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O'Malley Pledges More Investment To Bolster Md.'s Biotech Industry

Gov. Martin O'Malley hopes tax credits and more support for start-ups will invigorate Maryland's bioscience industry.
Gov. Martin O'Malley hopes tax credits and more support for start-ups will invigorate Maryland's bioscience industry. (By Jamie C. Horton -- Associated Press)
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By Kendra Marr
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley outlined a strategy yesterday to invest $1.1 billion in the state's bioscience industry over the next decade or so, expanding tax credits, bolstering stem cell research and providing new support for start-ups.

In a speech at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, O'Malley (D) said his Bio 2020 Initiative would help leverage an additional $6.3 billion in private and federal investments in hopes of generating thousands of new jobs by 2020.

"These are not flash-in-the pan investments," he said. "They are a continuation of the actions taken through many generations of work, to make us one of the strongest states in the union."

Several elements of the plan would require legislative approval. But O'Malley hoped to invigorate an industry that has yet to fully capitalize on groundbreaking efforts to map the human genome.

More than 370 life sciences companies have settled in Maryland, which is home to the National Institutes of Health and other government research laboratories. And both Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland are building massive biotechnology parks in the state.

Yet, with the exception of MedImmune and a few others, the state's biotech firms have been largely unsuccessful at bringing blockbuster products to market, said John Holaday, chief executive of QRxPharma, a biotech firm based in Australia but run locally.

"I don't think we're doing quite well on our own," said Holaday, who previously co-founded Rockville's EntreMed in 1992. "We are known for being pioneers in biotech, but the resources to make those companies succeed haven't been strong."

Under the multi-prong initiative outlined by O'Malley, the state would double its biotech investment tax credit next year and then double it again within the next five years, leading to an increase of $24 million.

Maryland would invest at least $20 million each year into stem cell research, one of the three largest state stem cell funds in the nation, O'Malley said.

He pledged to help new companies establish themselves by investing $60 million and increase incubator space for startups by 50 percent.

The state should also invest $300 million into life science facilities, he said.

In addition, O'Malley wants the state to create a Maryland Biotechnology Center, a "one-stop shop" that will house state, academic and private sector ventures to help expand the relationships between the groups.

"The center will unveil the entire pathway to the marketplace," said Renée Winsky, president and executive director of Maryland Technology Development Corp., a state-funded organization that aids the transfer and commercialization of innovations from Maryland-based universities and research labs.

O'Malley hoped other organizations would piggyback on the state's efforts. University of Maryland's Law School plans to expand its legal services for start-ups and entrepreneurs, as many new companies cannot afford legal services for intellectual property valuation and protection.

The state should invest $118 million in nanotechnology by offering more grants and resources to attract university faculty for the "vast opportunities that exist with this field, which is expected to permeate all technology industries in the years ahead," O'Malley said.

The state should also strengthen the Maryland Technology Transfer Fund, which helps spin out start-ups from university research, with a $107 million investment.

Lastly, the governor promised to augment the Maryland Venture Fund, which provides grants to start-ups and makes equity investments in established companies, increasing public investment by $152 million.

"If we in Maryland are willing to invest in the here and now of our bioscience economy, then together we can become a leader in this new scientific frontier," O'Malley said.


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