Thursday, January 29, 2009

Wyeth Facility For Sale

The Wyeth Consumer Healthcare Facility located on Cummings Drive in Richmond is now for sale. The 8.88 acre mixed use (office, manufacturing, research) facility is represented by Bob Porter of Porter Realty, who can be reached at 804-521-1441. Details on the property can be found here.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Maryland Gov Proposes Increase for Bio 2020 Initiative

Maryland Budget Proposal Increases Support for State's Bio 2020 Initiative

From SSTI: In support of the state's goal to attract and grow biotechnology companies, Gov. Martin O'Malley's executive budget recommends increasing by $400,000 the state's investment in stem cell research, while maintaining current funding for biotechnology tax credits and slightly increasing the appropriation for the Nanotech Biotechnology Initiative Fund.

Announced last summer, Maryland's Bio 2020 Initiative is the state's plan to invest up to $1.3 billion over the next 10 years in Maryland's biotechnology industry (see the June 18, 2008 issue of the Digest). Gov. O'Malley recommends $18.4 million in FY10 for the Maryland Stem Cell Research Fund, which is administered by the Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO). Although lawmakers approved $19 million for the fund in FY09, budget documents reflect $18 million in total funds were available. The program has funded a total 82 projects at Maryland research universities and private sector corporations since 2006. TEDCO would also receive $3.7 million ($600,000 less than last year) for technology development, transfer and commercialization through its University Development Transfer Fund and the Maryland Technology Transfer Fund.

Additional executive budget recommendations in support of the Bio 2020 Initiative include:

$6 million (the same as last fiscal year) for the Maryland Biotechnology Investment Tax Credit Reserve Fund, which provides tax credits to encourage investment in biotech firms;
$5 million for the Maryland Biotechnology Center within the Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED) to showcase and support biotechnology innovation and entrepreneurship for the state; and
$1.6 million for the Nanotech Biotechnology Initiative Fund, up from $1.5 million in special funds available last year.
The capital budget includes $32.2 million for the Germantown Bioscience Center and $5 million for the East Baltimore Technology Park.

Gov. O'Malley recommends $58 million for DBED in FY10, down $11.5 million from FY09. Within the department, the governor proposes $2 million (the same as last year) for the Maryland Enterprise Investment Fund and Challenge Programs. No funding is included for the rural broadband assistance fund, which received $3.4 million in federal funds last year after lawmakers removed a $2 million general fund appropriation within the Division of Financing (see the April 23, 2008 issue of the Digest).

The governor's budget includes $16.9 million to continue a tuition freeze for a fourth consecutive year for in-state undergraduates at Maryland's four-year higher education institutions. Gov. O'Malley is expected to introduce legislation this session to reauthorize the Higher Education Investment Fund (HEIF), which expires at the end of FY09, according to budget documents. Created as a dedicated revenue stream for higher education in 2007, the HEIF dedicates a portion of the increase in corporate tax revenues to the fund.

Gov. Martin O'Malley's FY10 budget is available at: http://www.dbm.maryland.gov.

NSF Targeted in Porn Investigation!


Maybe it was all part of a grant review process? Right.....

Grassley launches porn inquiry
By: Andie Coller
January 28, 2009 10:30 AM EST

Chuck Grassley knows it when he sees it.

The “it,” of course, is pornography. And Grassley has seen it deep in a demurely titled section of a report from the National Science Foundation — a report that says NSF employees have been spending significant amounts of company time on smut sites and in other explicit pursuits.

Grassley, the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, on Tuesday fired off a letter to the NSF’s inspector general requesting all documents related to the “numerous reports” and seven investigations into “Abuse of NSF IT Resources” cited in the foundation’s 68-page semiannual report.

Despite the less-than-lurid sound of the probes, the employees in question weren’t just logging onto their Facebook accounts or buying birthday gifts on Amazon.com. The report says they were watching, downloading and e-mailing porn, sometimes for significant portions of their workdays, and over periods of months or even years.

In one particularly egregious case, the report says one NSF “senior official” was discovered to have spent as much as 20 percent of his working hours over a two-year interval “viewing sexually explicit images and engaging in sexually explicit online ‘chats’ with various women.”

Investigators calculated the value of the time lost at more than $58,000 — for that employee alone.

Following an initial wave of incidents, the grant-making agency — which has an annual budget of $6.06 billion, and was created by Congress in 1950 to promote the progress of science; advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; secure the national defense — reveals that probers then “selectively sampled” a single internal server and found even more workers harboring everything from software that can allow users to set up camera-to-camera connections to hard-core images and titillatingly titled bookmarks.

The foundation has since installed filtering software to prevent employees from accessing inappropriate websites and is currently trying to address the fallout from the agency’s adult-entertainment problem. This includes finding ways to support staffers who were “acutely embarrassed” by the filth-filled environment — like the employee who learned of a co-worker’s adventures in porn via sounds overheard from said co-worker’s computer speakers.

Grassley’s office has asked the foundation to turn over all “specific reports of investigations, audit reports, evaluations and information supporting the examination of the NSF network drive” by Thursday in an effort to “ensure that NSF properly fulfills its mission to strengthen scientific and engineering research, and makes responsible use of the public funding provided for these research disciplines.”

“The semiannual report raises real questions about how the National Science Foundation manages its resources, and Congress ought to demand a full accounting before it gives the agency another $3 billion in the stimulus bill,” Grassley said.

An NSF spokeswoman said the agency had no comment on the report or its content.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Technology Bills Held Up By Stem Cell Issue

The bioscience economic development bills got held up at the Virginia General Assembly yesterday on the issue of human embryonic stem cell research. SB 1338, Senator Herring's bill that had passed committee review unanimously, was pulled from the uncontested bloc of bills by Senator Ken Cuccinelli of Fairfax. Representatives of the bioscience industry met with him to discuss his plans to propose a floor amendment to the bill this week.

Later yesterday afternoon, Delegate Sickles' bill, HB 2444, came up before the House Committee on Science and Technology. The same issue was raised, this time from Delegate Robert Marshall of Prince William County.

These bills, as well as Delegate O'Bannon's HB 2455, will be held up while some compromise language can be worked out by both sides. We certainly hope that these economic development bills will not become the "stem cell" brochure bills for the coming election and all sides can come up with a positive solution to the impasse.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Biotage Closes VA Factory, Transfers Production

By The Daily Progress Staff
Published: January 23, 2009

A Sweden-based firm that makes products for the pharmaceutical industry will move its Albemarle County production line to Cardiff, Wales, taking 50 local jobs with it.

Biotage announced Thursday that it would start transferring its production overseas in stages. The move is slated to be finished by the fourth quarter.

The company’s president and chief executive officer, Torben J├Ârgensen, said in a news release that the move would streamline production, letting the company “achieve considerable efficiency gains and reduce susceptibility to changes in demand.”

The Cardiff factory produces most of Biotage’s products.

The local Biotage facility, in the University of Virginia’s North Fork Research Park, manufactures filters used to purify drugs for the pharmaceutical industry. About six years ago, the company was based in Charlottesville and about 10 percent of Biotage’s employees were UVa graduates.

Michael E. Harvey, executive director of the Thomas Jefferson Partnership for Economic Development, said the departure came as no surprise.

“In downturns, the first thing to really start feeling the effects of it is manufacturing,” Harvey said. “Nobody is immune from what is going on right now.”

Harvey is a proponent of bringing more technology jobs to the Charlottesville area, although he said that any technology company that has a manufacturing component will be affected when the economy falters.

Biotage has 300 employees worldwide.

From the Charlottesville Daily Progress

BIO Volunteer Program -- Request for Volunteers!

The 2009 BIO International Convention will bring approximately 20,000 attendees to the Georgia World Congress Center, in Atlanta, GA, May 18-21. BIO needs your help! Along with BIO staff, volunteers are essential to the success of the convention. For each day you volunteer during the 2009 convention, you will receive a complimentary day to attend the conference. We ask that all participants volunteer for two days. For each two days volunteered, you will receive two complimentary days to attend the conference (the complimentary passes are non-transferable).

Please click the following link to fill out the online application: http://convention.bio.org/volunteer.aspx. The deadline to submit an application is March 16, 2009.

For more information about BIO’s 2009 International Convention Volunteer Program, please contact volunteer@bio.org.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Rx Data Access important to Small Biotechs, Says BIO

Health News Daily
January 22, 2009


Small Biotechs Could Suffer Under State Bans On Selling

Physician Rx Data, BIO Says



Small biotech companies could face a more difficult financial

future should more states succeed in adopting bans on

data-mining of physician prescribing data, the Biotechnology

Industry Organization's Patrick Kelly said.



"Limiting access to this data will actually put smaller

companies at a competitive disadvantage to the other companies

that have been in the space for a period of time," Kelly, VP

of state government relations at BIO, said in an interview.



When smaller biotech companies come to market with a new

product, Kelly noted that they usually have "these very paltry

and bare-bones sales forces," making data that help these

sales forces target physicians treating a specific disease or

even certain geographic information a valuable resource.



In contrast, larger, more established biotechs stand to be

less affected because they likely will have larger sales

forces as well as established relationships with physicians,

giving them an upper hand in the market, he added.



A ban "has this kind of a sweeping, we think unintended,

effect on smaller, more innovative companies coming to market

with products, and they're just not going to be able to

compete," Kelly said.



The data-mining ban returned to the forefront in November 2008

when the First Circuit Court of Appeals reversed an April 2007

district court decision that struck down a New Hampshire law

banning the sale of physician prescribing data (1"The Pink

Sheet," Nov. 24, 2008, p. 13).



The data-mining firms that had sued to block the law, IMS

Health and Verispan (which was bought by SDI in July 2008),

now are hoping the U.S. Supreme Court will take up the case.

A similar law in Vermont, under the jurisdiction of the Second

Circuit Court of Appeals, is still undergoing judicial review.



More than a dozen other states considered similar legislation

last year and a positive signal from the courts could

encourage them and others to continue the legislative pursuit.



Only the large survive?



But the financial woes may not stop there. Being at a

competitive disadvantage could create a ripple effect when it

comes to smaller companies trying to sell their products to

larger ones. The mere fact that they will not necessarily be

on a level playing field could force the smaller company to

sell its product.



"That's a concern," Kelly said. "Are we creating an

environment where only the largest pharmaceutical companies

are going to be able to sustain the market controls that are

being put in place with regard to limiting access to this

data? The small companies that are just coming through with a

product are not going to be able to compete, they're not going

to have the information they need to target their sales and

target their relatively meager sales resources to the doctors,

and they'll just have to sell out."



However, Kelly added that the kind of product a small company

develops also will be a determining factor in how

significantly small companies could be affected by the ban.



"If it's a first-in-class, novel therapy, I think the smaller

companies will probably have a much better chance at creating

a market because there will be so much information about that

product that the physicians will be clamoring to get it, so

the phones will be ringing," Kelly said. "But if it's a

follow-on, or if it's a second-generation product manufactured

by a company, I think it's going to be very difficult for

those companies to have a product in the marketplace."



Tensions between the promotional strategies of small and large

firms also have been on display as the Pharmaceutical Research

and Manufacturers of America presses BIO to adopt its

marketing code (2"The Pink Sheet" DAILY, Nov. 18, 2008).



Unintended consequences of disclosure



In the coming year, Kelly said another trend is likely to be

more states limiting sales and marketing activities in the

wake of a recently-passed law in Massachusetts. The law

requires that any drug company that employs a sales force in

the state file an annual report listing "the value, nature,

purpose and particular recipient of any fee, payment, subsidy

or other economic benefit with a value of at least $50" to

"any physician, hospital, nursing home [or] pharmacist."

(3"The Pink Sheet" DAILY, Aug. 11, 2008).



"Initially, we were concerned that it was going to have a

sweeping impact on whether or not physicians were going to

participate in clinical research projects with companies

because they would have to disclose as a financial transaction

that they were involved in a research project," Kelly said.



"It had nothing at all to do with selling or marketing a

product."



Kelly said Massachusetts physicians were uncomfortable with

the idea of having their names appearing on a state-run Web

site if they were in a contractual relationship with a

biologics company researching a cancer drug, an unintended

consequence of the law. He said BIO was able to prevail in

getting some protections in the final legislation.



But he noted that the intended consequence of this type of law

is to make the relationship between sales and marketing

personnel and physicians more transparent, something BIO does

not oppose.



"The question is how much further down the line does it affect

the physicians and the manufacturers or even the companies

that are not yet manufacturers, the companies doing research?"

Kelly said.

Pfizer to Buy Wyeth?

* JANUARY 23, 2009

Pfizer in Talks to Buy Wyeth

By MATTHEW KARNITSCHNIG and JONATHAN D. ROCKOFF

Pfizer Inc. is in talks to acquire rival drug maker Wyeth in a deal that could be valued at more than $60 billion, said people familiar with the matter.

A combination of these two U.S. pharmaceutical giants would redraw the boundaries of the global drug industry, which has suffered from flagging product development and high fixed costs. It would also represent a high-stakes gambit for Pfizer, which has been stung in the past by expensive acquisitions.

The two sides have been in discussions for months and a deal isn't imminent, the people said. Given recent market volatility and overall economic uncertainty, the talks are especially fragile and could collapse, the people warned.

Pfizer spokesman Raymond F. Kerins Jr. said the company doesn't comment on "market rumors and speculation." A Wyeth spokesman said, "We don't comment on marketplace rumor."
[pfizer wyeth deal]

Joining New York-based Pfizer and Madison, N.J.-based Wyeth would create a behemoth with combined revenue of about $75 billion and a line of blockbuster drugs including Pfizer's cholesterol drug Lipitor and Wyeth's pediatric vaccine Prevnar.

Pfizer, the world's largest drug maker by revenue, would likely use a combination of cash and stock for the acquisition. Details on price haven't been worked out, but Wyeth has a market capitalization of about $52 billion and premiums in the sector have averaged just over 20%. That would put the value of the deal at well over $60 billion.

If completed, a deal could create billions in cost savings through the combination of back-office operations, research and development, sales and manufacturing. Like other major pharmaceutical companies, Pfizer and Wyeth face the looming expiration of patents on their most lucrative products as well as intense competition from makers of generic drugs. In addition, a tougher regulatory environment in the U.S. and overseas has made it more difficult to win approval for new treatments, forcing companies to narrow their research focus.

Those realities have prompted calls for industry consolidation from the investment community. For years, companies have withstood pressure to merge, hoping that new discoveries would allow them to maintain independence. But with drugs generating an estimated $30 billion in sales losing patent protection over the next several years, many analysts have been saying industry consolidation is inevitable.

Unlike other sectors of the economy, the pharmaceutical industry has historically been buffered from downturns because patients typically don't stop seeking treatment for major ailments. While there are growing signs that this recession has triggered a decline in prescription-drug consumption among cash-strapped consumers, major companies nonetheless have streams of cash they can use for acquisitions.

Pfizer alone had more than $27 billion in cash and equivalents on its balance sheet at the end of 2008, Goldman Sachs estimated in a recent note to investors. Analysts believe that most of that money is outside the U.S. and Pfizer would suffer a tax hit if the company repatriated the funds. Many in the industry have been waiting to see what Pfizer does before pursuing deals of their own.

Pfizer posted revenue of $48.4 billion and a profit of $8.1 billion in 2007, the most recent year for which data are available. Wyeth's revenue totaled $22.4 billion and its profit $4.6 billion in 2007.
[wyeth pfizer] Reuters

Pfizer Chairman and CEO Jeff Kindler, above, in November. Bernard Poussot, Wyeth, below, in October 2007.
[wyeth pfizer deal] Corbis

The stocks of both companies have held up fairly well over the past year compared with the rest of the market. Pfizer's shares have fallen about 23% while Wyeth's stock is down 7.5%. The S&P 500 is off 37% over the same period.

Combining major drug companies doesn't solve the industry's short-term need for new drugs, but it would allow the industry to slash research-and-development spending, which accounts for nearly 20% of sales at many companies.

With more scale, drug companies would also be better positioned to acquire biotech companies, which many believe will be a source of future treatments. Many pharmaceutical companies have already begun to buy or strike drug-development deals with smaller biotech firms. While promising in the long term, such deals tend to bring too little revenues and profits in the short term to make up for the loss of blockbuster drugs.

Since Jeffrey B. Kindler took Pfizer's helm in 2006, there have been rumors he would seek a major acquisition. Pfizer has been battling generic competition for some of its top drugs, while its best-selling drug, Lipitor, which accounts for one-fourth of its revenue, loses patent protection in 2011. It has had trouble bringing new products to market.

Mr. Kindler has been cutting costs, firing more than 15,000 employees since January 2007. A person familiar with the matter say Pfizer is planning to cut as many as 2,400 sales-force jobs in the first quarter of 2009. The chief executive has also been revamping drug-research efforts, shuttering laboratories and selling manufacturing plants.

Investors and analysts have grown increasingly frustrated that these steps aren't enough to return Pfizer to the kind of profitability that made it a stock-market star in the 1990s and early 2000s. Since Mr. Kindler took over, Pfizer stock is down 34%, compared with a drop of 20% for the Dow Jones Wilshire Pharmaceuticals Index.
More

* Health Blog: Signals of a Consolidation Wave?

Critics have lambasted Pfizer's 2006 sale of its consumer business, which included the Listerine, Visine and Lubriderm brands, as well as nonprescription drugs Sudafed and Nicorette. That unit is now helping its buyer, Johnson & Johnson, weather problems in its own prescription drug business.

Of big drug makers, Pfizer in particular has been built through big acquisitions. It gained full control of Lipitor after a $116 billion takeover of Warner-Lambert Co. in 2000. But Pfizer's deal-making history also suggests the pitfalls of what analysts say is a reliance on big takeovers over strong in-house research and smart licensing.

Pfizer bought Pharmacia in 2003 largely for painkiller Celebrex, but sales plunged after a rival drug, Vioxx, was withdrawn in 2004 over heart risks.

"The record of big mergers and acquisitions in big pharma has just not been good. There's just been an enormous amount of shareholder wealth destroyed," said Gary Pisano, a Harvard Business School professor who has written about the issue.

Wyeth has had struggles of its own in the past year or two, with sales of its new antidepressant Pristiq taking off slowly and a plunge in sales of heartburn drug Protonix after generic competition came sooner than expected. Midstage trial data of an Alzheimer's drug the company is developing with Elan Corp. have also disappointed some investors.

Nonetheless, analysts have named Wyeth as a likely target because the company has products and businesses that complement Pfizer's lineup. It's not clear what role Wyeth CEO Bernard Poussot would play in the combined company.

Wyeth has already established a foothold in biotechnology. The company has had strong success with Prevnar, its pediatric pneumococcal vaccine, which brought in $2.11 billion in sales in the first nine months of 2008, a 12% increase over the year-earlier period. The company's pipeline includes a new version, Prevnar-13, that is designed to offer enhanced protection against pneumococcal disease. Another strong biotechnology seller in Wyeth's portfolio is the anti-inflammatory biologic Enbrel, which Wyeth co-markets with Amgen Inc.

Wyeth also would bring with it an animal-health business and consumer-health unit whose brands include Advil, Robitussin and ChapStick. Those businesses would help offset the cyclicality and risks of the drug business.

In the absence of big merger deals, pharmaceutical companies have tried to buy time by slashing costs. Most notably, the industry has eliminated about 15,000 sales jobs since pharmaceutical sales-rep ranks reached a peak of about 105,000 in the first quarter of 2006, according to ZS Associates, a sales and marketing consulting firm.

Consultants say the industry still hasn't cut costs nearly enough, and analysts have increased the pressure on executives like Mr. Kindler. Investors are especially keen on acquisitions from cash-rich pharmaceuticals companies now that values of smaller companies have shrunk.

"There is no major payday in R&D coming in the next several years, and the personal makeovers will not be enough," Deutsche Bank analyst Barbara Ryan wrote in a recent note to investors.
—Dana Cimilluca and Sarah Rubenstein contributed to this article.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Georgia GOP May Block Obama Move on Stem Cells?

Originally from the Atlanta Journal Constitution...

State GOP may stop stem cell research
Will this not hurt our economy in Georgia?

Shortly after taking office, President Barack Obama is expected to lift the 7-year-old federal restriction on embryonic stem cell research.

When that happens, certain state lawmakers will attempt to re-create a state version of the blockade in Georgia, sparking yet another Capitol fight over the thorny issue of science, religion and moral boundaries.

The battle will draw close attention from the state’s university system —- not to mention a budding biotech industry. Tens of millions of dollars in research grants are at stake.

Beyond African-Americans, scientists are perhaps the demographic group most delighted by the end of the George W. Bush administration. Too often, many of them argued, the White House placed ideology above researched fact.

One of the deepest wells of scientific resentment can be found in the field of embryonic stem cell research. For more than 10 years, scientists have drooled over stem cells as a source of replacement tissue damaged or destroyed by a range of diseases and injuries.

Diabetes, spinal cord injuries, deafness, blindness, you name it.

While stem cells have been discovered in many forms of adult tissue, researchers say the most potent lines are developed from newly formed embryos —- clumps of a handful of cells —- discarded by fertility clinics.

Because the discarded embryos are destroyed in the process, many Christian conservatives —- though not all —- equate the practice with abortion.

In the early months of his first term, President Bush limited federal funding to research involving embryonic stem cell lines already in use. He barred the use of federal dollars for any research that involved the creation of more.

Many scientists argue that the decision crippled one of the most promising initiatives of a generation. Some states, Georgia not among them, began funding research on their own.

For three years, University of Georgia researcher Steve Stice has worked with Republicans to broker a compromise on the issue.

He’s eager to see Obama lift the ban. “The larger question, and what everybody hopes for, is that there’ll be some federal funding that will follow as well.”

One UGA biochemist recently landed a $9.2 million grant for stem cell research. Stice himself recently landed a share of a Department of Defense grant —- “north of $4 million.”

The Pentagon has been a major backer of stem cell research, Stice said. “We’re trying to find a way to replace bone that has been damaged, to get soldiers —- and then civilians —- walking on injured limbs.”

So far, the Department of Defense has demanded that research be restricted to the use of adult stem cells. That could change if Obama reverses the Bush order, Stice said.

Should the new president do so, you can expect Republicans in Georgia to respond with an attempt to forbid any federally funded research involving embryonic stem cells at state university labs. The use of state funds was prohibited in 2006.

“I would assume there will be an effort to restrict embryonic stem cell research. Georgia would stake out its ground as being pro-life,” said state Sen. Eric Johnson (R-Savannah).

Johnson is running for lieutenant governor but until recently was the ranking member of the Senate.

Stice says he hopes a state ban won’t happen. “If Georgia’s going to do this on stem cells, what kind of environment is it for all kinds of biotechnology?” he asked.

Business interests blunted efforts to restrict stem cell research two years ago. And an international biotech conference in Atlanta —- a prime recruiting opportunity for the state’s economic development arm —- is set for May. So the GOP’s pro-life forces may be forced to hold their fire during this session of the Legislature.

Nor are Republicans unanimous in their opinions about embryonic stem cell research. State Rep. Bob Smith (R-Athens), 55, lost 80 percent of his hearing when he was a child. It’s never returned.

Smith recently asked Stice to help him recruit a team of researchers to the state to work toward a cure for all kinds of deafness. If embryonic stem cell research is part of that, Smith said, so be it.

MacWright Resigns UVA Patent Foundation

Robert MacWright has resigned as executive director of the University of Virginia Patent Foundation, the university said this week.

MacWright, who will remain with UVPF through January, will become a partner in the Washington, DC, office of law firm Frommer Lawrence & Haug.

Prior to joining UVPF, MacWright served as an associate attorney in the IP department of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher, & Flom; and as a legal intern and associate attorney in the IP department of Kenyon & Kenyon. Prior to this, he was associate director and then director of the Rutgers University Office of Corporate Liaison and Technology Transfer.

He holds a joint PhD in biochemistry from Rutgers University and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey; and a law degree from Rutgers. He is also a registered US patent attorney.

UVPF said that Marie Kerbeshian, associate director of the foundation, has been named interim executive director and CEO of UVPF, while a search is conducted to find a permanent successor to MacWright.

Kerbeshian joined UVPF in 1998 and has served as associate director since 2006. She conducted her postdoc at UVA and earned a PhD in zoology from the University of Texas.

From Biotech Transfer Week

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

WBJ: ARE Pulls Plug on GMU Lab Deal

WBJ has a story in its most recent edition about the lab situation at GMU...

Friday, January 16, 2009

Developer drops plans for George Mason University lab space expansion
Washington Business Journal - by Vandana Sinha Staff Reporter

One formal request for proposals and several months of negotiations later, George Mason University finds itself right back where it started — with no new available lab space on the horizon.

The project’s lead developer and winning bidder, Alexandria Real Estate Equities Inc., unexpectedly pulled out of discussions about a much-needed lab expansion at GMU’s Prince William County campus, according to university officials.

The parties had been negotiating the terms for a contract that would have added 30,000 square feet of wet labs to the university’s depleted supply.

The project — a coup for Prince William County — also would have brought an extra 50,000 square feet of speculative lab and incubator space to the county’s otherwise slim pickings for biotech startups.

GMU said Alexandria Real Estate cited the worsening economy when it backed away from the partnership before the papers were signed. Now the anticipated 2010 finish line for the lab building has been stretched out by at least two years. Alexandria Real Estate officials declined to comment.

Like most real estate companies, the Pasadena, Calif.-based life sciences developer felt the effects of the crumbling real estate market. It disclosed earlier this month that its chief executive officer would take a 33 percent pay cut for this year.

“We were caught by surprise by the decision,” said Vikas Chandhoke, dean of GMU’s College of Sciences. “Now we have put everything back on the drawing board.”

High up on that drawing board are the other bidders who answered the university’s request for lab proposals in late 2007. Seven developers submitted responses, five in and around the desired Innovation@Prince William Park.

GMU will also appeal to the county and state to help back a lab expansion, though that is likely to be a rocky path, thanks to mounting multimillion-dollar budget deficits.

Although GMU and Alexandria Real Estate had not arrived at a total cost estimate for the project, the university said its portion would roughly cost $300 to $400 per square foot to build out, totaling up to $12 million for the 30,000 square feet.

Prince William County officials have said they need new, smaller pieces of lab space to attract biotech companies otherwise drawn to Montgomery County’s lab-heavy mecca.

Prince William lost one GMU spinoff, Theranostics Health LLC, to Rockville in 2007 for that reason. And a second, Ceres Nanosciences LLP, is being temporarily squeezed into a GMU research building in Innovation park until it can find a permanent home.

A minimum two-year delay for new lab space won’t help the county’s efforts.

“Having wet lab space available is good for the community,” said Jason Grant, a spokesman for Prince William County’s Department of Economic Development. “How the time frame affects that will be speculative. Are there opportunities that we’d be missing out on because of that? We don’t know.”

GMU worries about stunting its research programs while it waits for new lab space.

University officials will be able to muster roughly 8,000 square feet of temporary lab space for their 40 scientists while new building plans are drafted, but Chandhoke said those are only short-term fixes to a crunch created by a doubling research budget and 120 percent capacity at GMU’s 45,000 square feet of lab space in Fairfax and Manassas.

“Our needs are real. They’re getting more acute,” he said. “In the long term, there is really no way to resolve this thing without having new additional space. The longest we can wait is probably two years by these measures we’re taking. But again, the whole growth is going to be stymied.”

President Obama's Technology Agenda


At noon Eastern, January 20, the official White House website switched over to the new Administration. Here is the language regarding President Barack Obama's agenda for science and technology:

"President Obama and Vice President Biden understand the immense transformative power of technology and innovation and how they can improve the lives of Americans. They will work to ensure the full and free exchange of information through an open Internet and use technology to create a more transparent and connected democracy. They will encourage the deployment of modern communications infrastructure to improve America's competitiveness and employ technology to solve our nation's most pressing problems -- including improving clean energy, healthcare costs, and public safety.

Improve America's Competitiveness
:

* Promote American Businesses Abroad: Support a trade policy that ensures our goods and services are treated fairly in foreign markets. Fight for fair treatment of our companies abroad.
* Invest in the Sciences: Double federal funding for basic research over ten years, changing the posture of our federal government to one that embraces science and technology.
* Invest in University-Based Research: Expand research initiatives at American colleges and universities. Provide new research grants to the most outstanding early-career researchers in the country.
* Make the R&D Tax Credit Permanent: Invest in a skilled research and development workforce and technology infrastructure. Make the Research and Development tax credit permanent so that firms can rely on it when making decisions to invest in domestic R&D over multi-year timeframes.
* Ensure Competitive Markets: Foster a business and regulatory landscape in which entrepreneurs and small businesses can thrive, start-ups can launch, and all enterprises can compete effectively while investors and consumers are protected against bad actors that cross the line. Reinvigorate antitrust enforcement to ensure that capitalism works for consumers.
* Protect American Intellectual Property Abroad: Work to ensure intellectual property is protected in foreign markets, and promote greater cooperation on international standards that allow our technologies to compete everywhere.
* Protect American Intellectual Property at Home: Update and reform our copyright and patent systems to promote civic discourse, innovation, and investment while ensuring that intellectual property owners are fairly treated.
* Reform the Patent System: Ensure that our patent laws protect legitimate rights while not stifling innovation and collaboration. Give the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) the resources to improve patent quality and open up the patent process to citizen review to help foster an environment that encourages innovation. Reduce uncertainty and wasteful litigation that is currently a significant drag on innovation.
* Restore Scientific Integrity to the White House: Restore the basic principle that government decisions should be based on the best-available, scientifically-valid evidence and not on ideological predispositions.

Employ Science, Technology and Innovation to Solve Our Nation's Most Pressing Problems:

* Advance the Biomedical Research Field: Support investments in biomedical research, as well as medical education and training in health-related fields. Fund biomedical research, and make it more efficient by improving coordination both within government and across government/private/non-profit partnerships.
* Advance Stem Cell Research: Support increased stem cell research. Allow greater federal government funding on a wider array of stem cell lines."

From The White House website: http://www.whitehouse.gov/agenda/technology/

"Don't Know a Neutron from a Crouton"

Ouch!

One business professor told The Day that Pfizer's problems show a corporate tendency to preserve management, rather than preserving the business itself. "Having finance people and lawyers without scientific knowledge who don't know a neutron from a crouton... making decisions about a viable research project is a problem," he said.



From "The Day."

Friday, January 09, 2009

NVTC Releases Legislative Agenda

The NVTC released their 2009 Virginia General Assembly Legislative Agenda. Here are some highlights where VaBIO has been working with them:

• Preserve the $30 million plus in directed research funds appropriated this fiscal year as the final installment in the 3-year $100 million plus university research package.

• Narrow the scope of the Angel Investment Tax Credit by limiting eligibility to investments in small Virginia-based technology, biotechnology, life sciences, university spinoffs and alternative energy start-ups, to target industries with strong potential for statewide economic growth and job expansion.

• Increase non-state research funding at Virginia universities through (a) expanded efforts to secure federal funding of basic research and (b) identify opportunities to provide research services (as opposed to transferring IP) to large corporations. Longer term, explore opportunities to keep companies better informed of the research being performed at Virginia universities and to improve the pace and amount of technology transferred between universities and industry.

• Restructure the Commonwealth Technology Research Fund (CTRF) to provide for targeted state research investment on a competitive basis with an emphasis on collaborative research initiatives between universities and the private sector with high potential for intellectual property commercialization and job creation.

• Update Virginia’s sales and use tax exemption for research equipment to reflect current research practices and activities and to elevate Virginia’s competitive research environment. While not as competitive as the R&D tax credits offered by many states, a more meaningful tax exemption for research will help attract more private research activity.

• Restore budget cuts to CIT’s successful GAP Fund which has earned national recognition for its efforts in encouraging Virginia entrepreneurs and innovative technology start-up companies to locate and grow within the Commonwealth by investing in seed-stage firms and university spinoffs with a high potential for successful commercialization, rapid growth and downstream private equity financing.

For more information, please click here.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

VA's Biotech Billionaire to Support McAuliffe (D) for Governor


Virginia Biotech Titan R.J. Kirk Talks about his support for Democrat Terry McAuliffe's race to be the next Governor of Virginia. Excerpts from the WaPo story...

McAuliffe's Prowess As Fundraiser Grabs Spotlight in Va. Race


Virginia is a state with no limits on how much an individual, corporation or union can donate to a candidate running for state office, and some say McAuliffe could wage an $80 million campaign -- triple what Kaine spent four years ago -- if he is the Democratic nominee.

Already, McAuliffe is showing what's possible. Consider the courtship of Randal J. Kirk, a billionaire who has long been one of the biggest political donors in the state.

Brian J. Moran of Alexandria and Sen. R. Creigh Deeds of Bath, two Virginia Democrats running for governor, spent years wooing Kirk. But in mid-October, a newcomer to the Virginia political scene, McAuliffe, stopped by Kirk's Radford home to chat up his own potential bid.

Kirk, who has given Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) $660,000 since January 2006, had not met McAuliffe before. Yet they got along so well during their three-hour lunch that Kirk broke out the moonshine.

"I wanted him to know where he was," Kirk recalled.

During their meeting, McAuliffe did not ask Kirk for a campaign contribution. But McAuliffe made such an impression that Kirk did something a few weeks later that he said he had not done before: He called McAuliffe and pledged his support in advance of a contested primary.

"He has an astonishingly strong personality," said Kirk, a biotech and investment mogul. "When you meet someone, you often get a gut feeling whether this is an integrated personality. Are they the same with Joe Blow as they are with me? To me, this guy just seems utterly consistent."

"When I hire a chief executive, it helps his chances if he has a lot of contacts within the industry we want him to work," Kirk said. "Virginia is a business."


Whole story is here.

Delegate Ligamfelter Endorses More R&D at VA Universities

From the Washington Post:

"Del. L. Scott Lingamfelter (R-Prince William) said he supports increasing research and development options at local universities and colleges because that will attract companies and make the area more marketable when the economy rebounds."

Excellent comments from the Prince William Republican! Let's see if we can help the legislature understand that the "D" is just as important as the "R" in R&D.

William & Mary featured on ‘Today’ as a Princeton Review best value

For the second time this academic year, the College of William and Mary has been ranked among the country’s top values in public universities. In its 2009 annual college rankings of best bargains, The Princeton Review listed William & Mary third among its top public universities.

“It's always satisfying when kind things are said about William & Mary," said President Taylor Reveley. "William & Mary does provide an education of extraordinary caliber for far less money than other schools of comparable caliber. We're delighted that The Princeton Review agrees.”

Thursday’s announcement came with an added bonus – national television exposure. The “Today” show, NBC’s popular morning show, ran a full segment with co-host Meredith Vieira on The Princeton Review rankings – including a feature on William & Mary. The segment, which included video footage of faculty and students on campus, gave special recognition to the College and its place as one of the country’s No. 3 best value. The set was also decorated in colors from a number of the top universities, including a green and gold pennant from William & Mary. The rankings were also highlighted Thursday in USA Today, the country’s largest newspaper.

William & Mary was one of two Virginia schools among the top three public schools -- the University of Virginia claimed the top spot. Swarthmore College was ranked the country’s best value among private colleges. The Princeton Review, known for its college guidebook and test preparation services, ranked the top 50 public and top 50 private universities. The rankings, based on surveys of administrators and students, focused on a combination of factors such as academics, cost and financial aid.

Thursday’s news comes on the heels of several other rankings this academic year highlighting the College, including an announcement in October that Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine listed William & Mary as fifth among its top 100 universities that combine "outstanding economic value with top-notch education." The College was featured on Kiplinger’s Web site with an audio slideshow and online tour of William & Mary as a “best value.”

In August, William & Mary was listed 32nd overall and sixth-best public university, according to U.S. News & World Report’s annual ranking of undergraduate programs. Earlier in August, the College was ranked 49th overall – based on a different methodology – by Forbes magazine. In July, Forbes also ranked Virginia as the country's best state for business. Virginia topped the Forbes list, according to the article, in part because of "top colleges like the University of Virginia and William & Mary.” In July, The Princeton Review also ranked William and Mary and its Swem Library eighth in the category of "Best College Library." In October, Financial Times ranked the William & Mary's Mason School of Business’ Executive MBA program as one of the top 100 programs in the world. The program ranked 41st among U.S. schools and 94th worldwide.

Thursday was also the second time this academic year that William & Mary was mentioned on the Today show. In September, co-host Matt Lauer and television personality Al Roker came to town for a special show featuring Colonial Williamsburg. When hundreds of William & Mary students, faculty, staff and alumni arrived to greet them, Roker mentioned the College several times during the show and even donned a Tribe baseball cap.