GBC symposium will tout life sciences


Talking about building a Baltimore economy based on biomedical businesses was easy.

Now comes the hard part -- pulling it off.

That task falls to the Greater Baltimore Committee, which announced its shining vision of Baltimore's economic future in May, amid much fanfare. "Baltimore: Where Science Comes to Life" laid down a collective gauntlet to educators, businesspeople and politicians to transform the region's economy from one based on smokestacks to test tubes.

It's early yet to gauge accurately how far away that objective might be, GBC Deputy Director Tom J. Chmura said yesterday.

But no one can accuse the GBC of failing to beat the life-sciences drum. The economic development organization has designated life sciences as the theme of an assemblage of symposiums and conferences it's sponsoring this month.

In addition, the GBC's 2nd Annual High Tech Assembly has been dramatically expanded -- from one week last year to three weeks this year. The assembly starts Sept. 30 and ends Oct. 21.

"The focus of the assembly is life sciences, because that's where we see Baltimore's greatest economic potential," Mr. Chmura said. "It just was a logical extension, I think, of the economic statement we made earlier in the year."

A change in the region's traditional economic engines, which have been manufacturing-based, is under way. Ten years ago, the largest private employer in Maryland was Bethlehem Steel Corp. Five years later, it was Westinghouse Electric Co. Today, it's the Johns Hopkins Institutions.

The GBC assembly officially kicks off Sept. 30 with a $75-a-plate dinner at the Hyatt Regency Baltimore at 6 p.m.

Assembly fare will include a conference titled "Meet the Researchers -- Baltimore's Research Universities: Where Science Comes to Life" on Oct. 4 at 7:30 a.m.

On Oct. 10, a conference titled "International Financing, Marketing and Distributing in the Biotech Industry" will take place at the Omni Inner Harbor Hotel at 8 a.m. The conference is sponsored by the World Trade Center Institute, a public non-profit organization that gets most of its funding from the state.

"Our task is to help companies in the state of Maryland develop international businesses," said Elizabeth K. Nitze, executive director of the institute. "We are involved with it because biotechnology is a key industry for Maryland, and we wanted to put together a program that would assist biotechnology companies in Maryland to learn about and take advantage of foreign market opportunities."

All-day open houses and tours of Baltimore's technology institutions will be the focus Oct. 18.

Business, community and government representatives remain optimistic about GBC's life sciences pronouncement, Mr. Chmura said.

"So far, the reaction remains very positive," he said. "But . . . I think we recognize that the time is coming this fall when we have a responsibility to begin taking some specific steps and taking on specific projects."

The GBC is weighing different life-science initiatives, Mr. Chmura said. Among them is a suggestion that a city high school be given a special life-sciences curriculum.

For information about the assembly, contact the GBC at 727-2820.

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