ANNAPOLIS – Presidents from the University System of Maryland agreed Wednesday that for the state to stay at the forefront of the national biotechnology industry there must be a greater collaboration among the schools.
Speaking before Senate and House subcommittee members, the presidents highlighted efforts to reinforce the strong biotech market in the state.
Interest in the issue has been heightened with the recent bioterrorist incidents in Florida, New York and Washington, D.C. And Maryland is playing a key role in combating those attacks. Both public and private members of the state’s bioscience community have been tapped for classified duty.
Companies like Tetracore Inc., which developed an anthrax diagnostics test, have also been called up to the war effort.
“This state has so much talent among its different school faculties and it’s just a matter of looking through a much-needed Yellow Pages,” said Jennie Hunter-Cevera, president of University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute.
The group of presidents, which produced its report while working under the title the Bioscience Work Group, is seeking more funding to improve facilities to attract and maintain bioscience companies.
“Money is very tight and is going to be even tighter,” said Delegate Nancy Kopp, D-Montgomery, who asked the colleges to prepare the report. “It’s not a very good year.”
Maryland has the third largest concentration of bioscience companies in the nation, behind California and Massachusetts. Those Maryland companies employ about 16,000 people whose salaries average $62,000, according to the Department of Business and Economic Development.
But the state could lose these companies if a greater emphasis is not placed on manufacturing, said David Iannucci, secretary for the Department of Business and Economic Development.
A few companies have finished the research phase and now are waiting for patent approval to begin manufacturing, Iannucci said. Manufacturing may not be conducted in Maryland.
“We have had great success with nurturing companies, but the challenge is keeping those that develop new bioscience technology in the state,” he said. Maryland, with its concentration of quality universities and government agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, has been able to attract and nurture researchers, said Iannucci. But when companies begin producing their ideas, they often do so outside the state, he said. One solution to keeping manufacturing within Maryland is reinforcing bioscience programs in community colleges, Iannucci said. “It’s important for the universities to recruit people who want to pursue a B.A. or a Ph.D.,” Iannucci said, “but it’s also important to develop a skilled core of laboratory technicians and A.A. degree-holders, which will compliment the advanced and graduate degree biotech workers.” – 30 – CNS-10-17-01