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Somebody has gotta put more scientists and CEOs in…

Maryland has the advanced research. Now we need more business leaders to bring breakthroughs to market.

It’s not new to say that bringing modern entrepreneurship to the sciences is the next big frontier for an era of startup fervor. Baltimore has the scientists. But it needs more founders and CEOs to make the region’s tech transfer sing.

Don’t misinterpret. There are dozens of examples of active businesses based on research commercialized from regional universities — and several standouts. It’s just that if you look at any big ecosystem for the business of advanced research, you need both science and venture dollars in equal measure. And it’s clear what Baltimore needs more of.

“Finding people who know good science in Maryland is easy,” said Ken Malone, the investor, founder and irreverent local leader with a taste for the business of science. “Finding someone who knows how to run a startup company with $50 in a bank? Well, that’s a different story.”

It’s really a story of Maryland’s strengths. The advanced research from places like Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland is longstanding. By contrast, today’s generation of founders with an understanding of today’s startup climate is a far smaller population.

That’s why the region’s wonky tech transfer community gets all weak in the knees for stories like that of Nanobernetics, a cancer test business founded by a pair of UM medical students.

“Ph.D.s have the skill set to lead a company — detail-orientated, capable, passionate,” said Camilo Vanegas, one half of the Nanobernetics founding team.

“There is a difference between a ‘three decimal point researcher’ and a ‘I’m just three billion dollars off my projections’ entrepreneur,” said Nina Lamba from the Maryland Department of Commerce’s Office of BioHealth Technologies. She’s worked in the scientific private sector. “I do see an awakening happening here.”

That awakening can manifest itself in lots of different ways: from universities getting comfortable with (even cheerleading) their graduate students taking an entrepreneurial plunge to pairing the business-minded with scientific research, as materials company Pixelligent CEO Craig Bandes characterizes his pathway.

Baltimore needs more convergence between the big and adapting academic and sciences sector with the quickly advancing startup environment, said Jane Shaab, the warm and excitable director of the University of Maryland’s BioPark. These and other leaders had this discussion at the BioPark, during a roundtable held by Technical.ly for the Sciences Conference during our Baltimore Innovation Week presented by 14 West.

Without that convergence, Maryland might always underperform for its assets.

Therapeutics and many capital-intensive medical-device businesses are seen by many in the conversation as the white whale that is still too big to be grown here in the Chesapeake. When Hopkins-pharma-spinout Graybug Vision was raising what became its $44.5 million Series B funding, it was clear that it couldn’t be done locally, said Rana Quraishi, director of new ventures at the University of Maryland. TEDCO is aiming to grow that portfolio, but when it comes down to it, there is a vast array of companies in the sciences. At first glance, you can lose sight of why prosthetics company Infinite Biomedical Technologies CEO Rahul Kaliki should know Smitha Gopal, the CEO of freshly rebranded health IT company Rendia.

“It’s about recruiting talent and bringing the research we have to market,” said Shaab, calling for united vision. “We need to pick a direction and go to it.”

There is no shortage of bright lights to point to in the growth of local startups based on science — say, Root3 Labs expanding to a production facility in Randallstown, Sisu Global Health raising a $1 million round or Sonify Biosciences founder Miriam Boer preparing to raise Series A fundraising after a minor research breakthrough. There, too, are new efforts around money, after raising its fifth fund in 2014 to focus more on Maryland, there’s hope there will be more from sciences-prone private equity firm Camden Partners.

The Maryland Bio Tax Credit could be better, but “it’s better than many others,” said David Wise, an adviser to the Abell Foundation.

“We’ve seen these pieces continue to converge,” said Quraishi, of the UM venture arm. “We just need so much more.”

http://technical.ly/baltimore/2016/10/03/baltimore-tech-transfer/

Awards

Tissue Analytics wins Beta City’s pitch competition

Tissue Analytics, a Baltimore mobile health company, took home top honors — and $50,000 — Thursday at Beta City’s startup pitch competition.

Tissue Analytics, which developed a mobile application for tracking wound healing, was among eight startups that presented their business plans to a panel of judges during the Venture Capital Pitch Day at Sagamore Ventures’ City Garage in Port Covington.

The pitch competition was part of Beta City, a daylong startup showcase put on by Sagamore Ventures, Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank’s private venture investing arm, and the technology incubator Betamore. Now in its second year, Beta City aims to cast Baltimore as an emerging hub for entrepreneurship and technology by highlighting promising young companies and entrepreneurs.

“The reality is we’re not proud enough of the amazing things happening here,” said Jen Meyer, CEO of Betamore.

During the pitch competition, entrepreneurs made brief presentations of their business plans, then fielded questions from a panel of judges. The judges evaluated the pitches based on market potential, financial strength and the leadership team, as well as the presenter’s overall pitch.

Tissue Analytics stood out because its technology addresses a major problem — millions of dollars spent on treatment of chronic wounds, said John Wasilisin, president and COO of TEDCO, a state agency that invests in promising companies.

Tissue Analytics’ mobile application is designed to help doctors and nurses track wound healing. Through the app, health care providers can photograph a wound, take notes about progress and share the information with others on their team.

Chronic wounds such as bedsores and diabetic ulcers, cost millions of dollars a year to treat, in part because the process for tracking recovery is frequently inexact. Medical staff often rely on rulers to measure the size of a wound and their own visual judgment of whether a wound is healing.

“It’s a very disruptive technology,” Wasilisin said. “We like to try to give those companies a shot.”

The $50,000 from TEDCO is an equity investment, meaning TEDCO will become an investor in Tissue Analytics and will continue to work with the company.

Tissue Analytics was founded by Kevin Keenahan and Josh Budman, two biomedical engineering graduates of the Johns Hopkins University.

Keenahan, the firm’s CEO, said the investment will help get the company to its next hurdle, a Series A equity round he and Budman hope to complete next year.

The company has already raised $2.8 million in seed funding.

“It’s going to catapult us into that next series of funding,” Keenahan said.

Tissue Analytics wasn’t the night’s only winner. TopBox, an analytics tool for call centers, won a $25,000 cash prize from Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures, the University System of Maryland, Evergreen Advisors, Greenspring Associates, Baltimore Angels, SunTrust and SC&H Group.

Founded by former Xerox executives, TopBox analyzes calls to customer service centers to help their operators improve customer relations and cut down on calls. By better understanding why customers are calling and why they’re upset, companies may be able to better address problems and reduce the volume of complaints.

TopBox has offices in Potomac as well as Denver, Kansas City and Portland, Ore.

Another 17 companies were selected to present their products at booths set up at City Garage.

In addition to being an opportunity to show off some of the area’s promising companies, Beta City was a place for the city’s growing entrepreneurship and technology community to eat, drink and mingle. The event drew 700 attendees.

“This is a great moment for Baltimore,” said Christy Wyskiel, who leads Hopkins’ technology commercialization efforts as a senior adviser to President Ronald J. Daniels. “This is one big community now, and that’s what can differentiate Baltimore from others — we’re all cheering for each other.”

http://www.baltimoresun.com/business/bs-bz-beta-city-20160928-story.html

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