Thursday, January 19, 2012

New VP for BIO State Government Relations Announced

The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) announced yesterday that Fritz Bittenbender has been hired to serve as Vice President, Alliance Development and State Government Relations. Bittenbender brings extensive experience in government affairs and alliance development, most recently serving as Vice President of Public Affairs at Cephalon and as President of the CephalonCares Foundation.

Bittenbender will spearhead BIO’s engagement in and support of state-level legislative and regulatory issues while promoting the responsible development of the bioscience industry and better understanding of policy issues critical to the industry. He also will lead BIO's engagement with stakeholder organizations, including patient and disease advocacy groups.

“We are extremely excited to welcome Fritz Bittenbender to our team,” said BIO President and CEO Jim Greenwood. “His considerable experience in public policy and deep understanding of the biotechnology industry will be a tremendous asset for our members. Fritz's specific experience and expertise with state level public policy and regulatory issues will help us continue to advocate for public policies that enable our members to develop breakthrough technologies to cure disease, protect against bio-terrorism, feed the hungry, and clean our environment.”

Previously, Bittenbender held cabinet level positions in the offices of Pennsylvania Governors Tom Ridge and Mark Schweiker. Additionally, Bittenbender served as president of Pennsylvania Bio, an affiliated organization to BIO.

“I have known and respected Fritz as a fellow public servant to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for many years. Furthermore, his leadership and organizational support for the 2005 BIO International Convention, held in Philadelphia, were instrumental to the success and importance of the industry's biggest annual event,” said Greenwood.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

5 Tips From an Accidental Entrepreneur

Nice article in Inc. on Hampton Roads based Joe Hill, President of Aeir BioLogic who spoke at our Biotech at the Beach Luncheon last August.

In 2010 Hill lost his job with a biotech firm, so he took what he calls “the first job available” as a financial planner. “My new boss told me to find a market to focus on,” he says, “and since my two sons were diagnosed with autism, I decided the market I really understood was parents of kids with special needs.”

After a presentation one potential client said, “I really appreciate you talking to me about financial planning, but what I really need are affordable tools that can help my autistic son learn.” Specialized equipment costs thousands of dollars, and software runs $300 or more.
“Her comment really struck a chord,” Hill says. “My boys loved Angry Birds. They like touching objects on the TV to try and make them move, too. I knew if they could tap on words or pictures and hear them, they could learn more easily. Plus they wouldn’t stop playing with my iPhone until the battery ran out, so I knew there was something there, especially since autistic kids typically won’t sit still for long.”

He set out to develop an application that could make learning words simple and fun, and in November launched Aeir Talk, a $19.99 iPad app that lets parents create an unlimited amount of cards customized with personally recorded voices and pictures they take.

So what did Hill, a first-time entrepreneur, learn about starting a business?

If your idea doesn’t provide long-term benefits, you need a new idea. Everyone downloads what seem like cool apps they only end up using for a day. Hill changed his product a number of times during the development stage to avoid that. For example, the decision to make the app fully customizable was especially tough to make, but he realized that if a kid sees his mom’s picture he expects to hear his mom’s voice. Hill did what was necessary to ensure the app has lasting value, allowing parents and kids to really make it their own. The development cycle would absolutely have been a lot faster and a lot less expensive, but the app would also have been far less beneficial.

Think about solving broader problems. Children with special needs don’t just speak English and live in the U.S. Hill made the app language independent so if a parent wants her child to learn Spanish they simply record Spanish words. The app doesn’t care. In the end Hill built an app to help kids with special needs, but it can help any child learn. Definitely focus on a specific audience, says Hill, but never stop thinking about broader applications and markets for your product.

Always look for serendipitous relationships. Hill pitched his idea to everyone. Most people loved it but no one wanted to become an investor. Then he talked to Zack Miller at We Are Titans, a product development and consulting firm, and we struck an equity deal. Not only are they great developers but Miller is also great at making contacts and leveraging relationships. Good teams are made up of people who are different. Be open and don’t look in the normal places for partners.

You don’t know what you don’t know, and that’s okay. If you need help, the best thing you can say to someone is, “I don’t know what I’m doing. Can you help me?” People naturally like to help people. Be honest, be humble, and ask for help. When you’re willing to admit you don’t have all the answers, people respond.

No matter what you’re doing, never be ashamed of it. Hill took a job in the morning scrubbing warehouse floors and another at night carrying bags and scrubbing floors at a hotel. (He wanted jobs that allowed flexible hours so he could start his company.) Every chance he got he told people about what he was doing. Many had relatives with kids with needs. Do whatever you have to do to keep rolling, and never be ashamed of what you do. The end justifies the humble means.

By: Jeff Haden

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Washington Times: McDonnell aims to lure biotech jobs to Virginia

RICHMOND — Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell said Wednesday he is seeking nearly $37 million in his biennial budget to lure businesses and jobs to the commonwealth, putting much of the focus on life sciences and biotechnology — sectors that are staples of the economy of neighboring Maryland.

Some $10 million will fund a life-sciences package that could go toward supporting research at colleges or businesses.

Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, the state's chief jobs-creation officer, said Virginia has completed 671 business deals since the start of the administration. But life sciences and biotechnology — Maryland's bread and butter — are areas where the state intends to step up its efforts.

"There, frankly, are a lot of states around the country over the course of the past several years who have been a lot more aggressive in the area of biotechnology and life sciences than we've been," he said. "Places like Massachusetts and Texas and Pennsylvania, even Maryland has been much more — well, I shouldn't say 'even' Maryland."

"Maryland," the governor chimed in.

"Maryland has been much more aggressive in some of these biotechnology, life sciences areas," Mr. Bolling said.

The quality of Virginia's health care facilities, its universities and pharmaceutical companies make it primed to expand in those field, Mr. Bolling said.

"We believe this is a sector we can compete in more effectively than we have in the past," he said. "Some of these new and emerging biotechnology and life-sciences companies that we've had a hard time tracking, frankly, we're going to get in the game on those, because it is a growing area of the economy."

Mr. McDonnell, who has consistently said he wants Virginia to be the "Energy Capital of the East Coast," also proposed $500,000 to go toward offshore wind-energy development — another of Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley's legislative priorities in the coming General Assembly session.

The largely friendly regional rivalry between Maryland and Virginia took a sharper political edge last year, when Mr. McDonnell and Mr. O'Malley took the reins as chairmen of their parties' respective governors associations.

Virginia famously beat out Maryland, as well as the District, to lure defense contractor Northrop Grumman's headquarters in 2010, thanks in part to an incentives package worth between $12 million and $14 million. Last year, engineering giant Bechtel announced it was moving its corporate headquarters from Frederick to Fairfax, bringing with it 625 jobs and an $18 million investment.

And in a now-infamous series of events, Montgomery County backed off a nonbinding resolution calling for Congress to spend less on defense and more on social programs. The county council got pushback from defense giant Lockheed Martin, which is based in Bethesda, as well as Mr. O'Malley's office. Virginia officials reportedly contacted Lockheed in the interim to gauge its interest in moving south of the Potomac River.

Maryland officials responded Wednesday by saying that, even with competition from Virginia, the state will remain a national leader in the biotech and life-sciences industries. They also disputed the perception that Virginia is the more business-friendly state, contending Maryland created more than twice as many jobs as Virginia last year.

"It's always nice to have competitive neighbors to strengthen our abilities," said Takirra Winfield, spokeswoman for Mr. O'Malley, a Democrat. "But there is no concern with Maryland's ability to compete and win in the new economy."

Maryland's life-sciences industry employs more than 71,000 people and each year drives $17.6 billion in direct and indirect economic activity, while generating about $500 million in income- and sales-tax revenue, according to the state.

The Virginia Biotechnology Association lauded Mr. McDonnell for his efforts in promoting the business sector. The VBA estimated that, all told, the governor's proposed budget includes more than $47 million in economic-development money that will directly boost the state's bioscience and advanced-technology industries. That includes $15 million for a refundable research-and-development tax credit, $12 million for the Commonwealth Research Commercialization Fund, which goes toward science and technology-based development, and $10 million for an "angel" investor tax credit.

"Governor McDonnell and Lieutenant Governor Bolling are to be commended for their strong support of these proven technology-based economic-development programs," VBA Executive Director Mark A. Herzog said in a statement. "Bioscience jobs pay approximately $40,000 above the average annual salary. These initiatives will create more job opportunities in many regions across Virginia."

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

McDonnell outlines Va job creation initiatives; biotech funding

From the Washington Examiner:

McDonnell outlines Va job creation initiatives
By: MICHAEL FELBERBAUM | 01/04/12 12:37 PM
AP Business Writer
Gov. Bob McDonnell on Wednesday outlined several initiatives totaling nearly $37 million in additional funding in his proposed two-year state budget aimed at spurring economic development and creating jobs in Virginia.

McDonnell's legislative agenda for the upcoming General Assembly session includes tax credits for small businesses and increased coordination between state departments that work in economic development in hopes of attracting new businesses and growing existing ones.

"Jobs is still job one for our administration," McDonnell said during a news conference in Richmond. "We believe the more people we have working, and contributing and innovating and taking care of their families through the private sector, the less cost and expense and burden there is on the taxpayer. ... The more that we can do at the state level to advocate the support of free enterprise and economic development, the better off Virginia is going to be."

McDonnell said the legislative and budget initiatives build on previous programs aimed at economic development, including opening international trade offices, business tax incentives and funding to promote Virginia industries. Since taking office, the state's unemployment rate has dropped from 7.2 percent to 6.2 percent.

The governor's top proposals for his biennial spending blueprint include $10 million for life sciences initiatives to develop Virginia's biotechnology industry by partnering public education with the private sector, as well as $4 million for improvements at the Wallops Island launch site on the Eastern Shore to support the growing commercial space industry. There's also additional funding of $2 million for workforce training programs at community colleges.

"This is Virginia's future — investing in those things where we tie university and academic research with the commercialization process and the job creating process," McDonnell said.

Additional allocations also are being proposed for growing advanced manufacturing, tourism, film, agriculture, technology and offshore wind energy.

McDonnell's proposed budget takes millions largely from inflation adjustments for health care and school support programs; guts the prekindergarten program established by McDonnell's predecessor; and reassigns money to Virginia's underfunded public pension plan, higher education and economic development.

The spending blueprint for the 24 months beginning July 1 prescribes no tax increases. It totals nearly $85 billion in combined appropriations, up from about $80.7 billion for the biennium that ends June 30.

Read more at the Washington Examiner: