|Md. Biotech Firms Expected
at Front Line of New War|
Capital News Service
Monday, Sept. 24, 2001
ANNAPOLIS - As the nation gears up for a war against terrorism, a handful of
Maryland companies will play a major role in countering some of the most
dangerous possible enemy weapons -- biological and chemical agents.
Defense contractors and emergency preparedness groups are tapping into the
more than 250 companies that constitute Maryland's rich biotechnology
industry, as they prepare for a threat.
"There is a critical need for the development of vaccines as well as
therapies and diagnostics," said Tom Inglesby, spokesman for the Johns
Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Studies in Baltimore. "The power
of biology is certainly growing, and as scientists explore more, the more
they discover ways to use that technology for bad."
When hijacked jets slammed into the Pentagon and New York's World Trade
Center towers on Sept. 11, any thought that terrorists would avoid weapons
that would cause mass casualties in this country was shattered, said
Inglesby. "Clearly history does not predict the future," he said.
"We have the capabilities of being prepared."
Investors are beginning to recognize the Maryland biotechnology companies'
likely role in a future conflict. Shares of the biological testing and
manufacturing company BioReliance Corp. rose 70 cents to $13 on the first
day of trading after the New York Stock Exchange reopened. BioReliance, in
Rockville, won two contracts last year to produce large quantities of a
smallpox vaccine for the Department of Defense and the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention.
Meridian Medical Technologies, which supplies nerve gas antidotes, also saw
stock prices rise, up $2 to close at $14. Meridian also manufactures
auto-injectors, which, when pressed against the skin, quickly administer the
antidote to victims. CEO James Miller said over the past few days his
company has received more calls about products.
Tetracore, a Gaithersburg company that produces tests that quickly identify
if a person was struck with a biological agent like anthrax, has also
received a lot of inquiries. Gary Long, senior scientist, said fire and
police departments as well as hazardous materials response teams purchase
many of the company's devices.
"These are some of the basic instruments that save lives," he
Maryland's strong biotechnology environment has helped spawn a number of
companies, according to Larry Mayhan, senior bioscience executive for the
Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development. The proximity to
Johns Hopkins University, the University of Maryland and the National
Institutes of Health in Bethesda, among others, has brought in new
companies, and the institutions have provided many of the minds behind these
"This area generates a lot of scientific information where work can be
produced," Mayhan said. "Really good work."
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