Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Local News Video: New Biotech Labs for Charlottesville

The historic former home of Coca-Cola in Charlottesville is getting a new high-tech future. Monday morning, the city announced a major development will fill the space on Preston Avenue with labs and research companies. This project is a first for the city.

Citycampus Biotechnology Center will begin transforming the 72-year-old former soda bottling plant into state-of-the-art labs. The city and Virginia Biotechnology Association presented the plans Monday morning.

Citycampus Center will be the first fully-equipped wet lab space in Charlottesville - labs where researchers can test chemicals, drugs, and biological materials. Indoor Biotechnologies Incorporated is buying the building from Coke and will be the lead tenant in Citycampus.

The United Kingdom based company sells allergy and asthma products and services around the world.

Indoor Biotechnologies President Martin Chapman said, "If we provide space for expansion, we can clearly develop more of that industry and hopefully recruit biotech companies to come from other parts of the state, which would be terrific."

The project to rehabilitate the 1939-era Coca Cola building will cost Indoor Biotechnologies $3-$5 million and will take about two years to finish. At full-build out, the facility will create 110-150 high-tech, high-paying jobs.

The city expects the project will keep UVA research spin-off companies in Charlottesville.

Click here for the video link: http://www.nbc29.com/category/175568/video-landing-page?clipId=5701013&autostart=true

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Insmed Regains NASDAQ Compliance

Insmed Incorporated (Nasdaq CM: INSMD), a biopharmaceutical company, today announced that it has received notification from The NASDAQ Stock Market that it has regained compliance with the minimum $1.00 per share bid price requirement.

To regain compliance with the bid price rule, Insmed was required to maintain a minimum closing bid price of $1.00 per share or more for a period of at least 10 consecutive business days. On March 16, 2011, the closing price of Insmed's common stock was $5.02 per share, the tenth consecutive business day the stock price had closed above $1.00 per share. The NASDAQ Capital Market has indicated that this matter in now closed.

Insmed will continue to trade on The NASDAQ Capital Market.

March 21, 2011

ADial Pharmaceuticals, Led by UVA Profs, Raises $4.1M

According to an SEC filing, ADial Pharmaceuticals, L.L.C., developer of medications to treat addictions, completed a $4.1 million offering.

The company was founded by Prof. Bankole Johnson, who serves as president and chairman.

Dr. Johnson is Alumni Professor and Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences at the University of Virginia. He is well-known for his discovery of compounds that have been effective in the treatment of alcoholism. Professor Johnson also received national media attention for his appearance in the Home Box Office (HBO) original documentary feature, "Addiction", which won the prestigious Governors Award, a special Emmy Award, from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Dr. Johnson is named in the filing, along with CEO William B. Stilley and CFO John F. Riccardi; and directors Robert S Capon, Mike L. King, Ming D Li, and Wendy L Yarno.

Capon, King and Li are all members of the University of Virginia faculty. Capon was also the co-founder and former CEO of Charlottesville-based Adenosine Therapeutics.

March 16, 2011

Monday, March 21, 2011

Virginia To Start Using Familial DNA Searches for Criminals

Governor Bob McDonnell announced today that the Virginia Department of Forensic Science (DFS) has developed the capability to perform a technique known as familial DNA searching. This application will expand DFS’ ability to assist in criminal investigations by searching its DNA database for a person or persons who may be closely related to an unknown individual, not in the database, whose DNA has been identified on an item of crime scene evidence and consequently is being sought as a suspect in a specific crime.

“It is vital that our law enforcement agencies have every available tool at their disposal to protect public safety and investigate the most violent crimes in the Commonwealth,” said Governor McDonnell. “This new technology will allow forensic experts to develop leads otherwise unavailable to law enforcement officers that can expedite the identification of criminals in certain cases and can get these offenders off the streets before any further loss of life or injuries to citizens occur.”

Familial DNA searching is currently being used in California and Colorado to provide law enforcement investigators leads to possible criminal suspects, and was instrumental in the 2010 capture of a murder suspect in California’s “Grim Sleeper” cases. The computer software required to perform a familial search of profiles in Virginia’s databank of convicted offender and arrestee DNA samples was developed by and provided to DFS without cost by the Office of Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey. The acquisition of the Denver software and the DFS laboratory personnel’s review to validate its suitability for searching Virginia DNA databank profiles followed requests from several local prosecutors to consider applying the technology to a number of unsolved crimes that occurred in the Commonwealth.

Virginia law requires that persons convicted of or arrested for certain specified crimes provide a sample of their DNA for inclusion in the state databank of DNA profiles. In a typical search of the database, a match is determined if a DNA profile in the databank is essentially the same as a DNA profile found on crime scene evidence. If a typical search does not result in a match, it is possible that a familial search could identify one or more database profiles that bear a strong similarity to the crime scene profile, suggesting that the persons who provided the DNA may be related. Further DNA analysis can be conducted to determine the likelihood of a family relationship before the names of potential relatives are provided to law enforcement officials for investigation. The success of identifying a lead to the perpetrator of an unsolved crime depends upon a parent, child, or sibling of the perpetrator having previously provided a DNA sample by law as a convicted offender or arrestee.

“I am grateful for the assistance the Commonwealth has received from Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey and his staff, and I am enormously proud of the effort undertaken by the Virginia Department of Forensic Science to put this technology in place,” said Governor McDonnell. “As always, DFS has proceeded with the care and deliberation required to ensure confidence in its results and the highest level of service to the law enforcement agencies of the Commonwealth. Familial DNA searching, which must be used cautiously and sparingly, provides another important tool to assist law enforcement in some of their most difficult and heinous cases where the safety of the public remains a concern.”

DFS has issued a policy for considering requests from law enforcement officials to conduct familial DNA searches in cases involving unsolved violent crimes against persons where other investigative leads have been exhausted and critical public safety concerns exist. In such a case, if crime scene evidence has yielded a DNA profile suitable for searching and law enforcement officials and prosecutors commit to further investigation if a potential relative is identified, the DFS director will direct that a familial DNA search be performed in accordance with departmental scientific protocols.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Commonwealth Biotechnologies removes board chairman

Commonwealth Biotechnologies Inc. said it has removed its board chairman after he urged shareholders to support his own reorganization plan for the company, which is operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The Chesterfield County-based research and development company said in a statement Tuesday that its board voted March 11 to remove William Guo as chairman and as a director of the company.

Guo, an entrepreneur in China who founded the pharmaceutical company VenturePharm Group, filed various submissions with the Securities and Exchange Commission on March 9, March 11 and again on March 14.

In the filings, Guo urged shareholders to support a reorganization plan that would make him the sole director of the company at a salary of $1. His letter to shareholders claimed that the company's co-founder and chief executive officer, Richard Freer, was unqualified to serve as CEO. He called for a shareholders' meeting in late March.

The company said in a statement Tuesday that Guo's filings were "unauthorized" and were "replete with factual errors, misleading comments and baseless allegations."

The company said its board of directors demanded that Guo retract the statements and inform the Securities and Exchange Commission that the filings were unauthorized. He declined to do so, according to the statement by the company.

Guo also called for the company to delay the sale of its 32,000-square-foot building at 601 Biotech Drive in Chesterfield. Instead, Guo said he wants to cut the company's administrative expenses and pay off its unsecured debt partially with common stock and partially with cash from the sale of its only remaining operating unit, Mimotopes Pty Ltd., a drug discovery and research business in Australia.

A phone message left Tuesday at Commonwealth Biotechnologies seeking comment was not returned. A U.S. representative for Guo listed in the SEC filings said Guo was not available for comment Tuesday.

Commonwealth Biotechnologies provides research services to the biotech industry. Founded nearly 20 years ago by four Virginia Commonwealth University scientists, it was the first business to occupy space in the Virginia Biotechnology Research Park in Richmond in 1994.

In 1999, two years after it sold stock publicly, it moved to a new headquarters and laboratory building in Chesterfield.

After reporting millions of dollars in annual net losses since 2006, the company announced plans last year to sell its assets, pay off its debts and seek a merger partner.

It filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January to protect itself from creditors and to halt a foreclosure auction of its building.

The company's plan is to sell its assets and make itself a shell company. It would then seek to complete a "reverse merger" by finding a privately owned company seeking to become public by acquiring a shell business with stock that is already publicly traded.

By: John Reid Blackwell
March 16, 2011
Richmond Times-Dispatch

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Daily Progress: VA Needs to Focus on Biotech

In the University of Virginia, our Charlottesville region possesses one of the nation’s top teaching hospitals and one of the nation’s top business schools. For these reasons and more, our area already is doing well in biotech entrepreneurship.

But it could be positioned for even greater growth.

And the commonwealth as a whole would be smart to better support this important and growing industry, for the sake of economic and humanitarian advancement.

Biotech is a special industry, says Mark Herzog, executive director of the Virginia Biotechnology Association — both in its promise and in its needs.

Some of the most exciting innovations in science are occurring in this field, including in such areas as potential cures for cancers and bioremediation of pollution. When this research comes to fruition, the gains for humanity will be enormous.

Already, quality and longevity of life are being immensely improved by biotech advances.

Although biotech scientists generally pursue their research for love rather than riches, the economic benefits from biotech also can be substantial. And it is economic benefit to the community, more than to the individual, that brings the biggest payoff.

Biotech firms need highly trained workers, who can be highly paid for their special skills, and that money helps feed the local economy.

Biotech firms need support businesses — from accountants, to attorneys (working through red tape can take years) to advertising experts (to market successful products). Spinoff and support firms also contribute to the economy.

†Biotech firms also have special needs. In addition to specially trained workers, they also need specialized facilities, particularly wet labs. It is far more expensive to build these facilities than to construct typical office or manufacturing space.

Higher startup costs unfortunately often combine with delayed return on investment. It can take 20 years to bring a new drug to market — 20 years of meticulous research, testing and adhering to government regulations.

The rewards from biotech research can be huge — equally, the risks. Although some “angels” are attracted expressly to the excitement of bioscience, many venture capitalists don’t understand the unusual realities of the industry, or are unwilling to accept its uncertainties.

That means funding for promising new fields of research can be hard to come by.

It’s also why the statistic cited in the March 6 editorial is so important. Virginia is not just 50th, but 52nd — behind even Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia — in categories tracking changes in the amount of grant money our companies are able to attract from the National Institutes of Health. Even when public money is available, Virginia is doing a relatively poor job of pulling it in.

That’s just one measure of success, but it tells a vital part of the story.

Other states are forging ahead in biotech research — in fact, they are so far ahead that our own young scientists are leaving to pursue careers elsewhere.

With its nationally ranked universities, its ties to the defense industry and its proximity to Washington, Virginia could be — should be — a leader in bioscience. But Virginia must determine to capitalize on those resources and determine to add to them.

The risks of inaction are high; the rewards of success, virtually unlimited.

Editorial By The Daily Progress, Published: March 08, 2011

Monday, March 07, 2011

Va Should Position For Growth

The greater Charlottesville region is home to more than 17 percent of the state’s biotech companies, based on information from the Virginia Bioscience Directory.

It contains more than 20 percent of the state’s bioscience equipment companies, nearly 18 percent of its medical device companies and nearly 17 percent of its bioenergy companies.

That’s a pretty good record — and it doesn’t even include firms in nearby Waynesboro and Staunton.

And it all adds to the local economy.

With much of this innovation sparked by the University of Virginia, the region is doing well in comparison with other parts of the state. But more could be accomplished.

And significantly more could be accomplished statewide if the commonwealth’s leadership would bring state policies up to speed in this emerging tech field.

That’s the view of Virginia Biotechnology Association Executive Director Mark A. Herzog. He was in Charlottesville last week for a biotech conference and took time out to speak with The Daily Progress editorial board. And he made a strong case for increased public support of biotechnology startups and homegrown companies.

First, a snapshot of where Virginia stands today in comparison with other states:

“When’s the last time you saw Virginia at the bottom of anybody’s list?” Mr. Herzog asked.

Well, there we are: Not just 50th, but 52nd — behind even Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia — in categories tracking changes in the amount of grant money our companies are able to attract from the National Institutes of Health. The figures from a Batelle study show that Virginia actually lost ground in those categories from 2004 to 2009.

It’s just one small part of the overall picture — but it’s a dramatic one, and deserves attention.

Here’s another startling statement: “We’ve become an incubator for other states’ bio industries,” says Mr. Herzog.

Too often, our people — UVa post-docs, for instance — cannot remain in the commonwealth because the jobs aren’t here, and the jobs often aren’t here because the venture capital for exciting new startup companies comes from out of state.

In other words, Virginia might be producing brilliant researchers who have world-class ideas for new medical drugs or new biofuels, but we are not always providing an environment that allows them to develop their ideas and take them to market. We are not completing the loop. And when they must export their ideas elsewhere, Virginia experiences the ill effects of brain drain and lost economic opportunities.

Clearly, the Charlottesville region isn’t doing too badly, with its relatively high percentage of biotech companies. But imagine how much more powerful that economic engine could be if the state provided the right tools for growing it.

Some of the world’s most exciting — and humanitarian — innovations are occurring in this field. And Virginia should position itself to be an integral part of these advances.

The Daily Progress