Master's in biotech in vogue at HopkinsBiotechnology...

Master's in biotech in vogue at Hopkins

Biotechnology isn't a traditional academic discipline, but it's becoming a "hot" degree at the Johns Hopkins University.


Hopkins began offering a part-time master's program in biotechnology at its Shady Grove campus in Montgomery County, hoping to attract biotech company employees who had a BA in a science but wanted an advanced degree to boost their careers.

A good response, the university thought, would be 30 students for the first semester this fall. It got 100.


With that demand, the university is opening a second location for the master's at the Homewood campus in Baltimore, beginning in January.

University officials also were surprised by the program's appeal to people who hold advanced degrees, said Carol Burke, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. One-third of the students have doctorates or master's degrees, she said. Still, they wanted a master's in biotechnology because they see jobs in the field increasing in the region, she said.

Lawyers representing small biotech companies also were TC interested. They want to learn more about the scientific aspects of their clients' businesses.

Hopkins had help from biotech companies in designing the program, which includes 10 courses that must be completed in five years.

For information, call the office of part-time graduate programs at 516-6056.

Scios Nova seeking partner on drug project

Scios Nova Inc. is searching for a new partner to develop a drug that could be effective in treating lung failure in premature infants. The company has reacquired the rights from Genentech Inc.

In 1989, California-based Scios and Genentech signed an agreement to develop lung surfactants -- a mixture of proteins and fats produced in late pregnancy, coating the lungs and helping them expand and work properly.


Without these natural surfactants, a premature infant's lungs can collapse. That condition, known as respiratory distress syndrome, is a principal cause of death in premature infants.

Under terms of the agreement announced last week, Scios Nova, which has operations in Baltimore, gets back the rights to the recombinant technology, including worldwide marketing and manufacturing rights. Genentech receives stock in the company.

Scios Nova spokeswoman Kira Bacon said Genentech "has a very full pipeline and this was not a project that fit into their priority list."

Two other lung surfactants are now on the market -- a synthetic and a bovine-derived product -- but Scios Nova said its product would be the first human-derived surfactant.

The market is estimated to be between $40 million and $50 million annually.

In addition, Ms. Bacon said the product may have the potential for treating an adult respiratory distress syndrome.


Poljak named to head biotech research center

Roberto J. Poljak has been named to head the Center for Advanced Research in Biotechnology, one of four major research centers of the Maryland Biotechnology Institute.

Dr. Poljak, 60, an international leader in structural biology, was a professor and head of the structural immunology laboratory at the Pasteur Institute in Paris.

Dr. Poljak was the first to determine the three-dimensional models of key immune system proteins known as antibodies and their relationship to specific antigens. He was a biophysics professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine from 1962 to 1981.

Established in 1984 by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the University of Maryland, CARB moved to a new building in 1989 in Rockville. The premier issue of Life Sciences Report rolled off the presses recently. The eight-page newsletter is intended to provide news about life sciences companies and economic development for business people. Underwritten by several businesses, the free publication is produced by the Greater Baltimore Committee.

For copies, call 727-2820.


Univax gets rights to market treatment

Univax Biologics, a Rockville biotech company, has signed a joint marketing and manufacturing agreement with RH Pharmaceuticals Inc. in Winnipeg, Canada, that will give Univax exclusive U.S. marketing rights to a new treatment for an autoimmune disease.

The agreement gives the company the "potential to enter the market with a life-saving drug sooner than anticipated," said Iris Kesterman, a Univax spokeswoman. Most of the company's products are under development.

The disease, called idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, affects 100,000 to 150,000 people each year, including about 10 percent of people infected with HIV. It leaves them susceptible to uncontrolled bleeding.

RH Pharmaceuticals, which has been working on the treatment, will get manufacturing rights to some Univax products and $500,000 to expand its manufacturing facilities.