HCC nurturing young biotech companies

December 15, 2008|By ARNOLD S. PLATOU
(Page 2 of 2)

"A lot of them came because of our facility and the value of the services we offer. There's a lot more business development assistance here" than similar startup labs offer in the metropolitan areas, he said.

Montgomery County has five incubators for businesses, but only two of them have labs for biotech companies, he said. Frederick County has two incubators that can take biotechs, he said.

Marschner figures he might be able to find space here for two more small biotechs, if need be.

After that, there's no immediate answer. A new HCC report is urging construction of a "stage 2" center where these young biotechs could go when they're ready for a less-supported, but still protected business environment.

Growing pains

Marschner said there is a definite need for that next-stage facility.

"This is a problem throughout the state. As these young biotech companies grow, the question is, where do they go? Where do you go when you're ready to leave the incubator?"


Because of the costs involved, "landlords are not necessarily willing to undertake that risk for an early-stage firm, bioscience or otherwise," Marschner said.

"The cost of outfitting a laboratory-grade facility could be $100 to $200 a square foot, whereas office space is $35 a square foot. If I'm a landlord, I'll take a $35 risk before I'll take a $100 risk," he said.

A so-called "accelerator" building for these new biotechs would help them "build themselves up large enough and be at a point where they might be able to go out on their own," he said.

And, when they do, the hope is that they will stay in the county, Marschner said.

"The premise behind why we do this is, we begin to add diversity to our business mix in Washington County. Generally speaking, people in biotech fields can command higher incomes and all these folks need ongoing training and education, which the college stands to provide," he said.

"And, why uproot when they've already established connections locally?"

Five biotech firms call HCC home

Here's a list of the biotech companies at the Technical Innovation Center at Hagerstown Community College and, according to center manager Chris Marschner, basically, what they're doing:

o Luminescent MD -- Is trying to develop equipment and kits capable of the early diagnosis and monitoring of such diseases as allergies, cancer, cardiac ailments and diabetes.

o Nanolytics -- A medical device company focused on applying existing technology to the development of products for noninvasive medical diagnosis. It also hopes to develop technologies for chemical and biological sensor uses.

o Tox Path Specialists -- Working on development and safety assessment of new drugs and devices targeting diseases of the central and peripheral nervous systems in people. It also performs safety assessment of new therapies for other organ systems.

o Protein RST -- Produces, services and works in the research/development of proteins for scientific research. It creates pure amounts of specific proteins to sell mainly to U.S. research labs for medical and biological purposes.

o Ambay Immune Sensors and Controls -- Is trying to find a way to detect breast cancer before its normal symptoms appear.

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