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The Daily Record

Maryland ranked second in the world in a report ranking regional initiatives intended to foster and attract bioscience business.

Maryland is second only to California when it comes to fostering and attracting biotechnology businesses because of initiatives such as the University of Maryland biotech park, above, according to the newsletter FierceBiotech.

Published yesterday by the Washington-based newsletter FierceBiotech, the report says Maryland is second only to California for initiatives aimed at drawing and retaining biotechnology companies.

FierceBiotech cited local assets such as the presence of the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration; biotechnology research parks springing up in both East and West Baltimore; the state’s technology arm, the Maryland Technology Development Corp. or TEDCO; and partnerships between Maryland’s academic institutions.

It also noted the presence and retention of such companies as MedImmune Inc., a biotech giant that recently announced a corporate expansion that is expected to add 840 jobs to Maryland’s economy in the next three years.

“This region has been great and we’re trying to make it greater,” said Department of Business and Economic Development Secretary Aris Melissaratos. “There’s so much good stuff going on here. It’s about time the world recognized it.”

Behind Maryland, New Jersey ranked third, Singapore fourth and Wisconsin fifth. All five areas, according to FierceBiotech, have taken dramatic steps to attract and keep biotechs, including building research parks, investing public funds and providing tax incentives.

“Everybody in the industry knows where the big biotech clusters are,” said John D. Carroll, editor of FierceBiotech, in a news release. “We wanted to look at which regions were trying the hardest to provide real incentives for future growth. And we answer that by profiling five areas that are working hard to provide the right mix of funding and facilities for the biotech industry.”

Maryland consistently has ranked in the top five burgeoning bioscience regions nationwide in reports, including the annual bioscience survey from research firm Ernst & Young and a study by the federal Department of Commerce.

The area in the early 1990s had just about 25 biotech firms, recalled Martha J. Connolly, now director of the Maryland Industrial Partnerships program at the University of Maryland, College Park. Connolly at that time became DBED’s first biotech representative.

Now Maryland is home to about 350 bioscience companies, of which 22 are public.

The region’s success largely is the fruit of those early efforts, which gave the state a leg up on the competition when the letters “DNA” meant little to the general population, according to both Connolly and Melissaratos.

The formation of programs such as TEDCO, Maryland Industrial Partnerships and the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute in Baltimore was essential to the bioscience boom.

Critical, also, has been the leveraging of state investments to draw private and federal funding, Melissaratos said.