Archives For Industry News

Stevensville-based Harpoon Medical Inc. has earned a $500,000 Maryland Venture Fund investment, part of a Series A $3.75 million financing round led by Maryland-based Epidarex Capital, Governor Martin O’Malley, Lt. Governor Anthony Brown and Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED) Secretary Dominick Murray announced Wednesday.

Harpoon Medical plans to revolutionize how doctors perform life-saving mitral valve surgery. Out of the roughly 2 million Americans suffering from degenerative heart disease, only about 50,000 of them receive life-saving mitral valve surgery. This is primarily because the most common treatment, an open-heart procedure, can last between three and six hours and is extremely complex and high-risk.

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Apply now for BioMaryland’s Biotechnology Development Awards.

The BioMaryland Center’s Biotechnology Development Awards have returned, offering a total of $1 million in prizes toward life sciences projects, Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED) Secretary Dominick Murray announced Monday.

The FY 2015 competition will give preference to projects that improve patient outcomes and reduce health care costs. For the first time since the awards program launched in 2010, DBED’s BioMaryland Center will partner with the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) and the Center for Medical Technology Policy (CMTP) to incorporate improved health care quality and cost reduction into the program criteria. Individual awards will range from $50,000 to $200,000. Winning teams will receive ongoing advice and support from the BioMaryland Center, DHMH and CMTP toward technical, scientific, regulatory and reimbursement issues.

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The Coastal Companies, a leading regional produce and dairy supplier, broke ground Monday on its new corporate headquarters in Laurel, Maryland. The company plans to complete its 240,000 square-foot facility by 2016 and to create 400 new jobs by 2018, Secretary Dominick Murray of the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED) announced.

The new facility will house several company divisions—including Coastal Sunbelt Produce, East Coast Fresh, Cold Chain Logistics, Cold Chain Imports and The Coastal Companies Foundation—and will be located just three miles from the company’s current facility in Savage. The Coastal Companies’ decision to expand in Maryland was the direct result of State and county assistance. DBED approved a $1 million conditional loan with the requirement that the company retain jobs in Maryland. Howard County also provided $150,000 in property tax credits and expedited the review of applications and permits through its Fast Track Development Process.

“We appreciate the support we have received from the State of Maryland and Howard County,” said The Coastal Companies CEO John Corso. “We believe our new headquarters will help us maintain our robust growth for years to come.”

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Triton Metals, founded in 1994, is one of the largest metal manufacturers on the East Coast.

When Triton Metals, a St. Mary’s County metal manufacturer, found it needed additional training for its workers, the company turned to the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED).

Thanks to a $5,000 grant through DBED’s Partnership for Workforce Quality Program (PWQ), Triton Metals now plans to enroll its 70 full-time employees in three workforce training courses; additionally, the company plans to use the grant to help create 10 new positions, Lt. Governor Anthony Brown and DBED announced on Monday.

“This grant will help with employee retention and will help us extensively train our internal workforce,” said Kevin Poole, President of Triton Metals. “Things are ever-changing in the manufacturing environment and training our workforce in the latest technologies helps us continue to be on top as a competitive manufacturer.”

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This vacant property at 500 Old Post Road in Aberdeen is included in the expanded Edgewood/Joppa Enterprise Zone.

This vacant property at 500 Old Post Road in Aberdeen is included in the expanded Edgewood/Joppa Enterprise Zone.

Growing your business in parts of Baltimore City and Harford County just got a little bit easier.

Additional Maryland Enterprise Zone Focus Areas were announced Wednesday by Governor Martin O’Malley through the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED). These jurisdictions—administered by local government and approved by DBED—will allow businesses to access income tax and property tax credits.

“I am pleased to approve these new Focus Areas in Baltimore City and the expansion of Harford County’s Edgewood/Joppa Enterprise Zone, which will help sustain existing businesses and attract much-needed new businesses to help us achieve our most important goal of creating and retaining jobs,” said Governor O’Malley. “Businesses located in the State’s 30 Enterprise Zones contributed to $2.5 billion in capital investment in Maryland in FY 2014.”

Two of the new areas are located in the Holabird and Orangeville industrial areas of Baltimore City, covering 846 acres and including over a dozen underdeveloped and underutilized sites which have been vacant or occupied by businesses slated for closing. The Baltimore Development Corporation website shows how Baltimore City Enterprise Zone tax credits can be applied to qualifying companies.

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Cellphire has earned a $1 million investment from the Maryland Venture Fund.

In their usual state, platelets don’t have a very long shelf life. These life-saving blood cells are crucial to helping a person stop bleeding, but medical professionals have struggled to store these blood cells for any longer than five days outside of the human body. 

Cellphire, an early-stage biotechnology company based in Rockville, Maryland, has developed an innovative response to this problem—freeze drying platelets for future use. Through their technique, platelets may be stored for years at room temperature and reconstituted, simply by adding water, for use in medical patients.

Governor Martin O’Malley and Secretary Dominick Murray of the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development announced on Tuesday that the State’s InvestMaryland program, administered by the Maryland Venture Fund, will support the company’s continued technological development with a $1 million investment. Cellphire plans to use the State funding toward the continued development of its freeze-dried platelet product, Thrombosomes, and to move closer to winning U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval.

“The underlying technology that Cellphire has developed promises to provide a quantum leap forward in how cells are handled and used within healthcare today,” Cellphire CEO Stephen H. Willard said in a statement.

“Our initial application—platelets—is a perfect example, as untreated platelets last five days outside of a donor’s body. With our patented treatment, we are able to freeze dry platelet derived products for storage measured in years, at room temperature. Reconstitution is as simple as adding sterile water. This investment from MVF enables us to begin pursuing other applications in diagnostics, sports medicine, plastic surgery and dentistry,” Willard said.

Cellphire was founded as a bio-defense company in 2006 with an emphasis on stabilizing the global blood supply market in the event of pandemics, such as avian influenza or other natural or manmade disasters. It has found applications for the use of freeze dried platelets in blood transfusion, advanced care of chronic and acute wounds and diagnostic reagents used in clinical and research settings. In 2013, the company received a contract worth up to $57 million from the Biomedical Advanced Research Defense Authority, a division of U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

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Often, the only thing standing between a willing worker and employment is specialized training. But determining which skills are most needed in various industries can be a daunting task.

The EARN (Employment Advancement Right Now) program, launched by Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley in 2013, seeks to address this challenge and equip Maryland organizations and business partnerships with State funding for valuable worker training programs directly tailored to industry needs.

The program continued its rollout this week as the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation announced 28 implementation grant awardees. Selected applicants received grants to plan training programs in January 2014. Finalized Strategic Industry Partnership Workforce Training Plans were submitted during the spring and reviewed for funding.

The average implementation grant award was $179,302. The two-phase process of planning grants and implementation grants was funded by the state at $4.5 million.

“There is no progress without a job. By awarding today’s State-funded implementation grants to these selected strategic partnerships, we’re moving our State forward and helping more Marylanders get the skills they need to qualify for Maryland’s most in-demand jobs.  Working together, we’re ensuring that these EARN implementation grants will provide industry-specific, state-of-the-art training for high-demand occupations,” Governor O’Malley said in a statement. Continue Reading…

Tom Vander Ark is an authority on education technology.

Tom Vander Ark is an authority on education technology.

Tom Vander Ark is an authority on education technology, also known as edtech, a field including startup companies developing apps and other new technologies to serve teachers, administrators, parents and students. Ark is the author of “Getting Smart: How Digital Learning is Changing the World,” and a partner in an education venture investment firm called Learn Capital. Previously, he was executive director of education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which helped fund the transformation of Baltimore’s former Southern High School into Digital Harbor High in 2002.

Ark recently spoke with MDBIZ News about why he views Baltimore at the forefront for edtech. The following comments are condensed from that interview:

Why is Baltimore a major edtech hub?

“The interesting thing about Baltimore is that edtech is new, except that it’s not. Baltimore has some great legacy companies that have been in the education space for 20 years and several large education investors like Chris Hoehn-Saric and Doug Becker (who developed Sylvan Learning and Laureate Education). Sterling Partners in Baltimore is one of the best private equity investors in education. They launched Connections Education, which sold to Pearson four years ago (for $400 million). They launched Sylvan and Laureate, probably the most important global higher education brand there is. Calvert Street is a private equity firm with some educational investments. And you also have Calvert Education Services.”

Why is edtech emerging now?

“In 2010, an app explosion occurred. Overnight, there was an abundance of cheap devices and good development platforms and a flood of investment that really changed the edtech landscape nationally. It changed opportunities dramatically. Also, this generation of college graduates has a relatively high degree of idealism. You put opportunity, interest and a mission-focus together and many smart kids wanted to work in education. And you had plenty of money flowing from private and philanthropic sources. You also had changes in school development like the charter school movement and in talent development with young people going to programs like Teach for America. Edtech is finally being connected to education reform.

“There has been a viral adoption of free apps in the classroom since 2009-2010. I’m not sure how many of these free apps will turn the corner and become profitable companies, but now there’s a way to gain school adoption and you don’t have to go through the district procurement officer to get in the door. I just met with a superintendent in Texas and asked him if he knew that 40 percent of his teachers were already using Edmodo (a free social network app for school work). He didn’t know. I said, ‘Maybe, I should give you a demo on it?’ It’s a lot easier being able to have that kind of conversation rather than simply pitching him with, ‘I have a good demo. Can I show it to you?’”

How does Baltimore stack up nationally?

“New York, Chicago and the Northern California Bay Area will be important for this industry, but there are a few thousand really good jobs that could just as easily be in Baltimore, Seattle, Boston, Austin or other venture cities. I think Baltimore is in the middle of the second tier as far as edtech cities. Baltimore sits above places like Seattle, Austin and San Diego, which are all tech hotspots, and also rates ahead of Portland, Raleigh-Durham and other cities we think of as innovators. Our index considers about 12 factors. The most heavily weighted is the number of edtech startups, but we also consider the tech scene broadly, the online learning ecosystem and other factors such as universities, state education policy, charter schools, school district innovation, philanthropic investors and nonprofits.”

What made you take notice of Baltimore?

“When I was with the Gates Foundation, we made an initial grant to create Digital Harbor High. This is slightly melodramatic, but an indication of what has happened in the past few years was that a teacher named Andrew Coy left Digital Harbor, arguably the best digital learning school in the area, and took over a nearby rec center and turned it into a tech learning center. He embraced the next edtech explosion. He’s starting to connect technology and teachers. I think that move was symbolic and a bit of a spark. It drew in people like Katrina Stevens, another edtech activist and a blogger. And across from Andrew’s center is the incubator Betamore. EdTechMD just started to raise money to seed more local startups. You’ve got a tech scene heating up. Andrew’s story in particular interested me. And now when he calls a meeting, everyone comes running to take part—the Chamber of Commerce, investors and foundations. It’s been fun to watch.”

Phobious helps people overcome their fears and anxieties through virtual and augmented reality on mobile devices.

Phobious helps people overcome their fears and anxieties through virtual and augmented reality on mobile devices.

The future of health technology is in the palm of your hand. Mobile communication, wearable devices, data sharing, analytics and even gaming concepts will soon seamlessly meld with medical treatment.

DreamIt Health Baltimore explored these possibilities in a four-month accelerator program that fostered nine early-stage companies. Company representatives demonstrated their products, presented plans for growth and pitched to investors during the program’s culminating Demo Day on Wednesday.

Mike Batista, CEO of Baltimore-based Quantified Care, which streamlines medical professionals’ use of mobile medical devices, called the DreamIt experience “phenomenal.”

“DreamIt is the reason we’ve been able to move so far in such a small amount of time. Our company would not be where it is now without their support—financial support, mentorship and helping us get through those low points companies inevitably fall into,” Batista said.

Participating companies received $50,000 in seed funding, extensive entrepreneurial training, coaching from industry experts, free Fells Point work space and donated legal counsel.

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Maryland Health Care Commission

Find more information on medical homes through the Maryland Health Care Commission.

In past generations, it wasn’t unusual for a family doctor to make a house call, perform a broad range of medical services and offer emotional as well as clinical support. While the traditional house call may be a thing of the past, patients today are taking advantage of a return to cooperative hands-on care in the form of patient-centered medical homes, including many in Maryland. Data shows that this care model is not only lowering costs but also improving care.

In a growing number of medical homes, doctors, nurses, care managers and medical assistants work together to help patients manage their care among different facilities, coordinate referrals to specialists and help track health outcomes. Rather than wait until he or she needs emergency care, the patient receives consistent preventative care from a familiar team of practitioners and builds a “long-term healing relationship,” according to the Maryland Health Care Commission.

Medical homes are one of the fastest growing trends in the healthcare industry. In the last six years, the number of certified medical homes nationwide has exploded, from 20 in 2008 to 6,800 today. As of January 2014, Maryland has 58 home health centers, most of which are located in areas with a large number of Medicaid patients, according to Heather DeCarlo, a health IT expert at RxNT in Annapolis.

Thanks in part to funding from the Affordable Care Act, medical home practitioners are now assisted by new forms of information technology, including electronic medical records. The ACA has also fundamentally changed how the country pays for healthcare, DeCarlo said.

Medical facilities are moving away from fee-for-service payments, which encourage more and oftentimes unnecessary medical procedures, to models that encourage cost efficiencies and improved medical outcomes, according to DeCarlo. The ACA incentivizes providers who can prove that they are bringing more services under the healthcare umbrella, like patient education and care coordination, and medical homes support this new team-based model, she said.

State officials have already found promising results among Maryland medical homes.

In 2011, through the MHCC, the Maryland Multi-Payer Patient Centered Medical Home Program began a three-year pilot study to test the medical homes care model. The study included 53 primary and multi-specialty practices throughout the State.

By the second year of the study, nearly half of the practices generated savings and overall care quality increased by approximately 10 percent, according to the MHCC.

CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield, Maryland is one of the State’s success stories. Through the use of medical homes, patients’ overall health care costs have been reduced by 4 percent, leading to an estimated cost savings of $40 million in 2011, according to the MHCC.

The MHCC concluded, “Physicians who practice in medical homes anecdotally report much greater satisfaction with their work than in a traditional practice; and investing in comprehensive medical home care has improved quality and reduced total cost to the system because of better care and coordination.”

The next great idea was easier to find than a necktie at TechBuzz2014, a semi-annual event put on by the Mid-Atlantic Venture Association (MAVA) where entrepreneurs, given more to flannel shirts than business suits, pitched their fledgling companies to an auditorium full of venture capital and angel investors.

The event aimed to link investment firms with 20 promising startups seeking about $1 million to $3 million to expand their businesses, hire talent and begin building their products.

Dozens of startups have presented at six similar TechBuzz gatherings since 2010 and 40 percent received venture funding within a year as a result, said MAVA Executive Director Julia Spicer. The growth of TechBuzz over the past four years reflects growth of early and venture-stage investing in the mid-Atlantic. The Baltimore-Washington region is among the most active areas for venture investing in the country, along with California, Massachusetts, New York and Texas.

Venture capital funding in Maryland increased to $663 million in 2013 from $408 million in 2012, according to the MoneyTree Report by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association. The state’s 63 percent growth far outpaced the national average of 7 percent. Maryland is also establishing itself as a major market for early investment, according to a report by the State Science & Technology Institute (SSTI) last month.

That was evident Tuesday at the Bethesda Blues & Jazz Club, a newly renovated Art Deco-era moviehouse, where startups, some of whom who just sold their first product weeks ago, came in search of early “angel” or “Series A” investment. The Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED) was a co-sponsor of the event. James Keeratisakdawong, Principal with DBED’s Maryland Venture Fund (MVF), co-chaired the committee that reviewed the applicants and selected 20 companies to present.

The startups spanned a wide array of ideas and products, some targeting consumers, others geared to the enterprise market. Companies ranged from Basepair, developer of software to analyze DNA sequencing data, to Brain Sentry, a Bethesda company whose wearable helmet sensors can signal when a youngster in a contact sport needs to be checked for a possible concussion, to LoveThatFit, a “virtual fitting” technology that enables users to try on clothes “virtually” and that aims to improve online apparel shopping. Armed only with slide presentations and “elevator speeches,” the entrepreneurs had four minutes to make a pitch. A countdown clock ensured not a second more. A panel of judges then evaluated them in the venture capital equivalent of “American Idol.”

One judge, MVF Managing Director Thomas S. Dann, observed that many local startups are focused on the hot markets of cybersecurity and cloud computing. But whatever the venture, he said, “we want to see entrepreneurs focused on the problem that the customer is trying to solve and how the ROI [return on investment] they offer can attract that next customer.”

Passion was also important. The judges said they made special note of whether the entrepreneur was motivated by a “pain point” they had experienced while seeking a product or service. One example of that was Mark Olcott, who described his College Park-based company Vitus Vet as a cloud-based network of medical records for pets. He described an example of a dog named Bogey that was brought to an emergency clinic for treatment after being injured. The pet died later that night because it couldn’t tolerate the type of anesthesia administered.

Olcott revealed he was the vet.

“I felt like I got kicked in the stomach,” he said.

Startups also must not overlook the potential competition for what they’re trying to create, said Dayna Grayson, a Partner at New Enterprise Associates, which ranked sixth last year for investments in Maryland, according to a recent Baltimore Business Journal survey. “A lot of presenters today didn’t talk about competitors,” she said. “Many large public companies have few direct competitors. It’s not enough to say you’re going to be among the best of five or six.”

Ultimately, as one investor judge told the entrepreneurs, the proof is in the product: “You get enough customers,” he remarked, “then you don’t need our money.”

A sweet fact—14 percent of the nation’s sugar is processed right here in Maryland.

Domino Foods, a mainstay of Baltimore’s skyline for over 90 years, refines more than 6.5 million pounds of raw sugar a day. Its facility, which blends new technology with historic factory space, employs roughly 620 people. And according to refinery manager Stuart FitzGibbon, these jobs are unique.

“These jobs provide a level of income where you can further your family’s position in life,” FitzGibbon said. “The type of income you can earn in manufacturing without an education is unparalleled. This is the fundamental difference between manufacturing and service sector jobs.”

FitzGibbon, a 26-year veteran of the company, is a cheerleader for Maryland manufacturing, which he calls a “lynchpin in the economy.”

He tells of employees who first starting working on the factory floor over 30 years ago. At the time, very few had college degrees and some hadn’t finished high school. Decades later, even as the plant has become increasingly automated, they’ve remained working, advanced their positions and sent their kids to college.

“It’s a model that’s created the American middle class,” he said.

Governor Martin O’Malley shares FitzGibbon’s enthusiasm for manufacturing. The Governor chose the plant as the backdrop for a recent job numbers announcement.

“There are hundreds of jobs here at Domino but there are also hundreds and hundreds more that are part of this ripple effect, so you’re standing in the sweet spot of the Baltimore economy,” Governor O’Malley said.

Governor O’Malley has supported manufacturers through infrastructure improvements on roads and rail, and expansion efforts at the Port of Baltimore. He also spearheaded the State’s EARN Maryland Program, which gives industry leaders access to state funding to coordinate worker training programs, with an emphasis on advanced manufacturing skills.

FitzGibbon urges Marylanders to take pride in using products made by Maryland manufacturers and support initiatives to revitalize the industry.

“Maryland has the opportunity to grow its manufacturing sector because we have the Chesapeake Bay, we have railroad service, great roads, and a supportive legislative environment,” he said. “I think this is a key thing for Maryland—we’ve got to grow private sector maritime manufacturing.”