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Scientific breakthrough: UM BioPark enjoys a growth spurt

Baltimore Business Journal - by Scott Graham

Here’s some good news for an industry that was short on highlights during the recession: Companies are taking more space in Baltimore’s two emerging biotechnology research centers; at least one firm is mulling a venture capital-backed funding round; and plans to expand the University of Maryland BioPark are still on the table.

James L. Hughes, University of Maryland's vice president of research and development, said the college’s proposal to triple the size of the UM BioPark — from an initial plan of about 600,000 square feet to 1.8 million square feet — will go before Baltimore’s design and architecture board this spring.

The Baltimore Business Journal first reported June 19 that University of Maryland leaders plan to spend about $800 million on an expansion that could include three 10- to 14-story office towers. But first, Baltimore’s Urban Design and Architecture Review Panel must approve it.

Meanwhile, the UM BioPark on downtown’s west side has signed four new biotech firms to space in its second research building, Hughes said. Among them is Biomere LLC, a subsidiary of Massachusetts-based Biomedical Research Models Inc. that has taken about 17,000 square feet in the 235,000-square-foot building and is led by a local industry veteran Dr. Blake Paterson.

The company, which develops and uses animal testing models to determine how drugs will affect humans who have diseases such as diabetes and multiple sclerosis, will open its doors next month.

Paterson, formerly CEO of Baltimore's Alba Therapeutics, also moved his start-up, Chesapeake BioDiscovery Management, LLC into space at UM's BioPark earlier this month. The two-person shop wants to help commercialize technologies developed by researchers and University of Maryland and other Maryland colleges.

UM BioPark also has signed leases with Fyodor Biotechnologies Corp., another two-person company developing a treatment for detecting malaria, and PharmaJet, a medical device manufacturer based in Colorado that opened a small office here staffed by one employee.

While terms of the deals were not disclosed, the average rental rate per square foot in that area of town is $21.72 according to a fourth-quarter 2009 report published by MacKenzie Commercial Real Estate Services.

On the city's east side, BioMarker Strategies, a three-year-old biotech developing a cancer diagnostic test, has doubled the space it is leasing in the John G. Rangos Building in the Science + Technology Park at Johns Hopkins, said Scott Allocco, the company's president. BioMarker has signed up for 2,500 square feet and plans to hire two more employees-- including a senior research and development executive-- within the next few months, he said.

Terms of that deal also weren't disclosed, but the going rate for space in that area is $21.57, according to MacKenzie's report.