BioBuzz In Conversation: Montgomery County, Maryland Executive Marc Elrich

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County Executive Elrich Shares Thoughts On the Global Pandemic and Biodefense Center, Quantum Computing & Biotech Growth in the County

Montgomery County (MOCO), Maryland, sits at the epicenter of biopharma growth, investment, and innovation that makes the BioHealth Capital Region (BHCR) one of the top bio clusters in the world. The past 15 or so months has seen the region’s biohealth momentum accelerate significantly, spurred on by the race to develop a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, expansion in the cell and gene therapy sector, as well as increased activity around advanced biomanufacturing, among other positive indicators.

It’s been an historic year for the BHCR, and Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich has had a front row seat to the heartache, resilience, and triumphs of not only his constituents but also the regional biopharma industry.

As Maryland and the region slowly return to a sense of normalcy over the coming months, it’s important to look back but also to look forward. A host of BHRC leaders, including Elrich, Stu Solomon of ConnectedDMVRich Bendis of BioHealth InnovationMarty Rosendale of the Maryland Tech Council, Benjamin H. Wu, President & CEO, Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation and, among others, are doing just that.

Led by the efforts of Solomon and ConnectedDMV, the region-wide collaborative of leaders recently received $500K in funding from the MOCO City Council to support the strategic development phase of the new Global Pandemic and Biodefense Center (The Center) that will be potentially headquartered in MOCO.

The Center will house the AHEAD100 program led by Dr. James Crowe Jr., Director, Vanderbilt Vaccine Center, Professor of Pediatrics and Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, Ann Scott Carell Chair, who has spent the past decade preparing for the next global health epidemic.

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The BioHealth Capital Region, 2021 and Beyond: After an Unprecedented Year, What’s Next?

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The BioHealth Capital Region (BHCR) had a remarkable 2020, and there is palpable momentum and excitement in the air as we approach the end of Q1 2021. How will the pandemic impact the region’s push to be “Top 3 by 2023?” Where will this significant momentum lead? These questions are yet to be answered.

This year’s BioHealth Capital Region Forum, which will take place in September 2021, will be a must-attend virtual event for those seeking insights into where the region is headed.

The BHCR Forum’s theme will be the convergence of Big Bio and Big Data. The event should be fascinating given the pandemic’s unprecedented nature and its profound, ongoing impact on the region.

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BioBuzz – BioHealth Capital Region Women Making Waves in Venture Capital

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Improving access to venture capital for life science entrepreneurs and emerging biopharma companies in the BioHealth Capital Region (BHCR) is a top priority. However, elevating the region’s funding profile is not the only type of access undergoing a transformation in recent years.

Like many biopharma boardrooms, the world of venture capital has historically lacked diversity and, specifically, the presence of women in leadership roles.

The BHCR has made significant progress in generating VC interest in regional companies; events like BioHealth Innovation’s annual Investment Forum and conferences hosted by TEDCO and the Maryland Tech Council have contributed to increased access to venture capital private equity.

And now, we’re starting to see more and more women in venture capital positions of influence.

Both the venture capital access and gender gaps are beginning to close. Necessary changes won’t happen overnight, but both lines of progress are truly exciting and promising developments for the region and the entrepreneurs and young life science companies that call it home.

In 2019, BioBuzz produced a feature story called “Five Female Investors Who Are Making Their Mark in Life Science.” The story highlighted prominent women investors active in the BHCR, including Kyparissia (Kyp) Sirinakis, Co-Founder, Managing Partner at Epidarex CapitalClaire Broido Johnson, Managing Director, Maryland Momentum Fund; Sara Nayeem, Partner, New Enterprise Associates (NEA); and Arti Santhanam, Executive Director, Maryland Innovation Initiative (MII).

Today we’re profiling several other female leaders at investment funds that play a key role in shaping the investment landscape within the BHCR.

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BioBuzz: Seeking Funding During a Pandemic: Panel Discusses Recent Trends in Life Science Capital Investment

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COVID-19 has created significant challenges for the Venture Capital (VC) market and life science companies seeking funding during the pandemic. While the pandemic has undoubtedly added a new layer of risk to an inherently risky field, the fundamentals for what makes a company attractive to a VC have remained steady. However, the way deals get done has changed.

At the recent BioHealth Capital Region (BHCR) Forum, which was held virtually, a panel of life science and VC experts came together to discuss what they want to see from a potential partner before pulling the trigger to invest and how companies seeking funding during a pandemic can better market and position themselves with VCs.

The world of VC funding has always been grounded in strong networks, “warm” introductions, and personal relationships developed over dinners, conference meetings, and boardroom table discussions.

All of this changed in the age of COVID-19. Life science companies seeking funding during a pandemic and VCs searching for the right organization to invest in have had to shift quickly to virtual interactions. Initially, this shift caused significant disruption for an industry rooted in trust built through face-to-face relationship building.

Arti Santhanam, the Executive Director of TEDCO’s Maryland Innovation Initiative (MII) moderated an all-star panel that explored seeking funding during a pandemic. The panel included Benjamin Britt, General Partner of Route 66 Ventures; David Hilbert, President and CEO of Arcellx, a clinical-stage cell therapy company; Sara Nayeem, Partner at New Enterprise Associates (NEA); and Bill Snider, Partner at BroadOak Capital Partners, LLC.

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BioBuzz: Top Biopharma Talent Acquisition Experts Share Strategies for Hiring and Retaining Employees in 2020

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The biotech industry continues to grow rapidly across the nation, especially in the BHCR. The region’s strategy for hiring and retaining employees is a key driver of the BHCR’s steady, sustained growth. The workforce development strategy and infrastructure that supplies the skilled and experienced workers needed for innovation and expansion is a key factor as well.

The region has always been known as a leading vaccine development hub, but in recent years personalized medicine, including cell and gene therapybacteriophage therapy, and a booming advanced biomanufacturing cluster has added to the region’s already strong and diverse biopharma portfolio. The BHCR is evolving and so are its talent needs, which begs the question, what strategic and tactical adjustments need to be made to ensure the BHCR talent pipeline can meet the region’s future workforce requirements?

A 2020 BHCR Forum virtual panel session, hosted by BioHealth Innovation’s (BHI) Managing Director of Economic Development Judy Costello, took a deep dive into the subject. The “Growing and Retaining Your Workforce” breakout session included panelists Diana Elias, Director of HR, ABL Inc.Ellen MacMahon, VP Human Resources Global Operations/IT at AstraZeneca; and Ed Radwinsky, Head of People Operations at RoosterBio, Inc.

Here some of the highlights from the lively and insightful panel discussion on hiring and retaining employees in 2020:

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BioBuzz: BioHealth Capital Region Showcases Strengths of Cutting Edge Therapies

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Biopharma and Life Science companies in the BioHealth Capital Region are known for their work with cutting edge technologies such as gene and cell therapies. Those strengths were on display at the 6th annual BioHealth Capital Region Forum.

The Strengths of our Region: Cutting Edge Therapies panel, which was moderated by Mark Cobbold, vice president of Discovery in Early Oncology at AstraZeneca, brought together leaders from three other companies to discuss their disruptive pipelines, the strength of the region and challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. Cobbold touted the work performed by the three companies joining him on the panel, Cartesian Therapeutics, Adaptive Phage Therapeutics, and Ziel Bio. Pointing to the work being done by those three companies and AstraZeneca, Cobbold said they are representative of why the BioHealth Capital Region has become one of the most successful BioHubs in the United States.

“You’re really pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in treating patients,” Cobbold told the panelists.

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BioBuzz: Strengths of Our Region: Combating Infectious Diseases Forum Roundup

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Over the past nine months, more than $7 billion in federal money has poured into the BioHealth Capital Region in support of therapies, diagnostics, and vaccines against COVID-19. In that short time, the region has shown its importance in halting the spread of the ongoing pandemic.

At the 6th Annual BioHealth Capital Region Forum, COVID-19 was a central focus of attendees and panelists. One panel, Strength of Our Region: Combating Infectious Diseases, included representatives from four companies in the region that provided an overview of the region’s role in combating the novel coronavirus as well as other infectious threats. Company representatives from Novavax, Emergent BioSolutions, BioFactura, and Aperiomics pointed to the work conducted by their organizations in COVID, as well as other infectious diseases, including Ebola, influenza, RSV, and SARS. The panel was moderated by Karen Smith, chief medical officer of Emergent BioSolutions, who said she was struck early on in the pandemic that companies in the BioHealth Capital region battling the pandemic are “all in the same storm, just in slightly different boats.” She said they are all trying to figure out a solution to this pandemic but in different manners due to their areas of expertise.

“Our organizations are different, and the places we started are different,” she said.

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