Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Obama Admin Seeks Input on Commercialization of University Research

The Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Economic Council have issued a request for information (RFI) on how best to encourage the commercialization of university research and on whether proof of concept centers are an effective tool in early-stage commercialization. The RFI asks for models, strategies and metrics that can help universities contribute to economic development. Responses are due by April 26.
Read the request for information:

Governor Signs Bioscience and Technology Bills

From 2010 Bioscience Legislation Bill Signing
Flanked by Democratic and Republican lawmakers and Northern Virginia technology and business leaders, Governor Bob McDonnell today signed into law a number of bills from his successful "Jobs and Opportunity" legislative agenda that received broad bipartisan backing in the recent General Assembly session. The signing ceremony was held at the Center for Innovative Technology and Northern Virginia Technology Council in Herndon.

McDonnell's "Jobs and Opportunity" legislative agenda consisted of measures designed to spur job creation and promote economic development in Virginia. The bills signed today included tax deductions on capital gains derived from investments in technology, energy, biotech and science-based companies operating in the Commonwealth; granting temporary business licenses to individuals who already have a business license or certification from another state; broadening the allowable uses of the Governor's Development Opportunity Fund to assist in attracting major employers to the Commonwealth; designating the head of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership as CEO; and establishing a biotech research performance grant program.

Speaking about the bill signing, Governor McDonnell stated The number one job of our Administration is to help create good jobs for the citizens of Virginia. We will do that by investing in proactive policies that help private sector companies expand and grow in the Commonwealth. The states that help lead this country out of this economic downturn will be those that move aggressively to promote job creation and make it easier for entrepreneurs and business owners to be successful. That is what we are doing in Virginia. The bills we are signing today gained broad bipartisan support because job-creation and economic development are bipartisan objectives. I thank the legislative leaders from both parties who helped carry this legislation, and the members of the Virginia technology and business communities who advocated effectively for its passage."

McDonnell also used the bill signing to comment on budget amendments successfully advanced by the Administration to further assist in the job-creation effort, "We also successfully promoted changes in the introduced budget to invest more in critically important economic development tools. These include the CIT GAP Fund which will provide critical and immediate first financing for 20 new early-stage companies, and position Virginia as a leader in next-generation company formation in the areas of technology, biosciences, and energy. We expanded funding for Virginia's wet labs so that they can increase lab space to the benefit of growing biotechnology companies. And working together we continued to fund the Virginia Leaders in Export Trade (VALET) Program and provided additional funding for the DBA Loan Guarantee Program which helps finance small businesses at a time when credit markets are tight."

Lawmakers joining the Governor this afternoon included Senator Mark Herring (D-Loudoun); Senator Janet Howell (D-Fairfax); Senator Walter Stosch (R-Henrico); Delegate Dave Albo (R- Fairfax); Delegate Tom Rust (R- Fairfax); Delegate Tim Hugo (R- Fairfax); Delegate Barbara Comstock (R- Fairfax); Delegate Mark Sickles (D- Fairfax); Delegate Rich Anderson (R-Prince William); Delegate Joe May (R-Loudoun); Delegate Jackson Miller (R-Prince William) and Delegate Mark Keam (D-Fairfax). Among the many leaders from the Northern Virginia technology and business communities in attendance were Bobbie Kilberg, President and CEO of the Northern Virginia Technology Council; Pete Jobse, President and CEO of the Center for Innovative Technology; Mark Herzog, Executive Director of the Virginia Biotechnology Association; John Backus, Managing Partner of New Atlantic Ventures; Spencer Williamson, President and CEO of Intelliject LLC; and Michael Grisham the President of GPB Scientific.

Speaking about his bill to grant an income tax deduction for capital gains derived from investments in technology, science-based or bio-tech start ups in Virginia, Senator Mark Herring remarked, "This legislation tells Virginia investors that if you support the entrepreneurs in this dynamic sector of our economy, state government will support you. Science, technology and biotech-based jobs are good-paying and fast-growing, and we must take every action possible to make sure they are created in the Commonwealth. This legislation will encourage more investors to put their private capital to work creating good work for Virginians."

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Medicare agency adds ex-Va. official, plans reorganization - The Hill's Blog Briefing Room

Virginia's Marilyn Tavenner Joins CMS...

Medicare agency adds ex-Va. official, plans reorganization
By Jeffrey Young
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has tapped a former top health official from Virginia for a senior leadership position and plans its first structural reorganization in nearly 10 years.

Marilyn Tavenner, who was secretary of Health and Human Resources in the administration of then-Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine (D) from 2006 until Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) took office this year, has joined CMS as principal deputy administrator, a newly created position that makes Tavenner the second-ranking official at the agency -- and the Obama administration's most senior appointment to the agency.

Prior to her tenure under Kaine, Tavenner was a nurse and an executive at the Hospital Corporation of America, where she ran two facilities in suburban Richmond and served as chairwoman of the Virginia Hospital Association and a trustee at the American Hospital Association.

Obama, however, has yet to nominate anyone to serve as administrator of CMS. The agency has not had a confirmed chief executive since Mark McClellan resigned in Oct. 2006. President George W. Bush's last nominee for CMS administrator, Kerry Weems, served on the job in an acting capacity for more than a year but the Senate never took action on his confirmation. Since Obama took office, CMS's chief operating officer Charlene Frizzera, a veteran civil servant, has been acting administrator.

Medicare agency adds ex-Va. official, plans reorganization - The Hill's Blog Briefing Room

Delegate Steve Landes Wins “Virginia Bioscience Legislative Leadership Award”

Richmond, VA--- The Virginia Biotechnology Association (VaBIO), today announced that Steve Landes, a member of the Virginia House of Delegates from Augusta County, won the Virginia Bioscience Legislative Leadership Award for his exemplary efforts on behalf of the biotechnology and medical device industry in the Commonwealth.

“Delegate Landes receiving this award will not surprise anyone who knows Steve or is familiar with his legislative achievements in support of economic development and job creation,” said Mark A. Herzog, executive director of VaBIO. “Our members are generally small start-up companies that are attempting to turn a discovery in a lab into a usable treatment for disease or suffering. These companies face huge challenges and it helps to know that we have a legislator like Delegate Landes who understands the challenges small technology businesses face every day.”

The Virginia Biotechnology Association has only recognized a handful of state legislators with this special distinction.

“The technology industry in Virginia knows that Steve Landes takes the time to understand the complexity of the development process for new drugs or technologies,” continued Herzog. “If it means new, high growth jobs for the community, Delegate Landes always goes above and beyond the call of duty.”

The Virginia Biotechnology Association (VaBIO) is the statewide non-profit organization that promotes the scientific and economic impact of the life sciences industry in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Approximately 300 biotechnology, pharmaceutical and medical device companies are based in Virginia, mainly clustered around universities in Blacksburg, Charlottesville, Richmond, Norfolk and Northern Virginia.

According to a recent study by Archstone LLC, the bioscience industry has a profound impact on the state’s economy:
• According to a study in 2006, the bioscience industry supported nearly 80,000 direct and indirect jobs in the Commonwealth.
• The value of the industry’s products and services was approximately $12.6 billion in 2006.
• The biopharmaceutical industry grew by 8.1% between 1996 and 2006.
• The industry paid employees about $1.8 billion in wages in 2006, resulting in $81.6 million in state taxes and $433.3 million in federal taxes.
• Biopharmaceutical employees paid, on average, $4,091 in state taxes, compared to the much more modest $1,501 paid by the average worker.
• In 2008, Virginia’s biomedical researchers conducted nearly 1,900 clinical tests of new medicines, including 678 trials for cancer drugs, 102 tests for heart disease medicines, 232 rare disease treatment trials and 80 tests for HIV/AIDS drugs.

For more information, please visit

Monday, March 08, 2010

US House GOP Whip Eric Cantor on Biotech

"Simply put, we have to stop borrowing and spending so much money! As government shrinks, the private sector will grow, creating droves of new jobs. Think of the biotech park right across the street and the growth engine it has been for our region, and think of the potential there that remains untapped."

Capital Gains Exclusion on Technology Investments Goes to VA Governor

The Virginia Biotechnology Association's (VaBIO) legislation to provide incentives for investments in biotech and other advanced technology companies is on the way to Governor Robert McDonnell's desk for signature. VaBIO and NVTC, the Northern Virginia Technology Council, are encouraging the Governor to amend the bill with an "emergency clause" so that it will take immediate effect upon his signature. Otherwise, there would actually be an unintended disincentive to invest until July 1st.

This legislation will make Virginia the most welcoming home for advanced technology companies seeking capital for growth. The new law will exclude capital gains from state taxes for all investors--private, angels, venture funds, and corporations, as long as the investment was made in a qualified, biotech or advanced technology firm. Our congratulations to the Virginia Bioscience Legislative Caucus for championing this legislation and to our two chief patrons, Senator Mark Herring (D-Loudoun) and Delegate Sam Nixon (R-Chesterfield). The concept was also highlighted by Governor McDonnell's Transition Team before taking office. Here are the details:

Bill Summary: Income taxes; recognition of income from capital gains. Grants an income tax deduction for any income taxed as a long-term capital gain for federal income tax purposes or any income taxed as investment services partnership interest income, on or after January 1, 2011, that is related to a qualified investment in a technology and science start-up business having a principal office or facility in the Commonwealth and less than $3 million in annual revenues in the fiscal year prior to the investment. The deduction would relate to investments made between July 1, 2010, and June 30, 2013.

HB 523 (Delegate Nixon)
SB 426 (Senator Herring)

DNA Co. Intrexon Raises $17.4M

Biotech company Intrexon Corporation raised $17.4 million in Series D shares, according to an SEC filing. A group of 40 investors took part in the equity offering.

Housed at the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Va., Intrexon is developing DNA control systems to enhance the safety and efficacy of existing and emerging biological therapeutics.
Named in the filing were executive officers Randal J. Kirk, chief executive officer and chairman of the board; Thomas Reed, Ph.D., founder & chief science officer; Sunil Chada, Ph.D., senior vice president, translational medicine; Rick Sterling, chief financial officer; Ronald B. Herberman, M.D., chief medical officer - oncology; and Robert Beech, senior vice president, corporate development & communications. Directors named were Cesar L. Alvarez; Steven Frank; Larry Horner; Dean J. Mitchell; and Burton Sobel M.D.

While specific investors are not identified in the filing, Intrexon has reported $35 million in Series C-2 investment in previous years from New River Management, managed by Third Security, LLC., and NewVa Capital Partners, LP.

SEC filing:

By Citybizlist Staff'
Citybizlist Washington D.C.
March 5, 2010

Gauze is good for Newport News firm

A Newport News company whose bread-and-butter is developing high-tech wound-healing products had two major announcements in February, including receiving substantial funding that could help it capture a share of the defense industry in addition to its pursuits in the consumer realm. Soluble Systems LLC announced it received $800,000 in federal funding to conduct a clinical study of its flagship product, TheraGauze.

Congress approved the funding from the 2010 Defense Appropriations Bill with the hope that TheraGauze can be proven to be a successful new battlefield wound dressing.

TheraGauze, which the company manufactures in Hampton, is a complex piece of gauze that has the ability to sense and respond to moisture within a wound. If part of a wound needs less moisture, the product can absorb it. If part of the same wound needs extra moisture to promote healing, the gauze helps produce that moisture, jump-starting or speeding up the healing process. The company calls this its proprietary Skin Moisture Rebalancing Technology.

The science behind TheraGauze came to be in the late '90s when Dr. Guy Levy, a local dentist, now the company's chief technology officer, secured a patent for a polymer intended to help combat dry mouth in Levy's dental patients.

Levy and attorney Allan Staley, now the company's president, "ultimately discovered [the polymer] had a lot more attributes than originally anticipated," Staley said.
Without getting into its patented chemical specifics, the polymer seems to magically know how to handle moisture in a wound. From there a wound-care dressing was developed and the two brought in CEO Kerry McCarter, a former Johnson & Johnson exec.

Finally in late 2007, after raising $5.9 million, Soluble Systems was able to bring TheraGauze to market. It's manufactured in a high-tech clean room in the facilities of the Arc of the Virginia Peninsula, a group that helps put individuals with developmental and other disabilities to work.
In addition to studying its moisture capabilities, one of the goals of the Department of Defense-funded study will be to further confirm the product's ability to deliver antibiotics to a wound, particularly serious wounds and infections seen in battle.

The study will take place at multiple sites including Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Harvard Medical School, Johns Hopkins Medical Center and The University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

The study will begin later this year and will run for about two years, Staley said, and more funding will be sought from DOD to supplement the initial $800,000. It sought $4 million for the study initially.

The other big news for Soluble Systems came when it received notice that it was granted trademark protection on its skin graft product known as TheraSkin.

TheraSkin refers to cryogenically preserved grafts of human skin that are applied to wounds that are not healing properly. The technology behind this product provides important skin elements such as cytokines and collagen to and around the wound to jump-start the healing process.

TheraSkin was launched in 2009 after the company secured a partnership with Virginia Beach-based organ procurer LifeNet for its supply of human skin.

"We were looking to expand our product line and wanted to create a synergistic product expansion," Staley said. "[TheraGauze and TheraSkin] work together as part of the wound solution."

That combination of products, and a few more undisclosed Thera-brand ideas up its sleeve, gives Soluble Systems reason to be excited for the future.

The company employs 22 workers, including a sales force that calls on 10 major markets all over the U.S.

It is approaching $1 million in annualized sales, Staley said, with a target of just under $2 million in total sales for 2010.

It's in the midst of raising a second round of private capital, some of which will come from local investors, though its track record now allows it to look elsewhere for funding.

The money will be used to expand its sales efforts into 20 markets with 65 sales reps over the next five years.

Its biggest challenge, Staley said, remains competing with its multinational competitors and getting the Thera-brand and Soluble Systems names out there. The market in which TheraGauze competes is ripe with competition. TheraSkin, however, has just two main competitors, Staley said, both of which use bioengineered tissue rather than actual human skin.
TheraGauze has been plugged into the industry distribution chain and is available to consumers by the box or the case with a prescription.

A 2-inch-by-2-inch piece of the gauze runs about $8. The price goes up for larger versions.
Soluble Systems hopes to one day sell TheraGauze as an over-the-counter product.

It has been selling TheraSkin to customers such as VA hospitals since the fall.

The big question - what's the end game for Soluble Systems?

The biotechnology industry is a frontier for venture capital, acquisition or even going public.
For now, "we're looking to grow a company - to build a company here in Virginia," Staley said. "We'd like to employ more than 22 people."

Availability of private capital and a disdain toward public offerings will keep an IPO off the table for now, he said.

"It truly is an exciting opportunity to build this company and help the patient population to heal better and faster," Staley said, "and ultimately provide a solid return for our investors."

By Michael Schwartz Inside Business

Monday, March 01, 2010

Anti- Embryonic Stem Cell Language in VA House Budget

From the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

"Two perennial amendments pushed by anti-abortion legislators also found their way into the House committee's budget bill.

A language amendment would prohibit state funding of embryonic-stem-cell research but would permit entities that conduct such research, without using state money, to receive state funding. State funding of research using aborted fetuses would be prohibited.

A second language amendment would prohibit the distribution of state money to Planned Parenthood Federation of America, or any affiliate. Very little general-fund money is given to the organization. Planned Parenthood says none of that money goes to abortions.

Similar amendments have failed in past sessions."