While there remains much work to do relating to technology transfer, public and private efforts to strengthen Maryland’s biotech business community are starting to show some signs of paying off, according to Dr. Wayne Hockmeyer, founder and chairman of MedImmune, the state’s largest biotech business.
For instance, Maryland is beginning to generate “serial” entrepreneurs, Hockmeyer reported at the GBC’s September 27 Bioscience Speaker Series event. The series is part of GBC efforts to support one of its top priorities: nurturing the growth of the bioscience business sector in the Baltimore region and the state.
“Serial” entrepreneurs, who create not just one, but a series of successful businesses are a key element of a major center for bioscience development, Hockmeyer told an audience of more than 50 bioscience advocates at the event held in the GBC board room.
“We now have that in Maryland. We have companies in Maryland that have been started by successful people that have come out of MedImmune, Human Genome Sciences and other places,” said Hockmeyer. “We’re now seeing the serial entrepreneur crank the wheel a second and third time. I think that’s a missing ingredient that now is here.”
“I think that’s going to make a big difference. That’s very typical of Cambridge, Southern California and Northern California. Such entrepreneurs attract investment from venture capitalists, who like nothing better “than to bet on a proven horse,” Hockmeyer said.
In some other ways, Maryland already compares “quite favorably” to other major biotech centers, such as Boston and California, he said. “When you look at Maryland’s size, and how many companies there are, and how many are successful, “we’re doing fine,” he said.
For example, Maryland has one successful large-cap biotech company – MedImmune. Cambridge, Massachusetts has two. If Rockville-based Human Genome Sciences, Inc. is successful over the next four or five years, Maryland could have two, Hockmeyer noted.
Of course, California has the “mother lode” of successful biotech companies, he said. But, based on the number of companies in the state’s biotech base, “Maryland has done pretty well.”
“What I don’t see here, which I do think you see in those other areas,” said Hockmeryer, “is a linking of the venture community, with the business community and the companies themselves, and the universities.
“What you see in California is professors coming out of Standford, USF, UCSF, Berkley and other places working half-time in a company they start. Then, when they get things up and running, they transfer their ideas and go back to full-time faculty. You don’t see that very much here,” said Hockmeyer.
However, leaders of Maryland’s major research universities are strongly committed to improving tech transfer policies and processes. Such efforts could pay off, he said.
He pointed out that five years ago Yale made a commitment tech transfer. The commitment “really did translate into the university itself, in terms of getting faculty to get their ideas out, even start companies, put incubators in place,” Hockmeyer said. “We’re doing these things here, too. So maybe we’re on the cusp of that occurring. I’m hoping that’s the case.”