Lab technician jobs outpacing supply
Laboratory jobs in the life sciences might grow as much as 3,000 to 4,000 in the next five years in this region, but there may not be qualified people to fill them, according to a report released last week.
The Greater Baltimore Committee, the state Department of Economic and Employment Development and the Baltimore Development Corporation wanted to find out what the need for laboratory workers will be in the region in the next decade. It had Migliara/Kaplan Associates, a Towson marketing and research firm, conduct a survey of 63 Baltimore employers, including biotechnology and chemical companies, hospitals and laboratory testing facilities.
Of the companies surveyed, slightly more than one-third had fewer than 15 employees, and about the same number had more than 50 employees.
The report projects a 20 percent increase in laboratory jobs from the basic technician level to those with doctorates in science within the next year, based on what the companies said they expected and the projections for growth in the life sciences industry as a whole.
Today, the report said, salaries for entry-level technicians are about $14,700, while analysts and associates earn $24,000. But the big salaries come for scientists, who are paid about $57,000.
The problem is not in attracting qualified candidates for positions at the doctorate or master's level jobs, according to companies, but in attracting entry-level technicians.
The employers said about half the people who applied for entry-level jobs were turned down because of a lack of experience and education.
That finding rings true to William Tew, chairman of Chesapeake Biological Laboratories Inc. who has found that job seekers lack basic skills.
"The problem is not that our work force is technologically ignorant," he said, but that workers graduate from high school without a good foundation in math and writing. If they had those skills, he said, they would make excellent employees.
The report suggests that community colleges can play a role in helping provide qualified employees to fill the new jobs. Dr. Tew agrees that is important, but he adds, "That is going to be an important Band-Aid. But in the long run, in the five-year window, it won't solve our employment needs."
Genta in final stage of acne drug testing
Genta Inc., a San Diego company founded in part on research from the Johns Hopkins University, has begun the final stage of experiments on humans for a drug to treat acne.
The drug -- G-101 -- is intended to provide the company with products in the short term while it develops its antisense technology. Antisense is a new technology that uses a synthetic mirror image of a DNA strand to shut down the work of a gene that causes disease. The idea is to block the disease at the genetic level.
G-101 will be tested in France on 600 patients. If the results are good, the company will ask the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and European officials for permission to market the drug.
While the new drug is not based on antisense technology, it will help the company get into the dermatology market. The worldwide market for acne products is $750 million annually.
Biotechnology Institute plans expansion
Just as the University of Maryland Board of Regents cuts deeply into some of the basic teaching at its colleges, the Maryland Biotechnology Institute plans to expand.
Within the next two months, the regents will be asked to approve a long-range plan for MBI that calls for the staff to grow to 1,002, from 239, over the next decade. In addition, MBI, which includes four major institutes for biotechnology research, will be asking for about $125 million -- $80.4 million of which would come from the state -- to put up five buildings in the next decade.
While at least one of those projects, the expansion of the Center for Advanced Research in Biotechnology at Shady Side, would not be completed until 2002, MBI is planning to go to the General Assembly next session asking for $40 million from the capital budget. That money would go to renovating the old Hutzler's warehouse in downtown Baltimore as a home for the Center for Medical Biotechnology.
The request will come just a few months after the regents voted to cut French and Spanish majors from Salisbury State $l University and physics and chemistry from Towson State University.
Even if the regents approve MBI's plan, the staff won't necessarily be gleeful because it still must persuade the legislature to approve the spending for each project.
MBI was recently criticized by the business community for failing to be an effective economic development tool and for failing to establish closer links with biotechnology companies in the area.
Kleiner Perkins group adds to Univax stake
An investment group including Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers V, a California limited partnership, boosted its stake in Univax Biologics Inc., a Rockville-based developer of immunotherapeutic products, by 2.3 percent. It now holds 20.73 percent, or 2.4 million common shares, of Univax.
The group purchased 265,500 shares between Nov. 4 and Dec. 15 for $9.25 to $10.88 each, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing.