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Baltimore BioPark dedicates second building

University also breaks ground on third of 10 planned facilities

by Steve Berberich | Staff Writer | The Gazette

City, state and federal officials more firmly staked Baltimore’s claim in Maryland’s burgeoning bioscience industry this week.

Some 400 people weathered a chilly, misty Monday morning at the dedication of the second building of the BioPark at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, and the groundbreaking for a third.

With its first BioPark building (fully) filled, the university is poised to usher new businesses into building 2, according to a sequential business plan that calls for a total of 10 buildings, said David J. Ramsay, the university’s president.

Among the new tenants for building 2 are the new Institute for Genome Services and Paragon Bioservices Inc., which is expanding from the Johns Hopkins Bayview Research Campus.

Ramsay said the BioPark’s first three buildings are adding about 1,000 jobs to the city’s employment rolls.

According to James R. Berens, president of Wexford Science & Technology, which developed buildings 1 and 2, the project is supported by the state Department of Business and Economic Development, which contributed $4 million to building 1; tax credits for tenant companies by Harbor Bank; and about $200 million [correction: $2 million] in federal funding, championed by Rep. Elijah E.Cummings (D-Dist. 7) of Baltimore, who attended Monday’s ceremony.

Five years ago, the university began planning the BioPark on a residential and commercial tract just west of the main campus, with a price tag of $500 million and a final build-out of 1.2 million square feet of laboratory and office space. By several accounts this week, the project is exceeding expectations.

Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon (D) said the BioPark is not competition for Montgomery County’s biotech corridor but a complement that bolsters Maryland’s prominence in the field.

‘‘Now we have the infrastructure to get that done,” she said.

‘‘With the first building, we weren’t sure we were going to have as many hardcore biotechs as we got,” said James Hughes, the school’s vice president for research and development.

‘‘Experiences around the country showed that bioparks get more bioservice companies, so we are just thrilled.” Baltimore was not previously well-known for biotech and ‘‘this area of the city did not have the best reputation. So it was a bit of a leap of faith.”

Edward Rudnic, CEO of Germantown’s MiddleBrook Pharmaceuticals and a member of the BioPark board, said the project’s rapid progress is a credit to the vision of the university’s leaders.

‘‘I wanted to do something in Baltimore and they asked me to be on the board about a year ago,” said Rudnic, who is also chairman of the Tech Council of Maryland. ‘‘I can give them biotech input from a business perspective and will probably never be a tenant.”

Harold E. Chappelear, a fellow board member and a retired University of Maryland professor in its School of Pharmacy, said the project has ‘‘gone far beyond our expectations.”

Other BioPark tenants include SNBL Clinical Pharmacology Center, Alba Therapeutics, FASgen, Irazu BioDiscovery, Acidophil and Gliknic Therapies.

The project represents ‘‘how Maryland, now with a $3 billion bioscience industry, is still growing,” said Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D) of Baltimore. Cardin said Maryland is now the third leading state for federal research grants. Expanding biotech in Baltimore enhances the state’s presence with leadership in cancer, diabetes and other medical research and development, he said.

Cardin also commended the university for crossing the bustling Martin Luther King Boulevard, which previously separated the large downtown University of Maryland campus from what it considered ‘‘one of Baltimore’s more troubled neighborhoods, with a per capita income of $16,000 per annum and a crime rate well above the city’s average,” according to University of Maryland literature.

The university has formed partnerships with neighborhood leaders and infuses $60,000 annually into the community improvement fund.

‘‘It’s not enough to build buildings. We’ve got to build people,” said Cummings, who keeps a close watch on the project from his nearby residence, according to Ramsay.

Cummings referred to new bioscience education programs tying a neighborhood high school and Baltimore City Community College to the BioPark.

Ramsay announced that University of Maryland will donate a $282,000 federal small business innovation research grant, plus an additional $310,000, to the community college’s educational initiatives.

About 200 community college students each year will receive associate degrees or certificates in biosciences as a result of the partnership. The community college plans to consolidate its biosciences education programs into 38,000 square feet of the second floor of building 2 of the BioPark.

‘‘This will be the first time we can offer students a chance to work with a number of different companies in one place,” said Caroline Williams, college president.

The college at the BioPark will also train students for careers as laboratory technicians, cell culture technicians, animal research technicians and sterilization and glassware managers.

The university is also sponsoring a retail job training center at the BioPark site run by Goodwill Industries.