NewsWatch: Lockheed Martin to design nano spy

Friday, July 21, 2006

Designing a surveillance device to look and act like a maple tree seed is Lockheed Martin’s task under its latest Department of Defense contract.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency awarded aerospace and systems giant Lockheed Martin of Bethesda a $1.7 million,10-month contract to design the maple seed device called a remote-controlled nano air vehicle. The NAV will collect military intelligence indoors and outdoors on the urban battlefield, according to DARPA information.

Designed for release from a hover craft, and similar to the propeller-like maple seed, the one-bladed NAV should rotate in flight while a camera on board provides a ‘‘stable forward view and transmit images back to a small, hand-held display. ‘‘The NAV should be equipped with a chemical rocket to power it 1,100 yards, yet it should weigh only 0.07 ounces.

Celera discoversAlzheimer’s ‘link’

For the second time within seven months, Celera Genomics has reported it has discovered a genetic link to the risk of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. At the International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease 2006 in Madrid this week, researchers revealed that proteins of the DAPK1 gene had a ‘‘significant association” with the disease in a study of more than 4,000 volunteers.

Drug compounds with possible affects on the DAPK1 gene can now be tested for their effect on learning and memory in animal models of Alzheimer’s disease’, according to a Celera statement. An estimated 4.5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease and the number of Americans with Alzheimer’s has more than doubled since 1980, according to a report in the Archives of Neurology.

ASRC Aerospacelands NASA contract

ASRC Aerospace Corp. of Greenbelt has been selected by NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland to provide engineering and scientific services on a performance-based, indefinite-quantity, indefinite-delivery contract with the maximum value of $250 million over a possible five-year period.

ASRC Aerospace, a subsidiary of the ASRC Federal Holding Co., is certified as an Alaskan Native Corp with the Small Business Administration.

Patent office upholdsNeuralstem claim

The U.S. Patent Office upheld the patent issued to biotechnology company NeuralStem Inc. of Rockville regarding the company’s ‘‘Isolation, Propagation and Directed Differentiation of Stem Cells From Embryonic and Adult Central Nervous System of Mammals.” The reexamination was filed at the request of StemCells Inc. of Palo Alto, Calif., in October 2003.

‘‘This is the third time that the USPTO has had an opportunity to look at our patent and the third time that the USPTO has confirmed the validity of our claims,” said president and CEO Richard Garr.

AmericasBank expandsin Frederick

AmericasBank is expanding its commercial and residential mortgage loan operations in central Maryland, adding four loan origination officers and a loan production office in Frederick. The company has leased space at 100 N. Court St. in Frederick’s historic district.

AmericasBank, headquartered in Towson, raised $11 million in a public offering in March and plans to expand by opening three to five banking offices in selected business and government centers in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C., corridor and central Maryland.

FDA grants Intracelspecial designation

Intracel, a Frederick-based biotechnology company developing patient-specific cancer immunotherapies, has been granted a special protocol assessment by the FDA for the execution of a Phase III clinical trial of OncoVAX, a tumor-specific whole cell immunotherapy designed to attack cancer cells in stage II colon carcinoma.

The assessment provides a mechanism for the FDA and sponsors to reach agreement on the design, size, execution and analysis of a clinical trial that is intended to form the primary basis for regulatory approval. If successfully completed, the pivotal Phase III trial could form the basis of a biologics licensing application for OncoVAX in the United States.

Incubator receivesfirst royalty check

The Prince George’s County Economic Development Corp.’s Technology Assistance Center incubator has received its first royalty check from tenant Maximum Quest Group, a management strategies and data systems provider.

The incubator, which opened in November 2001, provides office space and business services to nine technology companies at reduced rates. As of this year, all new and renewing incubator firms pay a graduated royalty on profits, according to the development corporation.

Marriott to changeall its hotel roomsto smoke-free

Starting in September, Bethesda hotelier Marriott International will only provide non-smoking rooms in its more than 2,300 hotels and corporate apartments in North America, officials said this week. Presently, more than 90 percent of rooms do not allow smoking. Besides rooms, the new policy will include restaurants, lounges, meeting rooms and employee work areas.

Alcoa takes fullownership of Eastalco smelting facility

Alcoa of Pittsburgh is acquiring the minority interest in its Eastalco aluminum smelter in Frederick and its Intalco plant in Ferndale, Wash.

Affiliates of both Mitsui & Co. Ltd. and YKK Corp. will sell their combined 39 percent stake in the two smelters, according to a company statement.

The Eastalco plant, with a capacity of 195,000 metric tons per year, was idled in December after Eastalco failed to secure a long-term electricity contract. The company said it continues to explore long-term options that would allow the plant to reopen.

Fort Meade namedemployer of yearby BWI partnership

Fort George G. Meade in Hanover was honored by the BWI Business Partnership Inc. as its 2006 Employer of the Year for the base’s contributions to the region, its economy and its communities. Past Employer of the Year honorees include Comfort Inn BWI, Anne Arundel Community College, Southwest Airlines, The Mills Corp., Northrop Grumman, the National Security Agency, the Maryland Aviation Administration and Anne Arundel County.

The BWI Business Partnership consists of more than 150 businesses and agencies dedicated to strengthening the positive business climate and strong transportation network around Baltimore⁄Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.

Ruling favors USECon uranium imports

The U.S. International Trade Commission has ruled that terminating the antidumping suspension agreement that limits imports of Russian uranium products would materially injure the U.S. uranium industry, including USEC Inc. of Bethesda, the only U.S. producer of enriched uranium fuel for nuclear power plants, according to USEC information.

By a 4-1 vote, the ITC found that lifting the 1992 Russian suspension agreement would likely cause material injury to domestic producers which also ConverDyn, the only U.S. uranium converter; and Power Resources and Crow Butte Resources, the two largest uranium mining companies in the United States.

The decision follows a May 31 decision by the U.S. Department of Commerce that unfair dumping of Russian uranium products would likely recur if the Russian suspension agreement were terminated.

Mount Airy chambergrows to 300 members

The Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce, which in 2002 had 36 members, welcomed its 300th member this month. Aquastar Pressure Washing in Mount Airy, owned by Steve Gosnell of Mount Airy, is the milestone member.

Gosnell established the business 15 years ago, but after recently launching a new Web site, Gosnell said, he realized he wanted to link his site with the chamber’s, so he joined.