access is invaluable for companies trying to navigate federal regulations. Also, the Janelia Farm research campus that recently opened in Loudoun County is a one-of-a-kind facility with the potential to produce breakthroughs that could spawn new companies. Plus, there are growing biotech clusters and advanced university-based research in places such as Charlottesville, Richmond and Blacksburg.
Skeptics, though, say that’s not enough. There is intense competition among states and even nations to grab a share of the action in life sciences, and Virginia isn’t keeping up. “There are states that are already well-positioned players,” says Sullenberger, such as Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina and California. “I think it’s very obvious we send a mixed message.”
Part of the reason stems from the state’s generally conservative approach to spending. “Virginia tends to be relatively cautious and tends to want to see some evidence before it necessarily strikes out in a bold direction,” says Jerry Giles, director of finance with the Virginia Economic Development Partnership.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Massachusetts Gov. Duval Patrick proclaimed in January that his $1 billion life-sciences initiative would create 250,000 jobs in the next decade. An unrealistic goal, perhaps, since, as skeptics noted, that is twice as many jobs as the state had added from all sources in the past 10 years. So bold isn’t always beautiful.

Bottom of the list
Neither is lagging behind the pack. The June study cited 25 state-supported funds that provide seed and pre-seed investments to help biotech firms get started. Nearly all the other states on the list had multimillion-dollar funds, led by Ohio’s $263 million Third Frontier Pre-Seed Fund. Down at the bottom of the list was Virginia’s $500,000 GAP BioLife Fund, handled by the Center for Innovative Technology.
Giles responds with two points: first, the life-sciences sector overall has thus far not turned a profit, so some caution is warranted in terms of investing money. It is time-consuming and expensive to bring a discovery from the lab through the regulatory maze and to the marketplace, and the risk is substantial. Secondly, there are many factors that determine why a company succeeds and where it takes root. “The cost of doing business, the cost of living … the cost of hiring highly qualified biotechnology workers — all of that has to be factored into the equation,” he says. “There’s a lot more that goes into making a good strategic business decision than how much money the state is willing to give.”
But Herzog can tick off examples of entrepreneurs that did their research here but ended up launching the company somewhere else, lured away by venture capitalists or the availability of facilities such as wet labs, which have the plumbing and equipment to allow hands-on scientific research. Two years ago, for example, a pair of researchers at George Mason University in Fairfax County launched a company called Theranostics Health, but put it in suburban Maryland instead of Northern Virginia. VaBio, the state’s biotech industry association, this year backed legislation to use public-private partnerships to spur construction of wet lab space, a critical need for young life-science companies, but it failed. “We’ve become an incubator for other state’s biotech industries,” Herzog says. “There have not been major investments in life sciences in the past eight years, and it’s really starting to catch up to us.”
Avellanet, however, thinks the companies and the supporters of Virginia’s biotech sector are looking in the wrong direction. He is the co-author of the book “Best Practices in Biotechnology Business Development.” “There’s a lot of waiting for the government to bail them out,” he says. A better approach would be pulling together all the players and coming up with a strategy that recognizes their shared interests in building a sector with critical mass. “Anything less than a 10-year plan is just a crisis mode,” he says. “What it needs to say is, ‘Here’s the overall umbrella of biotech in Virginia, here are the components, and these are the people who need to be leading the charge.’”
Avellanet also asks why the state biotech association doesn’t try to encourage other companies to come here by getting its current members to provide discounts for the new arrivals. He worries that without a statewide initiative, parts of the state such as Northern Virginia will be pulled into other regional clusters and leave other parts of Virginia out in the cold. “Virginia has got to get its act together first and start to get some traction, and then talk to Maryland and D.C.” about creating a true multi-state life sciences cluster, he says.
Herzog notes that VaBio does help companies find the support they need to grow here, and it has group-purchasing programs to help members cut costs. “If we had better luck working with our state-policy partners, we’d feel better about what we’re doing,” he says.
Now, there’s a new chance. The General Assembly this year created the Commission on Bioscience and Biotechnology, with members from industry and the legislature. Its goal: to come up with the top three things the state should do to grow the biotech industry and craft recommendations for next year’s session. The lack of venture capital and facilities are two major issues, Herzog says, but he’ll be glad to see any substantial support. “Virginia in a lot of ways is suffering from this idea of ourselves as being the ‘best state for business,’” he says. “But we could have so much more.