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In a Year of Crisis, Maryland Biotech Responds with Leadership

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Guest Author
June 1, 2021

The year 2020 tested us all – as an industry, as a state, and as a nation.  Maryland’s life sciences community can be proud that it passed those tests with distinction. As COVID-19 spread across the globe, Maryland companies stepped up to help save millions of lives.  Industry leaders such as AstraZeneca; Becton, Dickinson and Company; GlaxoSmithKline; Emergent BioSolutions; Novavax; Pfizer; and Qiagen Sciences were among the Maryland companies involved in these efforts.

The Washington Post put it best when it wrote on May 5: “Maryland plays an outsized role in the worldwide hunt for a Coronavirus vaccine.”

Prior to the pandemic, almost a quarter of the state’s biopharmaceutical and medical technology companies already focused on infectious diseases.  As COVID-19 spread, dozens of Maryland companies joined the global response, developing or manufacturing vaccines and therapeutics, improving diagnostic tests, or providing clinical research support or technological solutions and services to respond to the pandemic.

The pandemic reinforced how important a robust biomanufacturing infrastructure is to innovation and public health. Maryland has an established and respected biomanufacturing presence that serves as the tip of the nation’s spear for biodefense and pandemic response.  Thanks to the leadership of these companies, and that of our front line health care workers, more than 163 million vaccine doses have now been administered in the United States.

Maryland’s biotech story did not begin or end with COVID-19 in 2020.  In fact, Maryland companies set state fundraising records in the midst of this volatility. Our companies raised $1.16B in venture capital and $2.3B in grant funding from the NIH, both state records.

The momentum is carrying into 2021.  Seven Maryland companies have already secured at least S10M million in venture funding each, and Ellume, the Australian diagnostics company, announced plans to open a new manufacturing facility with 1,500 new jobs in Maryland.

Why are Maryland companies attracting record amounts of VC and federal funding?

First, great companies are made of great teams. Credit goes to the innovators making breakthrough discoveries across Maryland’s biotech corridor. 

Second, Maryland possesses a rare combination of assets that unleash innovation: talent, location, and mindset.

We host America’s highest concentration of employed doctoral scientists and concentration of STEM workforce.  Our location positions this talented workforce to succeed.  With Washington, D.C. as our neighbor, Maryland ranks first among the states in federal R&D obligations, and is home to more than 65 federal agencies like the NIH, FDA, DoD, CMS, and twice as many federal laboratories (74) as any other state.

Lastly, the Maryland mindset is one of collaboration. Partners like the Maryland Tech Council, the state’s largest technology and life sciences trade association, bring the biotech community together into a single, united voice that empowers members to achieve their business goals through advocacy, networking, and education.

“Maryland has made a collaborative and sustained commitment to building an innovation ecosystem in Maryland,” said Marty Rosendale, CEO of the Maryland Tech Council. “That means nurturing talent, connecting executives with proven mentors, advocating for sound policy, supporting emerging industries, and setting clear benchmarks that lift our biotech community to new heights.”

Maryland has momentum in 2021. New companies moving to our state, new investments in our life sciences companies, and a mindset focused on an innovation ecosystem that serves you – the innovators.  Learn more about our successes and the road ahead.


About the Author

Ulyana V. Desiderio, PhD, Director of BioHealth and Life Sciences, Maryland Department of Commerce

Ulyana Desiderio

Ulyana leads efforts to support the growth of Maryland's life sciences community including job creation, capital investment and new business formation.  Ulyana is a trained biochemist who previously served as a Chief Scientific Officer for the American Society of Hematology, the largest international medical association dedicated to blood diseases.






This piece was submitted as part of the Global Marketplace at BIO Digital 2021. The NEW Global Marketplace at BIO Digital is designed to be the destination to showcase any region’s biotech strength and elevate its leading companies via high-energy, fast-paced presentations, coupled with live face-to face networking. Learn more here.