November 8, 2011

Hopkins biotech startup raising $1M for eye disease treatment tech

A biotech startup called Graybug LLC is about two-thirds of the way to raising $1 million in equity financing from investors to fund its efforts to develop technologies to fight eye diseases.

Graybug filed the SEC disclosure today, and noted it had already raised $610,000.

Graybug's founder and CEO is Justin Hanes, a biotechnology professor at Johns Hopkins University who also co-founded Kala Pharmaceuticals.

Also listed on the filing as a director is Christy Wyskiel, who is a board member at another Baltimore biotech, BioMarker Strategies, and a CEO of Cureveda, another Baltimore biotech.

Baltimore biotechs continue to attract funding. Check out my coverage here from over the past couple years. The state's biotech tax credit has been a big help for biotech startups in Maryland, who are able to lure investors who then get a nice tax credit for the money they put into a biotech startup in this state. (Graybug raised the money without help from the state biotech tax credit.)

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 2:11 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: BioTech, University Tech

October 3, 2011

Emergent BioSolutions Inc. scores $1.25B anthrax vaccine contract from Feds

Emergent BioSolutions Inc. today said it won a huge government contract to supply 44.75 million doses of its anthrax vaccine, worth up to $1.25 billion over five years.

Emergent's Biothrax vaccine is the only anthrax vaccine approved by the FDA. It has already delivered 55 million doses of the vaccine under various previous contracts with the federal government.

The Rockville based company has a manufacturing plant in Baltimore that's currently under renovation, and is not operating.

According to a press release this morning: Initial deliveries under this award are expected to commence in 2011 with 8.5 million doses scheduled to be delivered during the first contract year. Deliveries are scheduled to continue, subject to availability of funding, through September 2016. The company retains the ability to modify the timing of deliveries depending on manufacturing yields and other factors.

The press release is available on the jump:

Continue reading "Emergent BioSolutions Inc. scores $1.25B anthrax vaccine contract from Feds" »

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:15 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, BioTech

June 22, 2011

UMBC biotech startup raises $1.5 million

Plasmonix Inc., a biotech startup whose technology comes from research at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, this week announced it raised $1.5 million of a planned $2 million Series A equity offering.

The investment was led by the Maryland Healthcare Product Development Corp. Plasmonix is working on commercializing a technology called Metal Enhanced Fluorescence, which was developed at UMBC.

Basically, the technology enables super-fast detection of heart attacks, sexually transmitted diseases, salmonella -- within 20 seconds.

Watch the Youtube video of founder and MEF inventor Dr. Chris Geddes (Other founders include William M. Gust II, President and CEO and Dr. John Holaday, Chairman.)

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:46 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, BioTech, East Coast, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers

June 13, 2011

NEA Partner: Creating a "virtuous cycle" of investment in Maryland

david-mott-NEA.jpgNew Enterprise Associates is one of the heavyweights in the world of venture capital and, lucky for me, they're right in my backyard here in Maryland.

I had a wide-ranging interview today with David M. Mott, NEA partner and former head of MedImmune, the biopharma success story based in Montgomery County, Md.

Mott and NEA invest billions far afield from Maryland, hunting for promising companies across the country and around the world. Lately, he and NEA have been doing deals in India and China, getting involved in services and infrastructure business in those developing countries, such as outpatient treatment centers for oncology and diabetes, Mott said.

Back home in the U.S., Mott observed that Maryland needs more big company success stories such as MedImmune and Human Genome Sciences, where top management and entrepreneurial thinkers from such organizations spin out and start their own businesses.

We've seen some of this effect in Baltimore with the success of, and the spinoff of talent that have led to some new businesses, most notably Millennial Media.

In Montgomery County, this type of "virtuous cycle" has started taking root, according to Mott. Baltimore, not so much -- yet. But Mott touched upon something that I tangentially covered, coincidentally, in my latest story this weekend about startups and business accelerators.You need  entrepreneurs and trained leadership talent -- those who have the "social capital" to convince weary investors of investing in them --  to roll up their sleeves and embark on new startup projects.

What Mott and others at NEA look at when they invest are the quality of management teams. They like to cultivate entrepreneurs and even new technologies, according to Mott.

What may not be as well known is that NEA funds its own virtual incubators, where talented brains work on new medical devices in-house at NEA, leading sometimes to funding and new companies.

"Over half of our investments are internally generated by entrepreneurs in conceptual virtual incubators," Mott said. "We back them to come up with ideas."

NEA has had six medical device companies spin out into their own businesses in the last few years, Mott said. NEA also has launched a seed fund to make investments ranging from $50,000 to $500,000, according to VentureWire.

Mott couldn't talk publicly about the seed fund, but it looks like the kind of move that NEA is making to compete in the angel and "super-angel" end of the investment pool, where there's a lot of activity at the moment.

Startups are also going from conception to high-flying much more quickly, so NEA and other VCs apparently see some necessity in interacting with some of these young companies just as they're forming.

Wait too long as a VC and suddenly, before you know it, startup valuations are through the roof.

I asked Mott the cheap nickel-and-dime question that every tech journalist is asking today: are we in the midst of another tech bubble?

He said he mostly didn't think so. Valuations are wild in a few specific niches, such as social media, but others, such as biopharma and healthcare (his specialty area), are fairly normal, he said.

"These businesses, unlike back in 1999, have some significant revenues," Mott said. "They're becoming big businesses in very short periods of time...and with relatively little capital in a very short period of time, you can build a deep business."

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January 5, 2011

Baltimore biotech Gliknik raises $3.5 million


More good news for a Baltimore startup today: Gliknik Inc., which is based in the University of Maryland BioPark, announced that it completed a $3.5 million equity financing raise. The money was raised over the course of the past seven months, the company said.

Gliknik is a biopharmaceuticals company that plans on using the new funds to initiate a clinical program in autoimmune diseases for its Stradomer platform, which are recombinant drugs. The company is working to create new treatments for cancer and immune disorders.

"An infusion of investor funding highlights a growing vote of confidence as we continue to develop new therapies for patients with cancer and autoimmune/inflammatory diseases," said David S. Block, Gliknik's president and chief executive officer. (Block is pictured above.)

Over the past six months, Gliknik has also received an additional $1 million in competitive grant funding from a federal program, a U.S. Army subcontract, and a Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development research award.

Gliknik also announced that it received a patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for one of its drug programs for fighting cancer.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:26 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, BioTech, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Research, Venture Cap

December 14, 2010

Growing Bwtech@UMBC, from life sciences to cybersecurity

Frank Turano was a biology and genetics researcher and professor tied to George Washington University, while his wife was a professor specializing in sensory systems at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

When it came time for the couple to launch their own startup, they looked around Maryland for public and private incubators and ultimately decided on Bwtech at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

“We looked for support to grow a business,” said Turano, who launched Plant Sensory Systems three years ago, a small firm that investigates how to modify plant genes so they produce more biofuel and require less fertilizer. They have five full-time employees now.

“We liked the track record here,” Turano said.

While the University of Maryland, Baltimore and Hopkins have attracted headlines in recent years for developing bioparks in the city, the Bwtech Research and Technology Park has been chugging along for more than two decades, steadily expanding the number of companies and employees that call it home.

More recently, Bwtech officials are targeting cybersecurity, striking a partnership with Northrop Grumman last month to attract researchers and experts who could launch their own companies.
Cybersecurity is currently white-hot in academia, at least among Maryland’s public campuses.

Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration is trying to push the state into the forefront of the industry, drawing on key government facilities in Maryland, such as the National Security Agency at Fort Meade.

The University of Maryland, College Park recently created the Maryland Cybersecurity Center to promote education, research and technology in the sector. The University of Maryland University College this year launched bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in cybersecurity.
Bwtech@UMBC — as it is known in shorthand — is among 20 publicly sponsored incubators across Maryland.

Across the country, incubators have grown popular as a way to counteract the effects of a punishing recession. With some early funding, hardworking entrepreneurs and investors are taking bets on future growth during a down economy.

Startup companies are attracted to incubators for a variety of reasons, including the potential for low rent, a collaborative working environment with like-minded professionals and guidance from industry veterans.

The Bwtech park, spread across six buildings on two campuses on more than 40 acres, has focused on helping launch startups in the life sciences industry and clean energy. Five of the buildings in the Bwtech North campus, in Catonsville, have been built within the past decade and feature newer office space.

A sixth building, Bwtech South in Halethorpe, was formerly the Martin Marietta research lab, which the state bought in the mid-1990s. The sprawling building near Route 195 is home to Bwtech’s life sciences incubator companies. This building houses companies that have a need for lab space.

Three years ago, the companies that were based at Bwtech numbered more than 900 employees. Today, more than four dozen companies and research organizations employ more than 1,200 people, officials said.

Fifty-two companies, or 91 percent of Bwtech’s incubator companies since 2000, are either still in operation or have been sold, while a small percentage went out of business, according to program statistics.

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November 4, 2010

Health care reform act delivers millions to Maryland biotech, pharma startups

Federal officials announced this week that more than 130 Maryland early-stage biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies received nearly $49 million worth of tax credits for their investments the past two years as part of a billion-dollar federal campaign to promote therapeutic advances in the medical field.

The Qualifying Therapeutic Discovery Project grants were awarded to companies in 48 states.

Some of the Baltimore companies that received the grants, and which I've written about, include BioMarker Strategies, Gliknik and Corridor Pharmaceuticals. Companies were able to apply for a credit for each project they worked on. The maximum single-project award was $244,479. [The full list of Maryland companies is here.]

The federal departments of the Treasury and Health and Human Services oversee and administer the grants and tax credits to the companies, which are part of the Affordable Care Act of 2010.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 4:07 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, BioTech

September 24, 2010

Owings Mills biotech raises $15 million, more to come

:: Become a friend of BaltTech on Facebook::

Nora Therapeutics Inc., a former startup company at Baltimore's Emerging Technology Center, said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing yesterday that it had raised $14.88 million from several venture capital firms.

The equity raise is part of a planned push to raise $32.5 million in financing for the Owings Mills based firm.

Nora is developing treatments for women who deal with frequent miscarriages or other reproduction problems.

The news was covered by various other news sources.

(P.S. I don't think this company has a website, but if anyone finds one, please link a link in the comments below.)

::UPDATE:: Here's a story from five years ago in the Daily Record (Md.) about Nora and its origins. Pretty interesting stuff.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:56 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, BioTech

July 12, 2010

Biotech: Baltimore needs its own MedImmune?

In yesterday's Sunday Business cover story, I looked at the state of Baltimore's biotech industry, and compared it to its larger cousin to the south, in Montgomery County. Take a read.


What Baltimore's biotech industry needs: an 'anchor'
Young biotech startups hope to grow into major players, fueled by state tax credits and research from Johns Hopkins and University of Maryland

By Gus G. Sentementes, The Baltimore Sun

July 11, 2010

Baltimore's biotechnology industry has made strides. Two biotech parks by the Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland now anchor the east and west sides of the city. A few dozen biotech startups have made their home here.

But Baltimore's nascent biotech industry doesn't yet have a breakout company — a darling of venture capitalists and Wall Street that has grown past the risky and unprofitable startup phase to achieve a steady stream of revenue and products in the pipeline.

A company like MedImmune in Montgomery County, which produces an H1N1 flu virus vaccine, among others.

"There's no giant here, but it would be nice to have one," Aris Melissaratos said about Baltimore. He's a special adviser for enterprise development at Hopkins and a former head of the state Department of Business and Economic Development. "Every company that starts up strives to do that. Very few succeed."

The future of Baltimore's biotechnology industry remains to be seen. Industry observers put the city up to two decades behind the biotech hub that has taken root along the Interstate 270 corridor in Montgomery.

While Baltimore's bioparks are still being built, Montgomery planners are moving forward on a $10 billion "science city" with 17.5 million square feet for research and development. That county has more than 250 of the state's 380 bioscience companies, with such heavy hitters as MedImmune and Human Genome Sciences. Baltimore has about 40 biotech companies.

But Baltimore has scored some wins recently, by landing the new headquarters of the Lieber Institute for Brain Development, with its $100 million endowment, at the Hopkins Science + Technology Park. And the University of Maryland BioPark is planning a third building for young biotech companies.

Another indicator of how well Baltimore is faring in the intrastate biotech race is an annual Maryland tax credit that lets investors recoup half their investment — up to $250,000 — in a biotech company. Over the past year, 14 Maryland companies were able to attract investors who tapped the credit. Five were based in the Baltimore area.

The companies, by virtue of being savvy enough to attract investors in a tough economy, are some of the bright spots in the industry — and potential future breakouts.

In biotech, success can beget success. MedImmune, which was bought by AstraZeneca International in 2007 for more than $15 billion, has spurred new companies to locate nearby, to do business with it or tap into its talent. The company employs 1,400 in Gaithersburg, and several hundred more at a manufacturing facility in Frederick.

Continue reading "Biotech: Baltimore needs its own MedImmune?" »

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June 17, 2010

Baltimore's Arginetix merges with Immune Control Inc. to form Corridor Pharmaceuticals

And now, the latest in biotech news........

Baltimore-based Arginetix Inc. announced today that it is merging with Immune Control Inc. of West Conshohocken, Pa. to form Corridor Pharmaceuticals Inc. -- a company that will focus on developing treatments for vascular diseases.

The new company will develop treatments based on technology platforms developed by both Arginetix and Immune Control. The chief executive of Arginetix, Gary Lessing, will serve as the CEO of Corridor, according to a news statement issued this morning. Stephen Roth, formerly CEO of Immune Control, will be executive vice chairman of Corridor's board of directors. Arginetix licensed technology from the University of Pennsylvania and the Johns Hopkins University.

In addition to the merger, Corridor announced that it had secured new financing totaling $15 million to fund its operations. The company has a drug candidate called C-122 that treats pulmonary arterial hypertension, and proceeds from the financing will be used to advance the drug into clinical development.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:43 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, BioTech, East Coast, Venture Cap

November 11, 2009

West-side story: Biotech education and jobs in Baltimore

biotechlabLSI.jpg It's not very often, I think, that you see higher ed officials put pride and bureaucracy to the side to work together on a project that is beneficial to students and the community.

In this case, I'm talking about the Life Sciences Institute, which opened its doors at the University of Maryland's BioPark on the west side of Baltimore.

The LSI is run by the Baltimore City Community College, though its new home is in the University of Maryland Baltimore's research park.

UMB wants to make the BioPark a "one-stop shop" for the biotech industry. Bringing in a program such as BCCC's LSI that could train a workforce of biotech workers was instrumental to UMB's long-term goal of offering it all -- from startup companies to research labs to students in training -- under one large roof.

On a recent tour, I saw earnest students working in labs and sitting in lectures in classrooms on the floor of the LSI.

There are jobs to be had in this field, and companies and research facilities are constantly soaking up trained and competent workers in the region, I was told by the LSI's director, Dr. Kathleen Kennedy Norris.

For more, check out my story today on the program and some of the people in it.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:18 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: BioTech

September 17, 2009

Four friends and a startup


Today, I wrote about BioMarker Strategies: how they got their start and how well they've been doing recently.

I love telling startup stories because it allows me to get close to people's hopes and dreams, and I see the passion that drives them forward each and everyday. (That's one reason I started the "Startup Tuesday" feature here on BaltTech.)

I saw this entrepreneurial spirit in CEO Karen Olson (middle front) and president Scott Allocco (right), when I met with them on Monday. They posed in a photo I took with three other researchers.

It's no small feat that they attracted the attention of Baltimore's Abell Foundation, which made a significant investment in their company recently.  

BioMarker wants to build a faster test for diagnosing cancerous tumors. Their test would take hours instead of weeks, and guide doctors on the best type of drug therapy to use for each patient. Pretty cool stuff.

Do you know a startup that's been doing well lately? Drop a note in the comments below!

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:02 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: BioTech, Startups

August 24, 2009

The Luke Skywalker arm: a future in prosthetics?

lukeskywalkerhand.jpg You may recall the scene in The Empire Strikes Back (still my favorite Star Wars film), where Luke lost part of his arm in a duel with Darth Vader -- only to have it later replaced with a cool prosthetic. (Left, photo of the movie prop at a Star Wars show in Portland, OR, by The Kozy Shack via

Ah, Hollywood.

But you may not know that the federal government's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (aka DARPA) has been funding the real-life development of next-generation prosthetics that one day will make the Luke arm a reality.


What's cool about this project is that part of it is being developed right here in Maryland, at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel (of course it is.)

An article today in TechNewsWorld recaps the progress of the project, quoting Stuart Harshbarger, biomedicine team leader at Hopkins's APL and project manager for the DARPA effort.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:02 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Big Ideas, BioTech

July 6, 2009

Raw video: The wait for Maryland biotech tax credits

Remember the story about the long, five day wait for tax credits for biotech start-ups? The company execs started lining up because the state program, which started accepting applications for the generous credit on July 1st, would only dole them out on a first-come/first-served basis (per state law.) The wait took place at a conference room at the University of Maryland-Baltimore's BioPark. The university's news team was there to shoot video of the scene. Check it out below: If you can't see the embedded video above, here's the link:
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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 7:00 AM |
Categories: BioTech

July 1, 2009

An Italian biotech consultant's shock, awe and questions

Last week here, I wrote about a rush of small Maryland start-up biotech companies to get in line for a generous state tax credit that was available for investors in the nascent industry. ("Maryland biotech companies crazy for tax credits!")

An Italian biotech consultant saw my post and was shocked -- shocked! -- by what we were doing here in Baltimore, Md. She wanted to know more. (She shot me an email. You'll see it below.)

To quickly recap: biotech companies started lining up Friday morning at the University of Maryland's BioPark in Baltimore to wait in line. The tax credits are doled out by the state every year on a first-come/first-served basis. Last I heard yesterday, 17 companies had stationed representatives in line, in an auditorium at the BioPark, to camp out for five days -- just so they could submit their applications for the tax credit this morning at 9 a.m. (I'm still waiting for the final headcount on how many submitted today.)

Several of the company reps I interviewed lauded the state for offering big tax breaks to drive investment in biotech here. One company, Noxilizer, told me how they were able to attract investors who live in other states, because of the tax credit. Few states have anything like this "Biotechnology Investment Incentive Tax Credit" program to kickstart the biotech industry, they told me.

About $36 million has gone into funding biotech startups over the past three years -- with half of it tax-free for investors, according to the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development.

What's happening in the state's biotech industry will eventually come under more scrutiny in the future (Gov. O'Malley has a Bio202 initiative to build up the industry over the next 10 years), as the public, politicians and business leaders will expect concrete results after all this investment, including new job creation and blockbuster products. (Mary Spiro ponders this future in her post on Maryland biotech's "boom or bust.")

Now, for the email from Valeria Spagnoli, a self-described biotech consultant in Italy who wants some more insight from biotech companies in Maryland on how they're going about getting funding from the state. Who wants to help her with her questions?


I’ve just read the article about tax break for biotech investors on the BIO smartbrief newsletter. I found it amazing that companies line up days before the application time opens up, they just sign their names on a blackboard…In my country we are overwhelmed by the so-called red tape procedures, papers and papers to fill in, this is why I would appreciate if you could provide more detailed information to this regard, such as: how are companies selected as beneficiaries? Just the first come first served basis ensures they are granted the money? How long does it take to become eligible?

Thank you so much for your kind reply!
Have a nice day!

P.S. to Valeria: As my full story points out, there's only a limited pool of money -- $6 million this year -- so once it runs out, no one can get more funding. Each investor is entitled up to $250,000 in tax credits and no company can claim more than 15 percent of the total tax credit pool of $6 million. That said, there are some other nuances that maybe others closer to the process can jump in and explain for all of us.

(Published June 1, 2009)

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:45 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: BioTech, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Startups, Venture Cap

June 26, 2009

Maryland biotech companies crazy for tax credits!



UPDATE: Here's my full story online


Dateline: University of Maryland BioPark in Baltimore.

Maybe we should call this MarylandBiotechapalooza?! Or is this a reality-TV show just waiting to be made?

Here's the scene: Five days of start-up biotech companies. Together in one room. Vying for a piece of $6 million in tax credits.

Starting July 1st, the state of Maryland is opening up their Biotechnology Investment Incentive Tax Credits program to applicants.

Last year, companies that wanted a piece of the tax-credit pie started lining up the day before, and camped out on a Baltimore street for the night.

This year, they started lining up TODAY -- that's FIVE days ahead of the program's opening for this year.

Right now, I'm in a conference room at the University of Maryland's BioPark in downtown Baltimore, where a bunch of start-up biotech execs are hanging out.

They started lining up at 10 a.m. There's coffee, soda and pizza in a room with a bunch of tables and chairs. And people are hunkering down for the long haul.

Most will cover the five-day wait in shifts, getting co-workers and others to spell them.

 So what is this all about? One word: Money.

Here are the basics: Since 2006, Maryland's been handing out a 50 percent tax credit to investors who pump money into start-up biotech companies. You can get up to a $250K credit. And one company can have up to 15 percent of the pool of tax credit money applied to them, according to state law. Here's the catch: the tax credits are given to investors on a "first come, first serve" basis, per state law -- and these little companies go wait in line for their investors.

The state tax-credit pool of money this year is $6 million. So, potentially, one or a few of these start-ups could entice investors to pump up to $1.8 million into their companies, with half being returned to investors via a refund. (Out-of-state investors can get this credit, too.) That seems like a pretty good proposition, especially in this economy. The state Department of Business and Economic Development will start accepting applications July 1, at 9 a.m.

I think everybody here was pretty surprised to see each other lining up so early. But you know who got here first? Scott Allocco, president of Baltimore-based BioMarker Strategies LLC, at 10 a.m. today.

Once people saw Scott lining up, others followed. (That's BioMarker CEO Karen Olson taking over for Scott late in the day today.) Nice job, Steve. 

I'll have a story in tomorrow's paper about what's going on here. In the meantime, I'm hoping some of the biotech companies in the room keep us updated on how they're faring this weekend. Drop us a line. We're hoping the vibe is more Woodstock than Big Brother (you know, that reality TV show.)


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 5:59 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: BioTech

June 10, 2009

Maryland's latest funding for military/biotech-related companies

Just got the news that Maryland's Technology Development Corp. (TEDCO) awarded $599,934 in funding through a partnership through Fort Detrick (under the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command) and the Frederick County Office of Economic Development.

Check out the jump to find the list of companies -- each of which received a $50,000 infusion over the past year -- and a description of what they're developing. It's an interesting mix of work.

Continue reading "Maryland's latest funding for military/biotech-related companies" »

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:11 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: BioTech, Government Tech, Research
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About Gus G. Sentementes
Gus G. Sentementes (@gussent on Twitter) has been writing for The Baltimore Sun since 2000. He's covered real estate, business, prisons, and suburban and Baltimore City crime and cops. He was one of the first reporters at The Sun to use multimedia tools and Web applications -- a video camera, an iPhone -- to cover breaking news. He hopes to cover Maryland geeks and the gadgets and Web sites they build, and learn -- and share -- something new every day.

Gus has a wife, a young daughter and two feuding cats. They live in Northeast Baltimore.
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