Monday, June 29, 2009

Biotech Start-Ups Line Up Again for Tax Credits

By Kim Hart, The Washington Post
Monday, June 29, 2009

Last year, Scott Allocco spent 12 hours sitting on a downtown Baltimore sidewalk, waiting to turn in his application to get a tax credit for the angel investors who'd promised to give money to his cancer diagnostics company, BioMarker Strategies. He was the third company in line.

This year, he was the first. He showed up at the University of Maryland's BioPark facility Friday at 10 a.m., armed with a borrowed air mattress and sleeping bag. He and other company executives will wait in the building's auditorium, which is available to them for the first time this year, for five days. They can't formally turn in their application until 9 a.m. Wednesday, and the tax credits are given on a first-come, first-served basis. Since 2006, 38 firms have received the credits. By the end of the day Friday, when his chief executive, Karen Olson, relieved him of waiting duty, representatives of 10 other companies had already lined up behind him.

"This shows how important this program is to biotech start-up companies and how important it is for Maryland to increase funding for the program," Allocco said, adding how relieved he was that companies could wait inside the building, where there is a gym, a shower and carpeted floors, rather than on the side of Redwood Street. "I was concerned that in this economy there would be great demand for these credits."

The popular program encourages investment in Maryland biotechnology start-ups by letting investors receive a tax credit for 50 percent of the money they put into eligible companies. The state provides $6 million a year for the tax credits. The funding for the program was in danger of getting slashed this year due to tightened budgets, despite Gov. Martin O'Malley's efforts to increase it. The credit cannot exceed $50,000 for individual investors and $250,000 for corporations and venture capital firms.

"I had worked hard to attract investors and I felt I had an obligation to protect their tax credits," Allocco said.

Word that the line was forming spread quickly through the biotech community. By 10:45, Marty Zug, chief executive of Sequella in Rockville, which develops treatments for infectious diseases, arrived in the third slot in line. A scientist relieved him later in the afternoon. Zug planned to return today.

Alternative fuel-producing firm Zymetis of College Park was second in line. Gliknik, a Baltimore firm that develops drugs for autoimmune diseases, was fourth.

"Everyone's scrambling right now to figure out how to cover five days' worth of line-waiting," Zug said. "Every year it seems to get more and more competitive. We've got people willing to give up their weekend and are going to stay there for the duration."

WBJ Interviews Early Stage Biotech VC on Economy

Excellent interview by Vandana Sinha with HIG Bioventures' Bruce Robertson.

Friday, June 26, 2009
Bruce Robertson: Why he's still bullish on biotech VC
Washington Business Journal - by Vandana Sinha Staff Reporter

Bruce Robertson, managing director of HIG BioVentures, has been working the venture capital circuit long enough to see the ups and downs in biotech investment — and observant enough to learn from them. He talks about the lessons of the worst period he has seen.

What do biotechs need to be considered for venture capital money? A pipeline of good drugs and experienced management teams are getting funded. Good data around the compounds. Certainly, it’s not like a company can decide to do this overnight.

What’s the craziest pitch you’ve received? It was basically a baseball hat with an ultrasonic music oscillation device in it to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Part of the baseball cap played music, and the other part was vibrating. We didn’t do that deal.

What’s something that will always get noticed by you? Really good preclinical or clinical data in a big unmet medical need where we believe we can build a company in a very capital-efficient manner.

What will always turn you off? Capital inefficiency. Big burn rate.

What’s going on with venture capital now? In 2000, people had been doing so well. VCs had gotten sloppy at how they reserved cash [for future financing rounds for their existing portfolio companies]. That behavior continued even when the bubble started to burst. High-priced deals continued to happen and reserves continued to be short. By 2001, VCs couldn’t invest because they didn’t have the money, and good companies went under. So, when Lehman Brothers went down last September where the venture market was slow to react in 2000, the venture market was fast to react in 2008. Lehman closed on a Monday, and the venture markets closed on Wednesday to make sure they had reserves to support their existing companies.

So there’s money in the system? There’s less than there was in September, but there is capital. It just became incredibly conservative overnight.

What else are VCs dealing with?
It’s a really tough time for VCs to raise money. So you’re going to be really conservative on how you deploy those last three, four deals. For the first three to six months nothing happened because we were all internally focused on our portfolio companies. Now VCs are starting to look at new deals again, but the bar is a lot higher. I think you’ll see some deals opening up in the next six months assuming no major disruption in the market.

What are you seeing in the life sciences market? When VCs perceive the risk to be high, they tend to migrate to later-stage companies. I don’t agree with that, but it does tend to be where things go. Early-stage companies suffer pretty disproportionately. Meanwhile, valuations have come down, so you end up seeing later-stage companies at much more favorable prices.

What do you mean prices are more favorable?
In late 2007 to the middle of 2008, there was a little mini bubble. We did zero new deals between the middle of 2007 and the end of 2008, because virtually everything we saw was overpriced.

And you said you don’t agree with automatically migrating away from early-stage companies? Three to four years from now, we’ll be in a pretty decent economy. So the early-stage company you’re investing in now is likely to be thinking about exits — an IPO, an acquisition — in a better environment.

What do you see in the local life sciences market?
Our region tends to be an earlier-stage region, which means it’s on the slower end of things to react. I don’t know how to gauge it, though, as it was slow during the uptick. It’s related to the thin pool of experienced entrepreneurial management. We haven’t recycled a lot of experienced people back into the market.

What happens to biotechs that don’t get money? The ones in the worst shape are public biotechs. A certain percent of biotechs have less than one year’s cash. Those guys are in real trouble. They have to report their financing options. It’s harder to be creative because they are public and have public shareholders. For the really early-stage companies, if you can hunker down and survive on grants for a year or two, that’s not a bad place to be. For the mid-stage companies that can’t survive on grant money and need more capital, that’s a tougher place to be. Sadly some will go out of business.

When will things turn around? I think this should probably all shake out in the next 12 months.

How much might we see here in terms of mergers and acquisitions?
I’m long term really bullish on the M&A market, but this is also a tough time because Big Pharma is extraordinarily busy. I heard from someone in Big Pharma that they’re getting three new deals per day. Many of them want to do deals, but it’s a tough triage process. And I think they have been emboldened to feel they have a lot of leverage in every deal, even with well-financed companies. So if you’re a biotech that needs to get bought, it’s tough.

What will the local sector look like long term?
There’s a lot of good stuff coming. The local governments are very supportive. I’m very encouraged by what’s going on in the local universities, particularly Johns Hopkins. There is money around. I know entrepreneurs fret that there isn’t. But in the three- to five-years time frame, I’m pretty bullish.

Biovista Inc. Announces Positive Results in a Pre-Clinical Trial of Epilepsy Drug

Biovista Inc. announced on June 23, that BVA-601, its small-molecule drug targeting epilepsy, has shown positive results in the Kainic acid murine model of temporal lobe epilepsy. BVA-601, an existing drug that Biovista repositioned in epilepsy, exhibits both anti-epileptic and neuroprotective activity. In this pre-clinical trial, BVA-601 induced a statistically significant decrease of epileptic activity in mice pre-treated with Kainic acid.

"We are pleased with these initial results that confirm the predicted efficacy of BVA-601 and encourage us to further test and develop this compound in a disease area where there is a need for new, patient-friendly therapies," said Aris Persidis, Ph.D., President of Biovista. "This successful repositioning builds on our previously reported success with BVA-101 in multiple sclerosis, expanding our CNS portfolio. At the present time we are exploring all options available to us, including the further co-development with a pharmaceutical company and the licensing of the IP to a generics company," added Dr. Persidis.

For a non-confidential information pack on BVA-601, contact Biovista at

In the animal proof of concept trial, BVA-601 was compared to diazepam, a potent anti-epileptic drug that is efficient in reducing epileptic activity but has troubling adverse events. BVA-601 induced a statistically significant reduction in the number of animals showing epileptic activity and delayed the onset of epileptic seizures.

From PharmaLive

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

MdBio Offers Support for State Life Sciences Plan

ROCKVILLE, Md. -- As the association representing the biotech industry in the State of Maryland, the MdBio Division of the Tech Council of Maryland is pleased to wholeheartedly support "BioMaryland 2020: A Strategic Plan for the Life Sciences Industry in Maryland." Last month, at the BIO 2009 International Convention in Atlanta, Georgia, Governor Martin O'Malley unveiled the Strategic Plan developed by the Maryland Life Sciences Advisory Board, a 15-member panel formed by the Governor and Maryland General Assembly in 2007. The Board's purpose is to advise the State on setting priorities for the biotech industry. BioMaryland 2020 lays out a 17-point program whose "one-stop shop" centerpiece, the Maryland Biotechnology Center, has already been launched, and whose recommendations include more spending on some existing programs as well as the creation of new initiatives.

The four priorities of the plan, innovation, competitiveness, talent, and capital, are areas of critical interest to biotech companies in the State. Many of the programs and initiatives of the MdBio Division and its companion organization, The MdBio Foundation, have been dedicated to addressing these specific issues. A number of the plan recommendations reflect long-standing Tech Council of Maryland priorities. These priorities include increasing funding for the Biotech Tax Credit, increasing funding for Maryland Venture Fund, expanding Maryland's R&D Tax Credit, supporting stem cell research, and encouraging nanobiotechnology.

"It is our intention to work closely with the Maryland Biotechnology Center and the Maryland Life Sciences Advisory Board in a synergistic manner to advance implementation of these recommendations for the good of our member companies and for the life sciences industry in Maryland as a whole," said Dr. Richard Zakour, Executive Director of the MdBio organizations. "Many of our member companies have played a role in shaping the Plan. Its success is critical to the future growth and success of the biotech industry in our State."

The BioMaryland 2020 initiative and recommendations of the Maryland Life Sciences Advisory Board pro vide a clear road map to maintain Maryland's prominence and realize its potential leadership role for the future of biotechnology industry globally. MdBio will enthusiastically continue to support of the Maryland Life Sciences Advisory Board and the Maryland Biotechnology Center in achieving these goals.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Geoff Allan Resigns from Insmed

Insmed Inc. (NASDAQ: INSM) , a biopharmaceutical company, today announced that Geoffrey Allan, Ph.D. has resigned as Insmed's President, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of Directors, effective immediately, due to a health condition. Dr. Allan has served as Insmed's President, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board since its inception in November 1999.

Insmed's Board of Directors has chosen Melvin Sharoky, M.D. to assume the role of Chairman of the Board, formerly held by Dr. Allan. Dr. Sharoky has been a member of Insmed's Board of Directors since 2001 and has extensive executive experience in the biopharmaceutical industry, including serving as President and CEO of Somerset Pharmaceuticals from January 2002 until March 2007. In addition, he was President of Watson Pharmaceuticals, Inc. from July 1995 through January 1998.

Mr. Kevin P Tully C.G.A., Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Mr. Steve Glover, Chief Business Officer, and Mr. Glen Kelley, Vice President, Regulatory Affairs, will continue in their roles managing the day-to-day business and report directly to Dr. Sharoky.

Insmed's previously announced process of evaluating various alternatives for the use of the proceeds from the March 2009 asset sale to Merck will move forward uninterrupted with the continued assistance of Insmed's financial advisor, RBC Capital Markets.

"Geoff Allan has played a critical role in the evolution of Insmed from its inception, navigating the Company through the various challenges and uncertainties frequently encountered within the biotech sector, and putting Insmed in an envied position of financial strength in these times of market instability," said Dr. Sharoky. "His drive, commitment and counsel will be greatly missed and all of us at Insmed wish Geoff and his family the best as he confronts his health condition."

"Among Geoff's most substantial accomplishments as CEO was the assembly of a strong management team in Kevin, Steve and Glen," continued Dr. Sharoky. "As this core team will remain in place following Geoff's departure, I expect no change in the day-to-day operations of the Company, nor any delay in pursuing potential strategic initiatives. I look forward to working closely with the entire Insmed team to continue advancing the Company's drug development mission and enhancing shareholder value."

BizWeek: FOBs-- Cure or Quagmire?

Generic Biotech Drugs: Cure or Quagmire?
Jun 16, 2009 Business Week

By Arlene Weintraub

When President Barack Obama spoke to the American Medical Assn. on June 15, he tossed out some pretty impressive numbers for savings that would be achieved by implementing various health reform ideas. Limiting tax deductions for the wealthiest Americans would save $300 billion over 10 years, he said, and allowing competitive pricing in Medicare Advantage programs would save $177 billion. But when it came to the idea of allowing generic biotech drugs onto the market, Obama couldn't quite quantify the impact.

"These drugs are used to treat illnesses like anemia," the President said, taking a direct shot at Amgen's (AMGN) blockbuster drugs Aranesp and Epogen, and Johnson & Johnson's (JNJ) Procrit. "But right now, there is no pathway at the FDA for approving generic versions of these drugs. Creating such a pathway will save us billions of dollars."

How many billions? And how fast would those savings be achieved? The answers provided by the drug industry and the government differ vastly. Several government agencies are calling for legislation that would allow the Food & Drug Administration to speed generics, or "follow-on biologics," to market. Creating FOBs is a delicate task, however: Unlike standard drugs, which are made of simple chemicals, biologics are complex proteins that are cloned and then grown in expensive cellular systems.

An Alarmed Biotech Industry

Taking the simplest view of the generic landscape has produced some very rosy scenarios for FOBs. A June report by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) said biotech drugs cost Medicare $13 billion a year and that the expenditures would drop dramatically if the FDA could approve cheaper versions of those drugs. And on June 10, the Federal Trade Commission issued a report suggesting that the government make it easier for companies to market FOBs by abbreviating the FDA approval process. Furthermore, the report concluded, there would be no need for special procedures to resolve patent disputes between the drug's inventor and the generic drugmaker prior to the FDA's approval. On June 11, members of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee debated the issue, with some suggesting companies that pioneer biotech drugs should not continue to reap huge profits for years on end at the expense of needy patients.

The $60-billion-a-year biotechnology industry—fearing an end to the unlimited pricing freedom it has enjoyed throughout its three-decade history—has emerged as the biggest opponent of Obama's generic plan. The Biotechnology Industry Organization dashed out a hostile response to the FTC's suggestions, issuing a statement that faulted the agency for "an exceedingly narrow policy perspective."

The industry fears that limiting patent protections and market exclusivity would crush profits, which would in turn make it difficult for companies to invent new drugs. The average innovation takes $1.2 billion to bring to fruition, the industry group says. The FTC, it adds, "appears to minimize greatly the impact on innovation that would occur under a new paradigm in which biosimilar competitors would be able to take a free ride off the massive [research and development] investment made by the initial innovators."

Herceptin vs. Tykerb? "Nobody knows"

Industry experts predict that technical challenges involved in making biotech drugs will be a hurdle for generic manufacturers. Dr. Lee Newcomer, senior vice-president for oncology at UnitedHealthcare (UNH), uses the examples of cancer drugs Herceptin and Tykerb to illustrate just how little is understood about biotech drugs—even after they're introduced to the market. Herceptin, made by Roche's Genentech unit, and Tykerb, from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), are essentially the same drug except for a small difference in the way the molecules are built. Some patients respond well to Tykerb, but not to Herceptin.

"Why is that? Nobody knows," Newcomer said in an interview earlier this year. "If this is the active part of the molecule, why does changing this other part make a difference? I think it will be a long time before we see follow-on biologics, because we just don't know enough."

Amgen executives have been speaking out against the idea of a streamlined FDA approval process for follow-on biologics. Roger Perlmutter, executive vice-president for research and development, believes the only way to guarantee patient safety is to scrutinize each FOB as if it's a brand-new invention. "What you have to demand of any follow-on biological is that you do the kinds of studies that establish it has the same benefit/risk profile associated with it as did the pioneer molecule," he says. "A certain amount of clinical experience will be required."

Amgen has more to lose in this fight than any other company: Its biotech drugs to treat anemia, rheumatoid arthritis, and other diseases brought the company $4.2 billion in profits last year, on $15 billion in sales. While the President was making his case for generic biotech drugs before the AMA, Amgen's stock dropped nearly 2%, to 49.45, before recovering.

Weintraub is a senior writer for BusinessWeek's Science & Technology department.

Greenwood in USA Today: Gene Patents Promote Innovation

BIO CEO Jim Greenwood provides the "opposing view" editorial in today's USA Today.

Opposing view: Patents promote innovation

Jun 16, 2009 USA TODAY
By Jim Greenwood

Can a gene be patented? The easy answer is this: Genes as they exist in nature cannot be patented. No one can patent a naturally occurring gene or protein as it exists in the body.

Here's where it becomes more complicated: Researchers can isolate a protein or DNA sequence that can help treat or potentially cure a disease, like cancer or heart disease, and they can patent this discovery. Many, if not most, human diseases have their roots in our genes. More than 4,000 diseases are suspected to stem from mutated genes inherited from one or both of our parents.

Armed with this knowledge, scientists have developed more than 200 innovative new therapies and vaccines that have helped extend and improve the quality of life for hundreds of millions of patients. Researchers, for example, located the gene responsible for cystic fibrosis, then used that knowledge to create therapies that have extended the average lifespan of a person who has CF from 12 years to more than 40.

Like all other patents, gene-based patents protect the intellectual property of a scientist, researcher or biotech company, spurring investment in research and development. The Patent and Trademark Office has strict guidelines on patents, including the patenting of DNA molecules or genetic material.

Two recent studies, from the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a Department of Health and Human Services advisory committee, both confirm what a prior National Academy of Sciences report concluded: Patents do not hinder biomedical innovation. The HHS panel's study also found that patents are not the cause of access-related issues regarding genetic diagnostic tests, in particular.

Public debate over access to, and use of, genetic technology is a good thing. It requires the consideration of many factors, including coverage and cost, concerns over genetic discrimination and myriad regulatory issues.

Even so, banning patents on gene-related breakthroughs would slow biomedical innovation to a halt — taking away the hope biotechnology offers to patients suffering from debilitating diseases such as cancer, Parkinson's and HIV/AIDS — while doing nothing to address what is really a much more complicated set of issues.

Former representative Jim Greenwood, R-Pa., is president and CEO of the Biotechnology Industry Organization.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Bridge To Cross The Chasm

An innovative funding program at the National Cancer Institute could prove a model for other National Institutes of Health divisions to follow.

By Daniel S. Levine

The National Cancer Institute is known for funding innovative research, but one of the Bethesda, Maryland center’s most recent breakthroughs isn’t a drug or new imaging agent. Instead, the latest burst of creative thinking has led to a new financing strategy to enable a host of new treatments. The initiative involves providing funding to help companies avoid the so-called valley of death. That’s the a gap in between the early-stage financing that the National Institutes of Health divisions such as the NCI typically provide for basic research, and the later-stage capital that investors supply when promising technologies are sufficiently developed.

Nearly two and a half years ago, then acting NIH Director Elias Zerhouni asked NCI Director John Niederhuber to consider enhancing the Small Business Innovative Research program. NIH was wrestling with concerns that the roughly $650 million invested each year into research through the SBIR program and the Small Business Technology Transfer Program weren’t getting the expected bang for the buck when it came to commercialized technology down the road.

The task of seeking new approaches fell in part on the NCI’s Michael Weingarten and Andy Kurtz. One of the most significant ideas to emerge from the effort was the establishment of a new grant program that could bridge the point at which the SBIR grants end and private investors are prepared to provide funding. At any given time, the NCI funds about $100 million worth of projects with some 350 companies through its SBIR program. That program allows companies to apply for funding through an initial funding to test the technical feasibility of a concept for grants that average around $150,000. If successful, a follow-up grant, which averages about $1 million, funds research and development of a technology.

“If we looked across our portfolio of grants, many of our Phase II awardees nearing the end of their Phase II awards—which in the SBIR model is the end of the line—hadn’t advanced enough to attract investment from downstream investors,” says Kurtz, program manager for the NCI’s Small Business Innovation Research Development Center. “A lot of projects die on the vine when they exhaust the usual funding through the SBIR program. The idea with the Bridge Awards was to provide additional funding for the most promising projects.”

The NCI’s new SBIR Phase II Bridge Award has just issued its first set of grants and is now reviewing a second set. Already, the program has generated enough interest that the NIH is expected to broaden the program throughout its other institutes to help commercialize more of the basic discoveries it funds.

The NCI Bridge awards are for $1 million a year for three years, for a total of $3 million. That’s more than triple the amount available to applicants through the NCI’s SBIR program. The funds are used for such things as pre-clinical research and development needed for regulatory filings to begin human clinical trials, or conduct the trials themselves. The NCI expects to award up to $10 million in fiscal 2009 under the program. The Bridge grants are open to current and recently expired NIH SBIR Phase II projects in the area of cancer therapies or cancer imaging.

One catch is that applicants must provide at least a dollar-for-dollar match from an outside source of funding. For the NCI, this provides not only validation of the commercial potential of a technology, but serves also as an important means of leveraging its own investment. And, for companies, having such a grant is a tool that can help raise money. It not only shows investors that government experts think enough of the technology to help fund the development, but it also reduces investor risk by providing non-dilutive capital.

“It’s money that buys you some runway or buys you time to a next milestone where you can get traditional venture capital,” says Glen Giovannetti, global biotechnology leader for Ernst & Young. “With NIH, there’s a process by which you have to qualify, so there is a scientific review and validation that comes from that.”

For Lpath, a San Diego-based developer of Asonep, an anti-angiogenic monoclonal antibody that targets S1P, a lipid that fuels the growth and spread of cancer, the funding will help it satisfy its financial obligations under an alliance with Merck Serona and provide it with a little independence. Lpath has entered into a worldwide agreement with Merck Serono to develop and commercialize Asonep. Under the agreement, Merck Serono will pay up to $23 million in upfront payments and R&D funding to support Lpath’s completion of the Phase 1 clinical trial.

“Every licensing deal acts in effect like an option,” says Gary Atkinson, Lpath’s vice president and chief financial officer. “The big company that licenses in a product can put a halt on the program at anytime. We have a critical juncture coming up with Merck Serono. We feel this award will be validating, help in their decision making, and give us a little more leverage.”

The Bridge Awards are perhaps the most significant part of a broader set of changes put into place by the NCI to address the challenges of translating discoveries into commercialized products. In addition to establishing the Bridge Awards, the NCI has centralized the management of grants through a newly created center, rather than rely on scientists throughout the institute to manage grants among their other responsibilities. The institute has also brought in people with industry experience and knowledge of how to commercialize technology to staff the center and manage the grant programs. Among other things, the center is helping advise companies on everything from how to improve failed grant applications to what preclinical preparations need to be done to win regulatory approval to begin clinical trials.

“Before we set up the center, it was a much more hands-off process for both managing and interacting with the companies that were being funded under the SBIR program,” says Weingarten, director of the NCI’s Small Business Innovation Research Development Center. “We have a much closer working relationship with the companies we are funding now and we are helping mentor them along the way and helping them be successful.”

From BIO Enews with Burrill Insights

Iambiotech Interview with Governor Kaine

While at BIO 2009 in Atlanta Governor Tim Kaine was interviewed by Check out yesterday's post on from their website with Kaine's video.

Today is the Democratic Primary in the Virginia Governor’s race. It’s been a contentious campaign season so far, with some heated debate over which candidate is the best choice to continue the legacy of the current Governor, Tim Kaine. On the day that the next Democratic nominee is chosen, we wanted to bring you a recent, exclusive interview with Governor Kaine about how he has helped grow the biotech sector in his state. This year, with the economic crisis front and center in the campaign, the role of biotech in building a robust innovation economy will no doubt be a hot topic. Here’s what Governor Kaine had to say:

We asked Mark Herzog, the executive director of the Virginia Biotechnology Association, about Governor Kaine’s record of supporting biotechnology in the state:

“While other states have cut back on their bioscience economic development investments during the global downturn, the Virginia General Assembly passed legislation this year that enhances tax credits and incentives for bioscience-related start-ups. Governor Kaine signed that legislation into law and has, along with state legislators, received the thanks of the industry for the support.”

Watch the video.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Kappametrics Inc. Appoints Healthcare Industry Veteran Jay D. Miller CEO

Company Pioneering Imaging Technology for Diagnosis of Chronic Brain Disorders

Taps Executive with 25 years of Imaging-Related Experience

CHANTILLY, Va.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Kappametrics Inc., a medical technology company pioneering technology to enable the real-time collection of EEG data during fMRI scans of the brain, has named Jay D. Miller president and chief executive officer, effective immediately.

Kappametrics’ flagship product, fEEG™, employs patent-pending technology to capture electroencephalography (EEG) data concurrently with functional magnetic resonance images (fMRI) to provide more detailed mapping of brain activity. fMRI scans capture spatial images of the brain while EEGs record electrical activity of brain cells. The availability of combined EEG and fMRI data would provide physicians with valuable information to improve the understanding and diagnosis of chronic neurological disorders. Each year, more than 10 million Americans are evaluated for various brain disorders. Kappametrics’ initial market for fEEG™, pending FDA marketing clearance, is academic and clinical research.

“I’m thrilled to be part of a company with such great technology and growth potential,” Miller said. “Our mission is to bring Kappametrics technology to the marketplace as soon as we can to help address serious neurological conditions, such as epilepsy, brain tumors, Alzheimer’s disease and chronic pain. John Zett, chief operating officer, has done a terrific job leading Kappametrics to where it is today, and I’m excited about working with him to advance this much-needed technology.”

Mark Muth, Kappametrics board chair, noted Miller is well suited for this new role with his background as a medical imaging executive. “Jay is a proven leader who builds strong customer relations, fosters collaboration and has an ability to raise funds to drive Kappametrics’ growth.”

Zett added, “I’m delighted to team with Jay to move the company forward. Kappametrics will benefit from his background in medical imaging, experience with emerging companies and contacts in the investment community.”

Miller brings 25 years of medical technology experience to Kappametrics. Most recently, he was an independent healthcare consultant for approximately 10 healthcare companies. Previously, he was chief executive officer of Minneapolis-based Vital Images (Nasdaq: VTAL), a leading provider of advanced visualization software solutions. After joining Vital Images in 1997 as vice president of marketing and business development, Miller was named CEO in 2002. During his tenure, Miller presided over the company’s growth to $70 million in revenue in 2007 from $15 million in 2001, and workforce growth to more than 300 employees from fewer than 25 employees. Prior to Vital Images, Miller served in a range of strategic and marketing positions for General Electric Medical Systems from 1989 to 1997 and Siemens Medical Systems from 1986 to 1988.

In addition, Miller currently serves on the board of directors of publicly held Streamline Health Solutions (Nasdaq: STRM), as well as on the boards of the Midwest Division of the American Cancer Society and the Coulter Foundation at the University of Virginia. Miller received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Dartmouth College, a master’s in biomedical engineering from the University of Virginia and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. He has also garnered several awards, including medical imaging “CEO of the Year” from Frost & Sullivan in 2004 and Ernst & Young “Entrepreneur of the Year” for the Minnesota and Dakotas region in 2005.

About fEEG™
Kappametrics’ breakthrough fEEG™ technology employs innovative noise cancellation techniques to eliminate the large radio frequency, electrostatic and magnetic noise induced on the EEG signals by the fMRI scanner, thereby enabling the real-time collection of physiologic EEG data during fMRI scans. The system will help ensure the integrity of the EEG signal by dramatically improving the signal to noise ratio of the data at the source prior to digitization, while also removing ballistocardiogram and other artifacts, to provide concurrent acquisition of EEG data during fMRI imaging. The fEEG™ system’s user-friendly design and simultaneous imaging capabilities are expected to offer cost and efficiency benefits for academic researchers and clinicians.

About Kappametrics
Kappametrics Inc., a private medical technology company based in Chantilly, Va., was established in 2004 after its spin-out from Unilever, with a vision to develop innovative solutions to address the problems of data acquisition in functional MRI environments. After nine years of research and development, Kappametrics is finalizing the development of its fEEG™ noise cancellation technology, and plans to submit an application to the FDA for 510k marketing clearance in the near future. For further information, please visit the company’s Web site at

Alliance Engineering Celebrates 20 Years in Business: with Social Responsibility

Richmond-based engineering firm turns 20 and gives back to the community through three pro-bono projects.

RICHMOND, Va., June 2 /PRNewswire/ -- Richmond-based Alliance Engineering marks its 20th Anniversary by reinvesting in the communities that are home to its regional offices. Through its offices in Richmond, VA, Baltimore, MD, and Newport News, VA, Alliance has partnered with community organizations to donate design and engineering services aimed at improving the local area. It also marks the beginning of an annual plan by Alliance to champion social responsibility - a plan devised by the firm's employees.

Founder Kevin Kokal, commented, "This anniversary belongs to the employees that have fueled the growth of our company. We couldn't think of a better way to show our appreciation then by giving back to the communities they call home." Kokal credits Alliance employees' strong community connections and spirit of charity for giving rise to the firm's generosity. "We are reflecting the character of our people through these projects and we are saying thank you."

The Richmond office's community project is the most ambitious. Working with the John J. Maddox River Conservation, Alliance committed to building a 550 foot boardwalk along the riverside trail. "This will truly be a structure that the entire Richmond community can enjoy," says Michael Golden, Director of the Chesterfield County, Virginia Department of Parks and Recreation. "Alliance is a special company with strong Richmond ties. It says a lot about who they are that they would commit their time and resources to this." The boardwalk is set to be unveiled to the public on June 6th.

In Baltimore, the Alliance team came together to support a charity near and dear to everyone's heart - Habitat for Humanity. Founder Jim Burnette noted that "Habitat has such a good thing going that there's no reason to reinvent the wheel. We believe in what they do and, as engineers, we figured we could lend a hand and build a home in the Baltimore area." The Alliance Engineering team, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity volunteers, completed the home's construction on May 30th.

It's the kids that won the attention of the Alliance Newport News office and who were the recipients of their act of social kindness. Alliance employees selected the Boys & Girls Club of the Virginia Peninsula as its partner for this year's inaugural social responsibility project. On April 25th, Alliance completed a park beautification project installing picnic tables, sand boxes, tetherball poles, basketball hoops, and dinosaur fossils in a recreational area. Mike Mullins of the Boys & Girls Club of the Virginia Peninsula commended Alliance on their contribution saying, "This is not something that the Boys and Girls Club would have been able to do without the help of Alliance Engineering. I can't say enough about the job that they did for our kids."

Kokal reflects, "Social responsibility is nothing new but it's needed more than ever today. At Alliance Engineering, we have a lot to be thankful for - talented employees, a growing business, and strong relationships in three communities. This is our way of showing our gratitude for 20 successful years." Plans are already in the works for next year's community giving projects. "It's a part of who we are," says Kokal.

About Alliance Engineering, Inc.

Founded in 1989, Alliance Engineering, Inc. is a multi-disciplinary engineering and construction management firm with expertise in industrial, manufacturing, power, pharmaceutical and biosciences environments. Alliance has provided services to over 700 industrial clients in the U.S. alone and boasts a 95% client retention rate which is credited to the firm's core values of integrity and quality.

Commonwealth Biotech Buys Chinese Peptide Company

Commonwealth Biotechnologies, Inc. (“CBI”) (NASDAQ Capital Market:CBTE) is pleased to announce that it has executed an agreement to acquire all of the outstanding shares of GL Biochem (Shanghai) Ltd (“GL Biochem”), a privately owned Shanghai-based chemical company and the largest supplier of research-grade peptide products and peptide reagents globally. Over the past 5 years, GL Biochem and related businesses have demonstrated compound annual revenue growth of over 40%. Based on the results of an independent financial due diligence report, they reported 2008 revenues of over $13 million and net income after tax of approximately $2 million. The proposed transaction would be a transformative deal for CBI, providing it with a strong balance sheet, significant free cash flows and propelling it into a position of dominance in the research-grade custom peptide market.

This transaction is subject to the completion of PCAOB-qualified audits of GL Biochem and the approval of CBI shareholders and lenders. The transaction will involve the issuance 6.56 million fully paid ordinary CBI shares to the shareholders of GL Biochem, representing 51% of CBI’s outstanding share capital. As part of the transaction, GL Biochem will grant CBI an unencumbered option to purchase all the issued capital of three related businesses, namely GL Biochem (Danyang) Ltd, GL Peptide (Shanghai) Ltd and GL Peptide (Binhai) Ltd (collectively, the “Associated Companies”) within twelve months of the closing of the transaction (the “Option”). The purchase price of the Option will range between 8.14 million shares and 18.64 million CBI shares, based on the forthcoming 2008 audited after-tax profit results of GL Biochem and Associated Companies.

According to Dr. Bill Guo, Chairman and CEO of CBI, “The transaction has the potential to generate enormous value for CBI shareholders. GL Biochem has demonstrated outstanding revenue and income growth over the last ten years and is now the clear global leader in the research-grade peptide market.” Dr. Guo added that, “GL Biochem brings to CBI an outstanding debt-free balance sheet, significant free cash flows, clear synergies with CBI’s existing peptide business unit (Mimotopes) and its existing Chinese operations through Venturepharm (Asia), and provides for significant continued growth opportunities in the rapidly expanding peptide outsourcing market.”

Dr. Paul D’Sylva, Director of CBI and Chairman of Mimotopes said that “Peptides make up only a small proportion of the pharmaceutical products on the market today but represent one of the fastest growing classes of new drugs because of their high activity and specificity, low toxicity and high degree of potential chemical diversity. The market for peptide drugs is now growing at a compound annual rate of 7.5% and is estimated to be worth in excess of US$13.4b by 2010. The increased interest in peptides as therapeutics has triggered a boom in the outsourcing of peptide reagents and custom peptide synthesis, core business areas for both GL Biochem and Mimotopes. The proposed transaction with GL Biochem would make CBI the largest global player in the non-GMP segment of this market and provide it with a strong foothold and significant growth potential in the complementary segments of GMP peptides, custom antibodies and specialty amino acids.”

Dr. Hongyan Xu, CEO and President of GL Biochem said, “We are very excited about the potential of combining GL Biochem and CBI, particularly because it strengthens an already significant ongoing relationship between Mimotopes and our company. We believe that the addition of talented new staff, our complimentary commercial relationships and our respective global sales and marketing strategies will mean that the CBI group’s position as leader in the research-grade custom peptide market is assured.”

Dr. Richard Freer, CBI’s COO said that, “This transaction delivers three significant benefits to CBI and its shareholders: it is earnings accretive upon completion, which will add significant value to the Company; it strengthens CBI’s China-strategy by combining it with the largest peptide contract research business in China; and it propels CBI to a globally dominant position in the peptide market with three leading peptide assets and partnerships through Mimotopes Pty Ltd, GL Biochem (Shanghai) and Genzyme Pharmaceuticals.”

About CBI

CBI offers cutting-edge research and development products and services to the global life sciences industry. CBI now operates through: (1) CBI Services, a discovery phase contract research organization; (2) Fairfax Identity Laboratories, a DNA reference business; (3) Mimotopes Pty Ltd, Melbourne, Australia, a peptide and discovery chemistry business; and (4) Venturepharm (Asia), a contract research consortium specializing in drug discovery and development, process scale-up, formulation development, cGMP manufacturing and clinical trial management. For more information, visit CBI on the web at