Collaboration the key as FiberCell lands state grant
$3.7M to help fund projects at 16 tech companies
Collaborating with academia has worked out well for John Cadwell's company, FiberCell Systems of Frederick. The firm is now getting help from a state grant to create a prototype for creating proteins and cells for the biotech industry.
Cadwell, FiberCell's president and CEO, was among 16 state companies to receive grants last week totaling $3.7 million from the Maryland Industrial Partnerships Program. The grants, which comprise $2.4 million from participating companies and $1.3 million from the state, were made available through the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute at the University of Maryland, College Park. They are awarded to companies collaborating with University System of Maryland researchers on new technologies.
FiberCell with three employees and in business for 11 years received a $263,212 grant to help it develop a prototype of a large-scale hollow fiber bioreactor system, according to a MIPS statement.
A hollow-fiber system is a different way of manufacturing proteins and grow cells from the large vessel used by many biotechs, Cadwell said. FiberCell's system uses several tubes shaped like capillaries to create proteins and grow cells.
FiberCell will partner on the project with Dean L. Mann, a professor in the department of pathology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. Mann said Friday that he is "interested in the development of the instrument to produce products that could be used clinically."
About 40 percent of the work done at FiberCell is in the academic research field, according to Cadwell. The company also works with small startup biotechs, research nonprofits and pharmaceutical companies.
FiberCell's annual revenues average about $1 million, Cadwell said, adding that "flat is the new growth."
Cadwell's company also works with the National Cancer Institute in Frederick and with clients of the Frederick Innovative Technology Center Inc. business incubator, including Hemacell Perfusion.
James C. Hardy, Hemacell's president and chief science officer, has worked on a stem cell initiative with Cadwell for the last three years using placentas, he said. He and Cadwell "have found a formula that is working very well."
"Our very long-term goal is to create a therapeutic product," Hardy said, adding that he is hopeful to eventually grow cartilage or other body parts with stem cells.
Martha Connolly, director of the MIPS program, said her organization typically awards grants to about 40 percent of applicants, with the money going to companies are working on projects that go beyond conventional research.
"We're looking for two things job creation and sales of a new product," Connolly said.
Another Frederick company, Cerona Networks, which provides satellite network services, received a $268,600 MIPS grant to develop a broadband satellite system that can be used for terrestrial Internet connections and can be retrofitted to existing systems.
Cerona will partner with John Baras, a professor in the department of electrical and computer engineering and the Institute for Systems Research at the University of Maryland, College Park. Neither Cerona officials nor Baras immediately returned phone calls seeking comment.
Others receiving MIPS grants include Speech Conversion Technologies of Silver Spring, Under Armour of Baltimore and Remedium Technologies of College Park.
Speech Conversion Technologies received a $143,278 grant develop a database of speech audio files and text transcriptions.
Remedium Technologies received $103,950 to develop a novel wound care technology called HemoGrip. The product is designed to rapidly stop traumatic bleeding and provide antibacterial treatment.
Under Armour received $698,000 to conduct an assessment of running and compare the differences between conventional and new running shoes.
Correction: The funding will help 16 companies.