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Sunday, June 13,2010

Event showcases growing regional biotech industry

By Athens NEWS Staff

Ohio University co-sponsored the third annual BioVenture Showcase Wednesday to highlight the growing biotechnology industry " sparked, in part, by its faculty research and technologies " in southeast Ohio.

The event, held at Walter Hall, spotlighted four up-and-coming firms engaged in drug development for cancer, diabetes and other ailments, as well as the creation of medical devices for hearing loss. Two of the companies were founded on OU faculty research, and two are clients of the Innovation Center, the university's small business incubator.

The event, which attracted more than 75 participants, offered a chance to showcase the region's emerging biotechnology industry to business professionals from across the state, David Wight, director of the Ohio University Edison Biotechnology Institute, said in a news release about the event.

"The event demonstrates that we have a thriving regional cluster of biotechnology companies," Wight said in the release. "We highlighted two major success stories " the sale of Diagnostic Hybrids, Inc., and new federal funding for Interthyr " that occurred since the last event."

The BioVenture Showcase has grown significantly since the event's 2007 launch by the Athenian Venture Partners, the Edison Biotechnology Institute and Diagnostic Hybrids.

"Our vision was to bring together all the biotechnology commercialization enablers in the region to Athens under one roof in order to meet, interact with, and learn about each other, with the objective of encouraging new enterprise development," Karl Elderkin, managing partner of Athenian Venture Partners, said in the release. "Very few public universities have been as productive as Ohio University at commercializing technology. This event leverages that strength."

David Scholl, president of Diagnostic Hybrids (a Quidel company) and senior vice president of commercial operations at the Quidel Corporation, delivered the keynote address. He chronicled the company's story, from its early success at attracting investments and initial product launch, to its recent sale to the Quidel Corporation for $130 million. Based on OU faculty research, Diagnostic Hybrids is a market leader in the development and distribution of cellular and molecular diagnostic kits for detecting a wide range of medical conditions. The company employs about 220 people in Athens.

Diagnostic Hybrids is a former client of OU's Innovation Center, which supports biotechnology and high-tech start-up companies launched by university faculty and regional entrepreneurs.

The showcase also featured two current Innovation Center clients, MetalloPharm, which is creating a technology platform to create therapeutic compounds for a wide range of diseases, and Interthyr, which is developing a compound that could treat pancreatic cancer and autoimmune diseases such as diabetes and colitis.

Interthyr is based on the research of emeritus Edison Biotechnology Institute faculty member Leonard Kohn, who continues to work on the project with an interdisciplinary team of OU researchers that include Doug Goetz, Kelly McCall, Frank Schwartz, Ramiro Malgor, Mark McMills and Steve Bergmeier.

Another company featured at the event, Otothera, based on the work of OU faculty member Jeffrey DiGiovanni, is developing a medical device to help people with hearing loss and the hearing disorder tinnitus. Pharmatrope also provided an overview of its drug design software modules.

In addition, the BioVenture Showcase featured panel discussions about ways OU transfers faculty technologies from the laboratory to the marketplace in the College of Osteopathic Medicine and Russ College of Engineering and Technology, as well as how area entrepreneurs can gain access to capital to succeed in the region.

The event's primary sponsors were the OU Edison Biotechnology Institute, Diagnostic Hybrids, Inc., and Athenian Venture Partners, with additional support from TechGROWTH Ohio, The Ohio Capital Fund, Credit Suisse, OPERS and BioOhio.


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