Biotech Co., Government Agencies, Colleges Gather For Biotech Conference

It concludes Tuesday afternoon.

Hundreds of representatives from biotech firms, government agencies, states,  and colleges and universities are in Gaithersburg this week for a two-day, regional Biotech Forum. It’s first day was on Monday at Medimmune’s headquarters and it’s expected to conclude on Tuesday afternoon.

Life science  is considered a major part of Maryland’s economy, but the state  not a major biotech hub, according to Dr. Bahija Jallal, Executive Vice President of Astra Zeneca and Head of Medimmune. “Right, there are just multiple companies that co-exist but there is not that ecosystem that needs to be developed even more if we want to become the third biohub in the country,” she says. The other two major  biohubs are Boston, Massachusetts, and the San Francisco Bay area.

But she is confident that Maryland will become a major biohub by 2023. “We have the energy to do it. I think we are seeing a great response from the two governors, the institutions themselves and we’re willing to play our part,” Dr. Jallal says.

According to biotech officials, Maryland is ranked number one in innovation and entrepreneurship, and for a talent pipeline. Life science make up 71,600 jobs in the state, and it’s 6% of Maryland Gross Domestic Product which translates into $17.6-billion. In addition, there are 800 biotech companies in the region, along with 70 federal labs and 16 colleges and universities.

Frederick County recently received funding for its CREST, the Center for Research and Education in Science and Technology, a higher education center which teaches science and technology to adults who work in the biotech field.

But the  industry faces challenges, according to Dr. Reg Seeto, the Head of Partnering and Strategy for Medimmune. One includes getting the drugs from the laboratory to patients at a quicker pace. “We have many strong elements today, and we need to see how we can get many of the companies who are working with drugs to get them to patients,” he says. “Making sure that these drugs can make it to market as soon as possible.”

However, Dr. Seeto says, the region has a lot of talent. “We’re actually number one in the region for talent. So I think that’s one area that we’re very strong. And not just people that have advanced degrees, but advanced degrees in the field of science. So whether there’s MD’s or Phd’s as well. There’s actually a great concentration of talent that exists here,” he says.

Tuesday’s session of the Biotech Conference will include panel discussions on “Advancements in Vaccine Development,” “The Promise and Challenge of Personalized Cancer Medicine” and “The Convergence of Digital Health and Biotechnology.”