Martek Biosciences Corp. says that more than 75 percent of all infant formula sold in this country contains nutritional oils that it manufactures in its South Carolina and Kentucky laboratories.

Now, demand for those oils is growing abroad, said the Columbia-based company, citing its recent deals with Pasteur Milk Co. Ltd and Semper AB.

Pasteur signed a licensing agreement that allows it to include Martek's oils in formula it sells in South Korea, and Semper signed a similar license that covers Finland, Sweden, Latvia and Lithuania.

The company did not disclose the financial details for either deal.

"What it really symbolizes more than anything is our expansion into the international arena," said Beth Parker, company spokeswoman. Martek's baby formula oils are "very commonplace in the U.S., and they're becoming more accepted in other parts of the world."

The oils are made up of fatty acid components -- primarily docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (ARA) -- that are believed to enhance mental and visual development in infants, play a role in brain function throughout life and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Both are found in breast milk and certain foods. DHA is in such foods as fatty fish and organ meats, and ARA is in eggs and milk.

Martek produces vegetarian sources of DHA and ARA from strains of algae, growing them under guidelines set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The company's blend of DHA and ARA is the only source of these nutrients cleared by the FDA for use in U.S. infant formula, Martek said.

The company has entered into licensing agreements with 16 infant formula manufacturers. Formulas containing Martek's oils are available in more than 60 countries.

Buildings Added to Assets

Asset Capital Corp. Inc. of Bethesda recently purchased four medical office buildings -- including two on Knoll Drive in Columbia -- for $23.7 million.

The company expects to invest $5 million to $7 million more in upgrading the offices, which were previously owned by CareFirst Inc., a health care provider that had not actively managed or marketed the buildings in recent years.

"CareFirst had housed its HMO operation in these buildings, and when they abandoned the [HMO] business, they held onto the buildings," said Barry Johnson, Asset Capital's chief financial officer.

When the sale was finalized, only about 30 percent of the 220,000 square feet Asset Capital purchased was occupied, Johnson said.

The buildings on Knoll Drive are near routes 29 and 175. One is 92,313 square feet, and the other is 67,9558 square feet. The other buildings purchased include the Timonium Medical Center and the Frederick Regional Medical Center.

"We believe there's a lot of demand for the space that hasn't been fulfilled because the buildings have been in limbo for a while," Johnson said, adding that his company will continue marketing the space to medical office tenants.

Noble Named Center Director

Howard County Community College tapped Elizabeth M. "Betty" Noble as director of the college's new Center for Entrepreneurial and Business Excellence.

Noble, an adjunct faculty member since 2002, founded her business, Noble Solutions Inc., and has a background in organizational consulting and executive and personal coaching.

The program she heads provides classes, consulting, technology support and educational resources for budding entrepreneurs. This fall semester, the college is offering degree and career certification and more courses in entrepreneurship and organizational coaching.

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