BioHealth Innovation Inc.
, a nonprofit that seeks to commercialize technology in the biotech and healthcare fields, could open an accelerator for health information technology startups this year.
Co-located in Rockville and in Baltimore, BioHealth wants the accelerator to serve entrepreneurs and small businesses in central Maryland. Upon board approval, the organization plans to identify a location by the first quarter of this year and have it operational by the fourth quarter.
“We are evaluating it. We believe there is a need for one. We know there is interest,” BioHealth President and CEO Richard Bendis says.
Also in the works for 2013 is an angel fund, a for-profit investment fund for high net-worth individuals to invest in early-stage biohealth companies, says Bendis, who is anticipating a first close for the fund by the end of 2013.
"We are bridging the gap between Montgomery County and Baltimore, where most of the biohealth assets reside in Maryland," says Bendis. "We are interested in things that have the potential to be commecially relevant -- not only that it works but you can build a product or business around it."
Bendis defines biohealth broadly. It encompasses traditional therapeutics and pharmaceuticals as well as diagnostics, medical diagnostics, health care services, electronic medical records, mobile health and biohealth cybersecurity.
"We see a convergence between technology and devices and pharmaceuticals and biotechnology. All those companies depend on data statistics and analytics," he says.
BioHealth Innovation was founded last year as a private-public partnership with the goal of accelerating the commercialization of technology and science affiliated with the biohealth industry in central Maryland.
"We work with scientists and entrepreneurs beyond the technology transfer phase. We get involved once they get past the transfer office in the university," says Bendis.
"We have the expertise that can help them do that [commercialize research]. We have investors on our board. We have a person who started and ran a biotech company. We connect people to the resources they need," he says.
To that end, BioHealth Innovation is initiating a program to provide free proposal and review assistance to small businesses that apply for Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants. The SBIR requires federal agencies to set aside 2-1/2 percent of their research budgets, a total of $2.5 billion annually, for grants to small businesses. The goal is to speed commercialization of early-stage projects.
Bendis contends that while Maryland’s reputation in science is exceptional and the state is recognized as a leader in life sciences, it has not been as successful as other states in competing for the SBIR grants. Phase 1 grants run about $100,000 to $150,000; phase 2, $1 million and up.
At the National Institutes of Health, according to Bendis, Maryland small businesses submitted the third highest number of applications for its SBIR grants. But the state ranked 34th
in winning phase 1 grants and 36th
in winning phase 2 grants.
BioHealth Innovation’s assistance is available to anyone, private or academic, who is eligible to apply for an SBIR grant, with a particular emphasis on the National Institutes of Health grants.
BioHealth also offers what it calls "client agreements," and has already signed up a few bioheath start-ups in Baltimore. Bendis says the goal of the client agreements is "to help them move their business plans forward, to help them get clients and identify investors and local technology talent. They have a business but it is pre-revenue."
Source: Richard Bendis, BioHealth Innovation Inc.
Writer: Barbara Pash