Maryland biotech executives home in on capital -- Gazette.Net


Maryland’s young biotechs hoping to spark interest in investment and partnerships will be among the 750-plus industry, state and venture capital executives expected to attend the annual Mid-Atlantic Biotech Conference in North Bethesda on Thursday and Friday.

After three years of trying to snag a pitch presentation slot at the conference, CC Biotech in Rockville will be among the companies vying for investor attention this week.

At least 13 Maryland biotechs will be presenting this year in both startup and early-stage levels.

The conference, at the Montgomery County Conference Center, is a joint initiative of the Mid-Atlantic Venture Association, the Virginia Biotechnology Association and the Tech Council of Maryland. The North Carolina Biotechnology Center also a strategic partner this year.

“I hope to show our technology to the local biotech investment community,” said Martha Knight, executive and scientific director with CC Biotech. Knight also launched Peptide Technologies in Gaithersburg in the 1990s.

CC Biotech focuses on a system of purifying therapeutics so that their side effects can be reduced and eliminated, she said. The technology has been licensed from the National Institutes of Health and is supported by a Small Business Innovation Research grant.

“I want to present a strong message that this technology can meet needs,” Knight said, emphasizing that the system can be both scaled down for research and scaled up for industry use.

She is seeking a $2 million investment to get some instruments on the market for the research sector.

Knight will be part of an environment at the conference that will include senior executives from more than 200 companies and more than 50 investment funds from 21 states and Washington, D.C.

The conference was staged in only a one-day panelist form in late 2011 so the main sponsors could concentrate on participating in the Biotechnology Industry Organization’s International Conference, which was staged in Washington, D.C., in June 2011.

“This year’s conference takes place in Montgomery County, which is the home to so many exciting biotech companies, as well as to the National Institutes for Health which gives the conference added depth and dimension when it comes to discussions about [Small Business Innovation Research] and working with the [U.S. Food and Drug Administration],” Julia Spicer, executive director of Mid-Atlantic Venture Association in McLean, Va., said in an email to The Gazette.

Spicer said bringing together all these biotech groups from throughout the mid-Atlantic ensures “lively, productive conversations and good business discussions.”

Celek Pharmaceuticals, located in Rockville’s Shady Grove Innovation Center incubator, is another presenting company this year.

The 3-year-old company is pursuing $3 million in early series financing for its advanced cancer treatment, said CEO Graham Allaway.

Celek recently licensed the treatment from OSI Pharmaceuticals in Farmingdale, N.Y. While the drug candiate CEL-031 has show efficacy in clinical trials, Celek is shifting the treatment’s original oral delivery to intravenous and catheter delivery. Celek focuses on using the drug to treat bladder cancer and acute myeloid leukemia.

Bladder cancer is the most expensive cancer to treat on a per patient basis, Allaway said.

“We want to attract and excite potential investors and maybe also find partners,” he said.

Remedium Technologies of College Park is seeking $1.5 million to bring its blood-clotting foam spray to market, said CEO Matt Dowling. The company has previously funded itself through a Maryland Proof of Concept Alliance grant with the Army Research Library and a federal Small Business Innovation Research grant; Remedium is currently seeking such a phase 2 grant.

Dowling said he intends to update the bioscience investor community on the company’s progress, including being close to licensing its bandage technology.

“If we get the phase 2 money, we’ll be in good position for some more funding,” he said.

Boss Medical of Baltimore is not really looking at any specific funding target and just hopes to make connections, said CEO Neil Shah.

The company is a spinoff of Johns Hopkins University and is developing a less invasive device for bone-grafting than is currently available, Shah said. Boss is part of the Emerging Technology Center in Baltimore.

The conference also includes a panel discussion Friday with several of Maryland’s prominent CEOs, including Kenneth Carter of Neximmune and Noble Life Sciences, and Cynthia Collins of GenVec.

These executives will discuss their successes and failures and provide insight into preparing for an exit strategy.