Montgomery biotech breaks away from parent, lands in Baltimore
Pathsensors, with $5M Pentagon contract, ready to grow
An environmental testing biotech has broken away from its Rockville parent and is charting its own course at the University of Maryland BioPark in Baltimore.
Pathsensors, which manufactures pathogen identification systems and their study kits, split in November from Innovative Biosensors. Innovative, formed in 2004, uses technology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to detect pathogens in clinical applications.
"As the environmental testing for identifying pathogens in the air showed more promise, our division grew in terms of sales while the clinical and diagnostic division was still in the [research and development] stage," said Theodore Olsen, president and CEO of Pathsensors. "There was a competition of business objectives, so we decided it was best to split the two."
Pathsensors moved into the 800 W. Baltimore area of the BioPark last month. The BioPark offers early-stage to mature bioscience companies laboratory and office space in conjunction with access to the University of Maryland, Baltimore's medical faculty. Pathsensors is the 24th company to join the BioPark.
With Pathsensors' focus on homeland security and biodefense, the company is well positioned to maximize opportunities in the region and build its client base from the BioPark, said Jane Shaab, executive director of the BioPark.
The company already has secured a $5 million contract from the Department of Defense for monitoring the environment inside buildings so people inside can take corrective action if a problem occurs. Pathsensors also received a $1.6 million, 3.5-year contract with the Pentagon in 2007, when it still was the environmental division of Innovative Biosensors, Olsen said.
The company has four employees but expects to reach about 15 by the middle of 2012, Olsen said.
"They could be one of the huge success stories in the state," Shaab said, adding she has worked with Olsen for several years and considers him a "top-of-the-line" leader.
Olsen has 20 years of experience in manufacturing, process improvement and quality systems. He has held senior positions at M Cubed Technologies in Newark, Del., Corvis in Columbia and Carr Lowrey Glass in Baltimore.
Shaab also said Pathsensors' decision to locate in the BioPark demonstrates the complex's value as a place where businesses can accelerate their business model and look to the university for networking, collaboration and learning opportunities.
Olsen said the BioPark offers a large talent pool of life science professionals from the nearby universities, including John Hopkins University, as well as people from trade schools who can work in Pathsensors' manufacturing operations. This talent is not as likely to be poached by other local businesses as in Montgomery County's more developed bioscience corridor, he said.
"We want to hold onto them for a while," Olsen said.
Steven A. Silverman, director of the Montgomery County Department of Economic Development, said county officials never were approached as a potential location for Pathsensors.
"There was no competitive environment," he said.
Olsen said Pathsensors will work to build its customer base through first selling its identification systems and then selling refill testing components to those buyers in a model similar to how printer companies sell both printers and ink cartridges.
Evergreen Advisors of Columbia partnered with angel investor Chesapeake Emerging Opportunities Club, also of Columbia, in helping fund the company's startup.
"We expect that rapid detection systems will expand into high-visibility businesses that are vital to national security and food-testing processes," Olsen said. "This technology will allow food manufacturing companies to find and identify pathogens rapidly to help ensure that the food supply is safer and reduce the chance that contaminated products will need to be recalled."