Technology councils to brief businessesState officials and...


Technology councils to brief businesses

State officials and regulators will brief business people on technology issues in Maryland Tuesday, Jan. 12, from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. at Howard Community College's Science and Technology Building in Columbia.

The briefing is sponsored by several of the region's technology councils. For more information, call (410) 730-4111.

Anivax tests vaccine to aid CF patients

Univax Biologics of Rockville has begun an experiment in its development of a product that would treat a sometimes fatal bacterial infection common in cystic fibrosis patients.

The company said it plans to inject about 200 healthy people with a proprietary vaccine. If the experiment is successful, the people will begin producing antibodies that make them resistant to infection from a bacteria.

The people will then donate their blood and Univax will make a product from their plasma. It will be given to cystic fibrosis patients as a kind of immediate vaccine against the bacteria.

It will allow a patient to obtain an immunity to a disease immediately rather than over a period of a month, the time it takes to develop the antibodies after a person is vaccinated. And that could be crucial for patients whose lives are threatened by an infection.

The experiment will give the company its first opportunity to get the antibody from healthy volunteers.

Scios Nova tests drug for kidney failure

Scios Nova Inc. has begun the final phase of experiments for Auriculin, a drug that would be used to treat patients with acute kidney failure.

Auriculin is actually a man-made copy of a natural hormone -- atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP) -- that is produced in the heart and is important to functions of the heart and kidney.

The company, which has its headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., and has research facilities in Baltimore, was among the first to clone the gene that produces the hormone ANP. Merck & Co. licensed patent rights for ANP to Scios Nova, although it does not have the exclusive rights. Scios estimates that there is a $250 million market for the drug.

Auriculin would be the third major drug in line for marketing, behind products that Nova Pharmaceutical had in its drug development pipeline when it merged with Scios Inc. in September.

Auriculin will be tested in 500 patients at 35 medical centers. If test results are promising, the company will ask the Food and Drug Administration for approval to market the product.

Biotech convention sought for Baltimore

Selling Baltimore as a biotechnology capital isn't easy, most would agree, despite the city's long list of rich "natural resources" such as Johns Hopkins University.

So the city's life sciences community is looking at a tried-and- true method to promote itself, by trying to attract a major biotechnology show in December. If all goes well, the city will play host to 30,000 people, including investors, company executives and venture capitalists.

"We have found that Baltimore sells itself best when we get people to come here," said David Gillece, who directs the life sciences business development program for the Greater Baltimore Committee.

While the convention may help promote Baltimore as a good place to develop companies, the Washington-based Association of Biotechnology Companies, which helped dream up the idea, has another agenda.

The association wants to show potential investors some fruits of the biotech revolution -- from drugs based on genetic engineering to bugs that eat oil and waste, says William Small, executive director of the association.

He wants a convention that would be open to schoolchildren one day and would be accessible to people who don't understand genes or monoclonal antibodies -- the jargon of biotech. (Monoclonal antibodies are genetically engineered antibodies aimed at a very specific cell.)

So far the association is working with major industry groups, including the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association, the Health Industry Manufacturers and the National Health Council, that would participate in the conference.

The GBC and other local business leaders are also involved in convention planning.

Besides a convention, the group hopes to put on a series of public lectures and to attract members of the Clinton administration, Mr. Small said.

"Our primary target is the investment community, but there is no doubt that we need to educate the leaders in the administration and Congress," he said.

A final decision on the conference will be made in two weeks, when a full board of officials planning the event meets. But Mr. Small said, "I think we have pretty much made the decision that we will do it."

The conference already has booked 1,000 hotel rooms and the Baltimore Convention Center from Dec. 9 through Dec. 15.

"From the local perspective, I view the event as a fairly significant enhancement of the life sciences agenda," Mr. Gillece said.

The convention could boost Baltimore's image -- which already has changed in Mr. Small's eyes. "I used to not like Baltimore," he said. "But it is growing on me."

In addition, he points out that the Baltimore/Washington area is the third-largest biotechnology region in the nation.

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