Industry veteran tapped to lead Maryland biotech center
Former CEO brings more than 25 years of experience in the biosciences
The state's biotech entrepreneurs and scientists have one of their own to lead them.
Judith Britz, a scientist, academician and entrepreneur, has been named executive director of the Maryland Biotechnology Center by Gov. Martin O'Malley (D). The center was launched in the fall with offices in Baltimore and Rockville.
"For more than 25 years, Dr. Britz has been on the frontlines of unlocking some of the most vexing medical mysteries of our time, and we welcome her tremendous wealth of experience to DBED," said Secretary Christian S. Johansson in a statement. "As a longtime entrepreneur, Dr. Britz understands the challenges that many small, early stage bioscience companies encounter on their way to making life-saving discoveries, and I look forward to working with her to ensure we give these companies the opportunities and tools to succeed."
A Skaggsville resident, Britz is a former CEO who has helped raise millions of dollars for bioscience companies. She said she will be based in the center's Baltimore office, but added, "I'll also be working in the Rockville office and I'll be doing a lot of traveling throughout the state, because it's extremely important for the new biotech center to reach out to companies already here and make them aware of what we can offer as far as services for the entrepreneurs."
The center's mission is to coordinate and consolidate state, university and private-sector bioscience initiatives and resources and offer information and guidance on business strategy and development; access to capital, technology transfer and commercialization, grants, workforce development and training; and federal resources, according to information from the state Department of Business and Economic Development.
Britz, who said she started work Jan. 4, is to "lead Maryland's bioscience efforts, reaching out to the State's more than 400 bio and life sciences companies to help them grow and create new jobs and working with the Governor's Life Sciences Advisory Board to move forward the 10-year, $1.3 billion Bio Maryland 2020 initiative," according to a DBED statement.
Britz said her mission will also involve spending time in Annapolis during the General Assembly session to help lobby and safeguard legislation that is key for the bioscience community.
"I'll be going to Annapolis [on Wednesday] because this center does require advocacy to support the interests of our companies, particularly on issues involving the biotech tax credit and the research and development tax credit, both in protecting what we have in those programs and trying to increase the funding that's there," Britz said.
"I think the biotech tax credit has been a spectacularly successful program and if more than $6 million were available, it certainly would be well utilized," she said.
Britz said advocacy is something she knows about from her past in the private sector.
"When you're CEO of a company," she said, "you are the chief sales officer of the company, so the audience is different, but what you have to do is the same: Demonstrate the value proposition. And it's clear that the bioscience industry in Maryland employs 34,000 people, and there are probably another 30,000 people working in federal labs and academic industries, so it's big, but we [still] need to nurture and grow it."
Britz said the industry's size is "part of why this biotech center was created ... simply because we have this incredibly rich research environment, a lot of discovery and invention occurring, so we want to maximize the translation of that into products, from bench to bedside. ... We want to nurture and grow these companies, and work with DBED to help attract companies, as well."
In a statement, O'Malley praised Britz's "depth and breadth of knowledge," and her business and academic experience.
Britz most recently founded Britz Life Science Consulting, which advised companies on therapeutic and diagnostic applications, including stem cells, genomics and biomarkers for cancer. Earlier, she was president and CEO of Cylex Inc. and general manager of Sienna Biotech, both of Columbia. She successfully raised more than $50 million for the two companies, according to DBED information, and introduced a series of patented diagnostic products, navigating them through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in record time, and manufacturing and marketing kits to hospitals in the U.S., Europe and Asia.
She also held positions in business development and research and development at Becton Dickinson and Johnson and Johnson's Ortho Diagnostic Division. As a research scientist at Electro-Nucleonics, Britz was responsible for developing one of the first licensed blood screening tests for HIV.
"I look forward to working closely with Governor O'Malley, the Life Sciences Advisory Board and Maryland's dedicated bioscience community to build on the great work that has been done to make Maryland a bioscience powerhouse," Britz said in the DBED statement. "My background complements my new role in government to facilitate the interactions of academia, industry and our advocacy groups to work more closely together and grow this important industry."
H. Thomas Watkins, president and CEO of Human Genome Sciences of Rockville and chairman of the state's Life Sciences Advisory Board, said in a statement: "The Life Sciences Advisory Board is pleased to welcome Dr. Britz to her new role as Executive Director of the Maryland Biotechnology Center. The Center was a key recommendation of the LSAB strategic plan, and we are delighted to see it implemented, open for business and with its leader in place. We look forward to working together with Dr. Britz, Secretary Johansson and Governor O'Malley to ensure that Maryland maintains and strengthens its leadership position in the biosciences."
Britz's academic résumé includes a doctorate in immunology and medical microbiology from Stanford University and postdoctoral fellowships at Yale and Johns Hopkins in cellular immunology. She has held board and advisory positions with several organizations, including the Greater Baltimore Committee's Bioscience Group, the Tech Council of Maryland and Women in Bio.