Wet laboratories on way to Technical Innovation Center

July 29, 2006|by ERIN JULIUS

Officials announced a $1.3 million addition to the Technical Innovation Center (TIC) at Hagerstown Community College in a press conference Friday morning.

The addition will house six private wet laboratories and one common laboratory, all available to private firms.

HCC President Guy Altieri called the addition a way of opening the door to Western Maryland for biotechnology business. The laboratories are scheduled to open in mid-2007.

Biofirms will be able to establish a startup lab in Washington County on HCC's campus, expand and eventually hire Washington County residents, Altieri said.

The new laboratories are a joint project between HCC, the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, the Maryland Technology Development Corporation and the Washington County Commissioners.


HCC's science faculty is developing a biotechnology course of study to complement the labs, said Dave Karstaedt, a professor of microbiology who is overseeing the curriculum changes.

Karstaedt said that the same firms that want the lab space will want trained lab technicians.

"What they want is a technician," he said. "We can train a person in that area in two years."

State Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, called the addition "an extraordinary thing in the life and future of the community," and said he had a vision of the technology corridor extending to Washington County.

Munson said the labs will help to bring "good, high-paying jobs" to Washington County that will improve the quality of life.

Jim Rzepkowski, with the state's business and economic development department, said that the addition fits with Gov. Robert Ehrlich's vision for Maryland. The current administration wants to bring technology and biotechnology to all regions of the state, he said.

Rzepkowski also said that wet labs are a "hot" commodity.

Chris Marschner, director of HCC's Technical Innovation Center, said that numerous companies continually call the center looking for lab space, and he refers them to other locations.

"I'd like to get some of that business," he said.

Marschner said that the wet labs can accommodate numerous pursuits, including traditional biotechnology, inorganic chemistry such as creating new polymers and new materials, and forensic analysis.

According to U.S. Census data, 14,982 people are employed by bioscience companies in counties near Washington County, said Cassandra H. Latimer, deputy director of the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission.

What will the wet labs look like?

The wet labs will be housed in a one-story addition to the Technical Innovation Center, according to a feasibility study conducted by SPI USA Inc.

The common lab will include an autoclave (pressurized device), a centrifuge to separate materials and a minus-80 degree freezer.

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