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Baltimore nonprofit may launch new health care accelerator

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

TowsonGlobal kicks off business plan competition

The incubator at Towson University, TowsonGlobal Business Incubation, recently kicked off its third annual business competition, open to anyone in the Baltimore-Washington area who has an innovative business idea. Winners get cash prizes and free incubator membership.
 
“The goal is to promote and engage people in the region in entrepreneurship and innovation, and in taking the route of starting a small business,” says Darlene Ugwa, the incubator’s program coordinator. “It doesn’t have to be a product. It could be a service.”
 
The competition has two rounds. In the first round, participants submit a three-to-five page executive summary of their idea. A panel of judges winnows the participants to five finalists. In the second round, the finalists submit a detailed business plan, including research, marketing and financials. A panel of judges determines first and second place winners.
 
The deadline for round one, the executive summary, is Feb. 11. Finalists in round two have until the end of April to submit their business plans. Winners will be announced May 1.
 
Although prizes for this year’s competition are still being determined, last year’s first prize winner received $4,000 and free incubator membership for a period of time; the second prize winner received $1,000 and an associate membership.
 
The competition has grown since it started. There were 12 submissions the first year; 24 submissions the second year. Entrants ranged from a video gaming company to a medical diagnostic application and a website to rent power tools.
 
Besides presenting their business plans to the panel of judges, all the finalists give a presentation at a Towson University reception open to the public. Over 100 people attended last year’s event.
 
Source: Darlene Ugwa, TowsonGlobal Business Incubation
Writer: Barbara Pash
 
 

Md. Firm Signs $1M Contract With Homeland Security

The US Department of Homeland Security last month gave Robotic Research LLC the go-ahead to develop the next-generation robot for emergency medical personnel.

The engineering firm signed a two-year, $1 million contract to design and build a robot that can sense its environment and function with minimal operator control. Headquartered in Gaithersburg with a maritime research facility in Baltimore City, Robotics Research designs software and systems for robots. 
 
The current contract is phase two of the homeland security department’s Small Business Innovation Research Program for the Maryland company’s Sensor-Smart Affordable Robotic Platform. In phase one, the company received $100,000 for a prototype. Upon completion of the current contract, the Robotic Research may commercialize the product, President Alberto Lacaze says. 
 
The Sensor-Smart program is a family of small, mobile robotic platforms with three-dimensional adapted components for specialized missions. The 3-D components allow the robot to adapt to the different conditions an emergency medical technician would encounter. For example, different sensors can be used to determine toxins in the air or to start a video system for rescue operations.
 
“We are expanding the functionality of the robot with sensors, tailored for particular applications,” Lacaze says. “It’s almost like the robot can modify itself to different situations.”
 
Robotic Research also manufactures components of robots, either prototypes or final products that are put into other robotic devices. Its customers are primarily the US military and homeland security department.
 
Among its products are a control system for the recovery of unmanned boats, in collaboration with General Dynamics Robotic Systems and sponsored by the US Naval Sea Systems Command; and an indoor mapping and visualization robot for Global Positioning System-denied terrain and buildings, sponsored by the US Army.
 
It's conducting an ongoing project for the US Department of Defense’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency at the company’s research facility, located on two boats at the Baltimore marina at Fells Point.
 
Founded in 2002, the privately owned Robotic Research employs 25. It has ongoing paid internships for college students at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
 
Source: Alberto Lacaze, Robotic Research LLC
Writer: Barbara Pash

Mindgrub Makes Big Play in Mobile Games Market

Mindgrub Games next week expects to release its third mobile game, “Escape! From Detention,” developed under its own brand and in conjunction with the Howard County Library System. Mindgrub Games, a division of Catonsville mobile application developer Mindgrub, plans to release more mobile games by the middle of this year. 
 
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Institute of Museum and Library Services gave the public library a $100,000 grant to establish a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) laboratory for middle and high school students in the Savage Branch. Howard County then approached Mindgrub about the project.

“We created a basic game scenario and the kids were active participants in developing the game,” says Alex Hachey, lead Mindgrub Games designer. The game is downloadable for free from links on the Howard County Library System’s website.
 
The division is currently working on three new mobile games. One is a game for a client that may be announced later this month and two games under its own brand for a mid-2013 release.

Since Mindgrub Games was launched last summer, it has released two games. One, “Rescue Jump,” is its own brand. The second, “Scuba Adventures,” was done for a client, Discovery Kids, part of cable TV channel Discovery Network, and Zap Toys, a manufacturer in Hong Kong.
 
Mindgrub considered starting a games division two years ago, after an interactive festival showcased a mobile game that incorporated location technology, Hachey says.
 
“It was a spin on what Mindgrub had been doing. It got us thinking about games,” he says.
 
For “Scuba Adventures,” the division analyzed the market for competing games and worked with the client to develop a game to its specifications. The result is an educational game that sells for $1.99. Like all of Mindgrub Games’ products, it is available through Apple’s iTunes and the Android marketplace’s Google Play.
 
“Rescue Jump,” Mindgrub Games’ first product under its own brand, is a free download. It received over 1,300 downloads in its first two months.
 
Asked how the division makes money if the game is free, Hachey says, “Right now, it’s more of a learning objective. We are getting our feet wet in the game market. We are getting our name out. We can always add to or refine it [later] and then charge money.”
 
Since inception, Mindgrub Games has grown from three to seven full-time staffers. It is looking to hire Corona mobile applicaiton developers, illustrators and designers, depending on client contracts.
 
Source: Alex Hachey, Mindgrub Games
Writer: Barbara Pash
 
 
 
 
 
 

Canton startup seeks funding for new social media venture

Baltimore tech startup SameGrain Inc.  plans to launch its first round of financing, for $500,000, this year.

Founder Anne Balduzzi calls SameGrain a “social discovery” platform, a new form of social media that connects people to each other for business and social purposes.

The Internet platform is private and anonymous, unless clients choose to reveal their names. “You can go online and find people like yourself or who attended the same schools  –  people with the same interests, same educational background, same health issues, and much more,” she says. The company is signing up early people willing to be beta testers on its website.
 
“We match people to other people, whether in the same city or elsewhere, for careers, business networking, shopping and similar life experiences,” says Balduzzi, whose background includes stints at Quantum Computer Services, the precursor to AOL and as the first product manager for Apple’s first online service.
 
Founded in 2011, SameGrain is located in the Emerging Technology Center at Canton.  In 2012, the Maryland Technology Development Corporation, known as TEDCO, gave the company $75,000 in seed money. SameGrain is applying for other state agency grants and soliciting financing from angel investors.
 
Balduzzi says the beta testing, a standard step for startups, will serve as market research and help it build a user base. Once the beta testing and funding are wrapped up, SameGrain will make an official marketing push, hopefully this year. 

SameGrain has already won several awards. It won first place in last summer’s Washington Post’s Capital Business “pick your pitch” competition, receiving more than 6,600 online votes. It won the StartRight Business Plan competition last summer. And, last fall, it was one of eight finalists in StartUp Maryland "Pitch Across Maryland,” chosen by a panel of entrepreneurs and investor experts.
 
The company has a staff of three full-time and four part-time. It is interviewing people with programming and design experience for possible future employment.
 
Source: Anne Balduzzi, SameGrain Inc.
Writer: Barbara Pash

Baltimore Staffing Firm Technisource Gets New Name

Baltimore Region for Randstad Technologies is the new name for Technisource, a long-time IT staffing company in Baltimore that is expanding its services and hiring new employees early this year.
 
Randstad, an international staffing company, acquired Technisource in 2011. However, because of the change in systems and processes, Technisource wasn’t renamed until this week. The newly rebranded company will continue to occupy its office in downtown Baltimore.
 
Technisource had specialized in providing IT staffing, on either a permanent, contractual or temporary basis, for data centers and project management. Anthony Petrelli, managing director of Baltimore Region for Randstad Technologies, says the Randstad acquistion allows Technisource to expand its services to the integration of talent and application development.
 
Petrelli says there will be no layoffs because of the rebranding. The newly named company is hiring an additional three to four staffers, including account executives, IT recruiters and sales people. The company recently moved into expanded office space that accommodates 22, for existing employees and future hires. Last year, Technisource added three people to its staff of 10. 
 
Randstad is publicly traded on the European stock exchange and is headquartered in The Netherlands. Founded in 1960, it is a market leader in offering human resources services in administration-clerical, accounting and finance, IT, pharma, life sciences, industrial and engineering industries.
 
Randstad has offices throughout the US. Its US headquarters is in Atlanta, Ga. The company’s Baltimore region covers Delaware and the Baltimore metropolitan area. There is also a Randstad Washington, D.C., office that covers the Bethesda and Rockville area.
 
 
Source: Anthony Petrelli, Baltimore Region for Randstad Technologies
Writer: Barbara Pash
 

UMBC Life Sciences Startup Launching First Product

Life sciences company Plasmonix will begin selling its first product, QuantArray, early this year. The Baltimore County startup plans to commercialize two other products later in 2013, the QuantaWell 100 and the Quanta NP, and will seek $2 million to $3 million for another round of financing, CEO William Gjust says.

Plasmonix develops support tools to detect cells in medical research and clinical diagnostics by enhancing luminescent and fluorescent signals using metal nanoparticles. QuantArray, its latest product, has various applications in performing assays, a test that analyzes components, and enhances luminescent signals hundred-fold over conventional methods. The technology can be be applied not only in the life sciences, but also apparel, paint and cosmetics. 
 
QuantaWell 100 also enhances signals hundred-fold but in a different format than QuantArray. Quanta NP is a supplementary solution that is used to improve the efficiency and sensitivity of commercially available assays.
 
“It’s a rarefied field. There is no direct competition that we are aware of,” says Gust of Plasmonix’ products. 
 
Gust says potential customers are any company or institution that performs assays, from pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies to academic facilities. Market research showed that the average price for standard assays is $25 per substrate microscope slide. Gust says he has not determined a price for QuantArray but it is likely to be slightly higher than the standard assay.
 
In 2011, Plasmonix received $1.5 million from venture capitalists in its initial round of financing. It has also received $200,000 from the Maryland Biotechnology Center and $100,000 from the Maryland Industrial Partnership, to be used by its academic collaborators.
 
Plasmonix grew out academic research, primarily at the University of Maryland Center for Fluorescence Spectroscopy. The company was formed in 2009. In 2011, it moved into the incubator, [email protected] Research and Technology Park, where it occupies a 1,500-square-foot office. The company employs four.
 
“We are translating academic research into robust, reproducible commercial techniques,” says Gust.
 
Source: William Gust, Plasmonix
Writer: Barbara Pash

Noxilizer Expands Medical Device Production

Noxilizer Inc. expects to more than double its manufacturing capacity of its proprietary sterlization units for medical devices, thanks to its recent move to a larger production facility.
 
Maura Kahn, vice president business development and marketing, says Noxilizer’s relocation from the incubator at University of Maryland, Baltimore County to the University of Maryland, BioPark in downtown Baltimore allows the company to manufacture five to six units, rather than one to two, per year. Kahn says customers include medical device manufacturers, biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, such as the Catheter Research Center in Indianapolis.
 
“We have roughly the same amount of office space but double the laboratory space. Moving to a larger lab facility allows us to expand our microbiology operations and to build our sterilization units,” Kahn says.
 
Noxilizer’s manufactures its RTS 360 Sterilization Unit on premise, with subcontractors in Maryland completing the assembly. The first units went on sale in 2011. The units employ a gas-based, room temperature process that allows them to be used for new medical devices that can’t be sterilized by the traditional method.
 
Noxilizer’s sterilization units cost $250,000 each. The company offers a three-year service contract for $40,000.  To run the unit, customers purchase sterilants from Noxilizer at a typical cost of $2000 to $2500 per month.
 
Noxilizer, a privately-held company, was founded in 2004. It originally had offices in both Bethesda and Baltimore. In 2010, the two offices were combined into one and moved into the incubator [email protected]
 
The company employs 19 full-time and two part-time workers. Last year, it added six new employees and is currently looking to hire a director of quality. The company also employs four-to-six paid interns per year, usually from the University of Maryland Baltimore County and Stevenson University, who are often hired as full-time employees after graduation.
 
Noxilizer recently raised $3.5 million in a financing round via the Maryland Biotechnology Investment Tax Credit program. It also received $500,000 from The Abell Foundation. Last year, the company was named Maryland Incubator Company of the Year in the life sciences category.
 
Source: Maura Kahn, Noxilizer Inc.
Writer: Barbara Pash

US Energy Department Backs Company's Energy Efficient Technology

In an effort to find ways to lessen the United States’ dependence on foreign oil, the US Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory has awarded a $150,000 research grant to Pixelligent Technologies to further develop its technology to make industrial and automotive lubricants more efficient. With the prospect of commercializing a product from the research, the Baltimore nanocrystal additive manufacturer is planning to relocate to a larger facility this year although details were not yet available.

The energy department’s Small Business Innovation Research Grant was awarded less than a month after it signed a two-year, $500,000 Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with the Baltimore company for the Argonne Laboratory to analyze and test its proprietary nanocrystal technology. Pixelligent and Argonne will split the cost of the research project.
 
The Cooperative Research and Development Agreements are intended to speed commercialization of private sector technology. Craig Bandes, president and CEO, says that both grants are helping the company to reach its goal of commercializing a product, possibly a low-friction oil, out of nanocrystal additives this year.
 
Bandes says Pixelligent is one of several different technologies the government is looking at, including companies that use other types of additives and biofuels.
 
“We are not the only technology in the area, but we have attracted a high level of interest from the energy department,” says Bandes.
 
In preliminary testing with Argonne, results indicate that by dispersing nanocrystals into oil, there is a significant reduction in engine and equipment friction. Doing so prolongs the life of both, improves the efficiency of both and reduces fuel consumption.

“It’s not just that the oil is improved and gas mileage goes up,” says Bandes, “the department of energy is looking for next generation technology.”

Pixelligent was founded in 2000 in the College Park area. The company moved to an 11,000-square foot building in Baltimore in 2011 that allowed it to develop laboratory and manufacturing facilities. The company manufactures specific nanocrystal additives and polymer nanocomposites for the electronics, semiconductor and industrial markets.
 
Bandes expects to grow the current staff of 26 to 40 to 50 staffers this year. He is currently recruiting for five positions in manufacturing, engineering and business development.
 
Besides the energy department funding, Pixelligent has received $12 million from the US Department of Commerce and the National Science Foundation, and $8.5 million in angel investments.
 
 
Source: Craig Bandes, Pixelligent Technologies
Writer: Barbara Pash

Johns Hopkins Spinoff Readies Medical Device For Sale

Clear Guide Medical LLC is readying its first product, a medical device used in minimally invasive ultrasound surgeries that will be for sale in early 2014. Federal and state grants received this year aided the commercialization process for the Johns Hopkins spinoff, which hopes to receive another state grant early next year. 
 
The Baltimore life sciences company received a total of $550,000 from the federal National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation, in 2011 and 2012, and $125,000 from the Maryland Technology Development Corp. in 2010 and 2012. It is waiting to hear about another grant from the latter, for $100,000.
 
“We are developing a medical device that will lower health care costs by allowing [procedures] to be done quickly and at less cost,” COO Dorothee Heisenberg says. The device clips onto an ultrasound probe and provides guidance to surgeons before and during minimally invasive procedures like needle biopsies, needle nerve blocks and vein catherizations. The device provides such information as the angle to hold the needle and how far to push to reach the nerve or vein.

Heisenberg says the advantage of the device is that it makes it easier for surgeons to learn how to use ultrasound, for which they need special training. She also sees a benefit for rural areas or areas where there aren’t a lot of medical facilities. Local physicians and clinics may be able to do a biopsy, and then consult with medical experts for a diagnosis.
 
Heisenberg expects Clear Guidance’s device to cost in the $12,000 to $15,000 price range. 

Clear Guide Medical was founded in 2010, a spinoff from the Johns Hopkins Department of Computer Science and the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine’s radiology department. In 2012, it was the first company to move into the Johns Hopkins accelerator, located on the Homewood campus, Heisenberg says.
 
The company has five employees. It is in the midst of applying for a worldwide patent that covers the US, nations in Europe, Japan, Canada and Israel – countries that are most likely to develop competing devices. Johns Hopkins is paying the patent filing and application expenses, about $80,000, for which Clear Guidance will pay back in time.
 
“We want to sell our product without complications,” Heisenberg says.
 
Source: Dorothee Heisenberg, Clear Guide Medical LLC
Writer: Barbara Pash

Carroll County IT Firm Adds New Clients

Skyline Technology Solutions LLC expects to sign six new contracts next year, expanding its market reach. The Carroll County IT company currently has customers in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, D.C.
 
President Brian Holsonbake says the additional customers will result in a 10 to 15 percent growth in sales for Skyline, which averages over $35 million in sales per year. Most of the new states are located along the East Coast, although he declined to identify them until the contracts are signed.
 
The company offers fiber-optic cabling as well as inside and outside plant cabling; networking, customized software development and back-end application services for federal agencies, state and local jurisdictions and commercial customers; 24/7 managed services at its network operations center; and hosting services.
 
Holsonbake says the company is continuing to expand its video-interoperability product line, an appliance or cloud-based solution that enables different agencies to share live-streaming video at different locations simultaneously. The solution works with traditional and mobile devices.
 
Among its customers are the Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, D.C., departments of transportation, City of Annapolis police department, and bus and transit companies in those jurisdictions. Commercial customers include companies in the financial and medical sectors.
 
The privately financed company was founded in 2004 with one employee. It now has 112 employees and is hiring 16 more, in software development, network engineering and VoIP engineering.
 
As the company has grown, it has added offices. In 2007, the company opened an office in Eldersburg, which remains the corporate headquarters. In 2009, it opened a 15,000-square foot office in Glen Burnie, Ann Arundel County, to which it later added 3,000 square feet. In 2012, it added a second, 9,000-square foot office in Glen Burnie. The company currently occupies three offices, two in Glen Burnie and one in Eldersburg.
 
Skyline Networking Solutions is a Knowtion Group company.
 
Source: Brian Holsonbake, Skyline Technology Solutions LLC
Writer: Barbara Pash






University of Maryland Student Wins Ron Howard Film Contest

An amateur photographer in Maryland has won a national film contest sponsored by director Ron Howard and Canon USA. University of Maryland, College Park senior Dylan Singleton submitted a photograph to Project Imaginat1On, a combination photo contest and short film series that will be made by celebrity guest directors and shown in a film festival next year. 

Singleton’s winning entry was culled from thousands of photographs submitted by the public. Musician James Murphy, one of the celebrity directors, picked Singleton’s moody, atmospheric photograph of a swimming pool at night for inspiration, much to Singleton’s surprise. Eva Longoria and Jamie Foxx are among the other celebrity directors involved in the project. 
 
“I sent in a couple of photos. One day, I got a call that I was a potential finalist. I’m still in a bit of a shock,” says Singleton, a Columbia resident who is majoring in sociology. “I’ve been swamped with papers and finals. It hasn’t set in.”
 
James Murphy is best known as the leader of the Grammy-nominated band LCD Soundsystem. He also cofounded the DFA label, which released the band’s catalogue, and he provided the original soundtrack for the 2010 film, “Greenberg.” Most recently, he was executive producer of “Shut Up and Play the Hits,” a feature-length film chronicling LCD Soundsytem’s farewell show at New York’s Madison Square Garden in 2011.
 
For Singleton, a fan of online music blogs who has worked at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C., being chosen by Murphy was a particular thrill. Has Murphy called to discuss the photo or his film?  “I’d love it but I’m sure he is a pretty busy guy,” says Singleton, who won a $500 credit to the Canon online store and two tickets to the film festival.
 
Murphy’s film will go into production next year. The location and date of the Canon Project Imaginat1On Film Festival has not yet been announced.
 
The photo contest was open to the public, who could submit photos in 10 categories with titles like “Backstory,” “Time,” “Mood” and “Obstacle.” Singleton entered “The Unknown” category.
 
The public voted on the winners – 10 winners in nine of the categories and a single winner in the 10th category – for a total of 91 winners. The celebrity directors will make 10-minute films that are inspired by the photographs they chose.
  
 
Source: Dylan Singleton, winner “Project Imaginat1On”
Writer: Barbara Pash
 




 




 
 
 
 


 





Vircity to Offer Startup Crash Course and Event Planning

Vircity LLC, the Baltimore back office resource center, will launch a startup crash course and is expanding into event planning next year. It plans to hire up to half a dozen workers to spearhead these projects. 

Janine DiPaula Stevens, founder and president, says she is hiring up to three people to organize a "startup program" launching in the second quarter of 2013. 

The program will provide a template, tools and workshops for people who are starting a business. “You can take courses but some people don’t want to do that,” says Stevens, who is considering what workshops to include in the program and how much it will cost.

Stevens says she will hire people with graphic design and event planning experience or recent college graduates to handle future events. She says that in working with nonprofit organizations and entrepreneurs, she noticed that they needed help coordinating and completing their events.
 
Stevens says one staffer had been doing event planning before. The expansion allows her to bring in larger events that require more staffers and more detail. She is expecting event-planning contracts to come in within the next two months..
 
Stevens founded Vircity in 2005 and moved to its location in Canton in 2006. The business is located on the ground floor at 2400 Boston Street, a retail storefront at the Can Company that gets thousands of walk-in customers per year.
 
Vircity provides a variety of back-office services for customers, including administration, bookkeeping, graphic design, digital and offset printing, high-speed scanning, packing and shipping.  Customers may also use Vircity’s address as their corporate address. Post Office boxes do not accept packages, Stevens explains, but Vircity’s mailbox does.
 
Stevens says fees depends on services. Customers can pay an hourly rate or per project. The annual fee for mailbox and faxing service is $300 per year; basic administrative support runs $40 per hour. For example, a nonprofit with minimal staff may hire Vircity to print, merge and post “thank you” letters to donors, at $40 per hour.
 
The privately financed Vircity is a Baltimore City-certified woman-owned business. Stevens was director of marketing at the Center Club before founding Vircity.
 
Source: Janine DiPaula Stevens, Vircity LLC
Writer: Barbara Pash
 

Baltimore County Wireless Firm Moves Into DC Market

Believe Wireless Broadband is expanding its delivery area into the Washington, D.C., market and will install equipment on the roof of Union Station, Amtrak and commuter railroad station by Jan. 1. The Internet service provider is expanding from its current coverage area of Baltimore City, Baltimore County and parts of Anne Arundel and Howard counties.
 
Believe is also in the process of installing equipment on a tower on MD Route 100 in Howard County, to be finished in 2013.  It already has equipment on an existing tower on Moravia Road, Baltimore County. 
 
“This expands the areas we are able to serve. We are creating a multi point network,” Believe Vice President Marian Huller says.
 
Wireless broadband, aka fixed wireless broadband, connects to the Internet via a radio connection to its equipment. Believe offers business Internet services, wireless networks, voice over IP phone and point to point links of up to one gigabit per second.
 
Believe was founded in 2002. At the time, high bandwidth was not available in Baltimore City, and wireless provided a solution. The Baltimore County company’s mailing address is Owings Mills but its physical office is located in Towson.
 
The company has four full-time employees and is looking to hire a network administrator.
 
At a gb.tc event last month at downtown Baltimore's Lexington Market, the company installed Wi-Fi, the first time the market had been wired. After the event, Believe left the Wi-Fi in place, providing free wireless in the market’s seated area and conference room.
 
“The market holds lots of events. On one night I was there, students from the University of Maryland law school were giving free legal aid,” says Huller. So the company stole a page from the students by providing free wireless. “It was our way to give back to the community.”
 
Source: Marian Huller, Believe Wireless Broadband
Writer: Barbara Pash

Baltimore Life Sciences Startup To Develop Animal Health Test

InstantLabs Medical Diagnostics Corp. is entering the animal health/veterinary medicine field next year, with plans to develop a variety of tests for the detection and diagnosis of dangerous pathogens in animals.
 
CEO Steven Guterman says the tests will be based on its general purpose molecular diagnostic test kits, which can be refined for different markets. Located at the University of Maryland BioPark, InstantLabs commercialized its first test kit this year for the food safety market and currently is developing a test kit for the human health/hospital market.
 
“Our goal is to change the way people do food testing," Guterman says. "We spent a lot of time building a device with the power of molecular testing that is small, affordable and easy to use.”
 
Food companies typically send samples to an outside laboratory for testing, a process that can take three to five days for results. InstantLab’s test, for both extraction and identification, can be done on-site, with test results within 12 to 24 hours.
 
Customers include poultry processors, fish farmers and nutritional companies that use the kits to detect different and dangerous bacteria like salmonella, listeria and e-coli.
 
The food safety kits were first sold commercially in spring of 2012. So far, more than a dozen have been sold, half in the US and half overseas. By early 2013, the company will also have a test for the bacteria Vibrio.
 
In human health/hospitals, InstantLab is developing a test kit for MSRA, an antibiotic-resistant staphylococcus infection. It received a $100,000 award from the Maryland Industrial Partnerships to develop a test kit for the detection of MSRA.
 
The company is working with Jennifer Johnson, an assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, on the test. It should be ready by the end of 2013, after which the company will begin human trials and seek US Food and Drug Administration approval.
 
InstantLabs was formed in 2008. In 2010, it moved to the University of Maryland BioPark in order to grow internally and have its own laboratory. In 2011, it moved to a larger space in the BioPark, doubling the size of its office.
 
The company has five employees in Maryland. Guterman says it is looking to hire a senior molecular biologist in 2013 for its entry into the veterinary field.
 
Source: Steven Guterman, InstantLabs Medical Diagnostics Corp.
Writer: Barbara Pash
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