For the second consecutive year, President Jay A. Perman, MD, addressed the Regional BioTech Forum to discuss advances in research and commercialization by the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) and its partners in academia and the private sector.
(View a photo gallery.)
As one example, he cited the co-founding of Harpoon Medical, Inc. in Maryland by cardiac surgeon James Gammie, MD, who invented a device that may enable mitral valve repair without opening the chest or stopping the heart. Given that 50,000 Americans must undergo open-heart surgery each year for valve repairs, Perman said, Gammie’s image-guided tool holds enormous promise and potential cost savings.
“Reducing inpatient time in the hospital is absolutely key to reducing health care costs,” he said.
"Harpoon has raised over $10 million in financing, and is reporting excellent patient outcomes in clinical trials,” Perman said, noting that he is thrilled to say UMB has put some of its own money into Gammie’s startup as well as another physician’s company that targets chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Perman appeared April 18 on an academic panel along with Robert Caret, PhD, chancellor of the University System of Maryland, and three university presidents representing institutions in Virginia and the District of Columbia.
The panel took place on the opening day of a two-day event attended by Maryland’s Commerce Secretary Mike Gill and Gov. Larry Hogan, who called the state’s life sciences industry the “backbone of Maryland’s economy.”
More than 400 representatives of life sciences companies, venture capitalists, federal laboratories, and institutions of higher education were registered for the conference, held at MedImmune in Gaithersburg, Md. The event was chosen as the occasion to unveil a name and tagline developed for the life sciences sector in this region: BioHealth Capital Region: Advancing Science, Accelerating Innovation.
In keeping with the geographic breadth of the area, Perman and Caret were joined by Steven Knapp, PhD, president, George Washington University; Àngel Cabrera, PhD, president, George Mason University; and Timothy Sands, PhD, president, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Sands said that Virginia Tech is seeking to be a catalyst for research and technology and the health sciences not only in Blacksburg-Roanoke, Va., but also near its campus in Northern Virginia.
Their panel was moderated by John C. Cavanaugh, PhD, president and chief executive officer, the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area, which represents 14 institutions.
Caret began his remarks by recalling his stints in California and Massachusetts, where companies in Silicon Valley and near Boston’s Route 128, respectively, have made the regions synonymous with tech development. “We are at a point of becoming that other large cluster," he said. Caret spoke during the panel’s discussion and afterward in an interview with the Baltimore Business Journal on using research partnerships with private industry to help drive the effort.
The BioHealth Capital Region has established a goal of “Top 3 by 2023.”
The governor of Maryland also spoke of growing the biotech sector. “Your success is our success, and as we look ahead it is absolutely vital to work together as a region to attract the best and brightest workforce, and attract a critical mass of companies,” Hogan was quoted in the Baltimore Business Journal.
Hogan and Perman each highlighted the same company during comments that came at separate times of the opening day of the conference. Profectus BioSciences, Inc., is developing an Ebola vaccine, among other initiatives.
Perman, whose remarks addressed the role of innovation in reducing health care costs, reflected upon his own career as a pediatric gastroenterologist. He recalled that early on, infants and their families had to cope with lengthy hospital stays that have been eliminated by research findings. These ailments have been “vaccined out of existence,” he observed.
Perman and the other academic leaders took questions from the large audience and were available for networking afterward. The forum was attended by several students at UMB’s Graduate School, alumni, tenants or former tenants of the UM BioPark, and representatives of UM Ventures, a part of the University of Maryland: MPowering the State in which UMB collaborates with the University of Maryland, College Park.
Officials in attendance included UM Ventures Director James Hughes, MBA, chief enterprise and economic development officer and vice president at UMB; and Jane Shaab, assistant vice president, economic development at UMB. Hughes is president of the UM BioPark and Shaab is its executive director.