Life sciences advisory panel set

The Baltimore Sun

Gov. Martin O'Malley is set to announce this morning members of a new Life Sciences Advisory Board, which was created to further his professed mission of making "Maryland the bioscience capital of the world."

Fifteen people from the industry, academia and government are to serve on the panel, including Chairman H. Thomas Watkins, chief executive of Rockville's Human Genome Sciences.

The life sciences industry - which encompasses biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, food science and medical devices and technologies - has repeatedly been tagged by state politicians and officials as key to economic growth.

Maryland is home to about 380 such companies, as well as several business bioscience parks, the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health. It consistently ranks among the top five states as a bioscience leader.

But "fierce competition, globally and nationally, to grow, expand, and attract the bioscience industry," suggests Maryland needs to step up its game, according to a fiscal note filed with the legislation that created the board this year.

California and Massachusetts regularly outrank the state, and efforts in North Carolina and elsewhere threaten to move Maryland further down the list.

The state has multiple trade organizations devoted to furthering bioscience industries here, and a law that offers tax credits to those who invest in biotechnology firms. But this board will be the first legislatively created body to concentrate solely on improving the industry.

Among other things, the advisory board is charged with developing a "state strategic plan," promoting life sciences and recommending ways to coordinate resources to attract private funding and new jobs.

David W. Edgerley, secretary of Maryland's Department of Business and Economic Development, is required to participate on the board, along with a representative from the state's Technology Development Corp., to be filled by Executive Director Renee M. Winsky. The other 13 members were appointed by O'Malley.

"Maryland's already a strong leader in life sciences and biotech, but there's probably work we could do to be even stronger and more competitive," Watkins said.

Watkins expects the board to establish a plan of action at its first meeting, to be held Oct. 17 at his company. The group must report to the governor annually by Dec. 15.

More than 50 people from various sectors - including academia, law and real estate - applied for the unpaid, two-year positions.

The law says the advisory board must be made up of three representatives from the state's federal agencies, four from higher education institutions (including one community college), one from the general public and five from area life science businesses.

"Growing Maryland's life sciences industry is a critical step toward a brighter future for all citizens," O'Malley said in a statement announcing the members. "We are fortunate to have brought together some of the greatest scientists, educators and business professionals to help us in the important task of developing a road map to move this industry forward."

The remaining members:

Norma M. Allewell, dean, chemical and life sciences, University of Maryland, College Park.

Norka Ruiz Bravo, deputy director for extramural research, National Institutes of Health.

Francesca M. Cook, vice president of policy and government affairs, PharmAthene Inc.

Stephen Desiderio, director, Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences, the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Lawrence J. Diamond, Mid-Atlantic senior vice president, Alexandria Real Estate Equities.

David S. Iannucci, director, Department of Economic Development, Baltimore County.

Philippe Jacon, president, BD Diagnostic Systems.

Col. George W. Korch Jr., commander, U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases.

Nina Lamba, founder and president, CCL Biomedical Inc.

Hercules Pinkney, vice president and provost, Montgomery College-Germantown.

David J. Ramsay, president, University of Maryland, Baltimore.

Janet Woodcock, deputy commissioner and chief medical officer, Food and Drug Administration.

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