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Steve Sees Sciways
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Maryland's long running biotech comedy

From the island, I can see the big biotech ship still cruising near but not actually docking in Maryland. No need. We've got rhetoric.

The state's biotech leaders, always thin in venture cap types, frequently convene a little pow-wow to find out who can sound the wisest as to why their community comes up short to Cambridge and San Fran. Such gatherings have been going on for about 15 years.

At each of these conferences there is a guy who approaches me and, once he hears I'm a journalist, gives me the sad story that Maryland will never measure up. There is no chemistry on the team, no coherance, no leadership pulling it all together. Maryland biotech feeds of the government labs, this guy always says, though it's actually a different guy each time. The candy store is always open and there is no desperation to lead to the country in biotech products and services. Those companies that come close to representing the state's rise in biotech heaven sell out to big pharma every time, the guy tells me, and their execs whistle a certain Steve Miller tune all the way to some lucrative consulting job.

But I say the rhetoric at these conferences is worth it because its comical. One Annapolis spin master always says, We are starting to fall behind North Carolina, New Jersey and the Dominican Republic. (Oh, I'm sorry, that's in shortstops.)

Then, a venture cap association expert steps up the plate and proclaims, "My God, people, there are no big pharma companies in Maryland. We need a strong cash flow. We don't need a critical mass of bioscience start ups."

A turn to the audience reveals much head scratching.

Next, the much admired handsome youngish CEO--you know, the one about to sell the company--calms the crowd, "Folks, venture capital won't write a blank check anymore."

I'm drifting off when I think I here him say, "more disciplined funding, more ... steady...fine a way to...That's the formula we used for the fasted growth in a ..." His company started its own venture cap branch, thus the double talk.

Back to another Annapolis law writing type, "there are good signs ahead, we are nipping at their heals." Who?

Mr. serial entrepreneur is next, though none of his 17 biotech start ups have yet to produce a product, "I see these first companies spawning little ones and the little ones spawning ideas. It's all about people. There are two theories to making this state a biotech powerhouse. First, when we have what it takes, they will come. Second, and that means venture money folks, we need to pull together as a community."

The entire room doesn't take him seriously. this is a D.C. suburb. Every snippet for itself.

The academic voice is next, tapped by the governor many, many years ago to drive biotech to product, "For discoveries, new patents on technology, we are far ahead of other states who would love to be where we are."

And then once again the the cheerleading organizer of the conference, "there is vibrant academic assets, federal labs spawning  companies like no where else. Go win the big one for the Gipper." Oh sorry again, forgot. This is a blue state.

Finally the guilt trip from an expert from out of town with a strong accent, who leaves the crowd uneasy but hopeful that the next of 11 annual biosummits will taste better, "the biggest barrier for biotech? People who are skilled at the regulatory aspects and designing biotech companies. People who can actuall develop those produces into therapeutics. Your state has many companies looking for those kind of officers."

Another look back: more head scratching. No one can find their cars.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the 67 U.S. states conducting 11 biotechnology rallying conferences each year would just record one and play it back ten more times, it would save the tax payers $2 billion for each state. Wait, isn't that the Maryland deficit?    California, eat your heart out. Wait, your a biotech leading state. Nevermind.

Biotech no longer exists folks. Its pervasive in our daily lives. It's not a seductive, sexy coming attraction anymore. There's no more fooling. It is no longer an industry in and of itself now. Chill.                            

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