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Biotech Connect

Posted by Jim H on July 21, 2011

The Dog Days of Summer are here and the Biotech Livin’ in Frederick is easy……

I’m setting up a couple of events you all may be interested in.  First and foremost, working on the next BioBeers in August at “The Incubator” aka the Frederick Innovative Technology Center or FITCI for short.  I have one firm sponsor and could use one or two more, if you are interested.  No date, at his point in time.

Just got out of a great meeting at the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce with Frank and SAIC-Frederick.  We’re setting up, with Frank’s help, the next Tech Connect for Bio event at the Chamber.   What we are trying to do is to peel the onion back a bit deeper and give local companies more insight into what is going on at Fort Detrcik and how they can participate as either a partner in providing goods and services or in licencing out technologies developed on the Fort for commercial purposes.   This is the main reason Jim Hartley and I started BioBeers in the first place.  Jim is working with our old (I say that with the best intent) friend Deb on this amazing system they have developed:

You need to scroll over to the right hand column and pick the “SAIC-Frederick Targeted Protein Delivery” icon to see their video.  I don’t know how to copy and attach a flash file.  As you’ll see from the viseo, they even roped in another former LifeTech employee, Dave Hoekzema, to lead the commercialization effort.  It’s like the holy trinity of innovation that the fools formerly in charge of  Invitrogen jettisoned.

The third thing is an event I am helping to set up.  Lilypons Water Gardens has an annual wine festival and Dog Jumping contest.  You know those events you may have seen on ESPN where the dog sprints down a dock and leaps as far as they can into the water chasing a decoy?   So I was there in my official capacity as a  Chamber of Commerce Ambassador talking to Margret about trying to find out if they could use spent grains from beer making as fish food and she mentions their annual event, The Puppy Palooza on Sept 3rd & 4th.  Margret mentioned that the crowd was more of a “beer crowd” than a wine crowd and if I knew anyone she could talk to about making this a Beerfest?  In case you didn’t know, we have a local brewery call “Flying Dog.”  I know some people there and we’re going to make it happen.  The 1st ever Flying Dog competition at Lilypons sponsored by Flying Dog and hopefully represented by all of the local breweries.  Stay tuned!

Posted in BioBeer, Blogterviews, Events, Government Funded research, Rants | 1 Comment »

Biopunk: DIY Scientists Hack the Software of Life

Posted by Jim H on May 27, 2011

I just got my copy of the book “Biopunk:  DIY Scientists Hack the Software of Life” and it’s a page turner: pithy and fascinating.  It also features a couple chapters on my LavaAmp co-conspirators Guido and Joseph. We’re getting some decent free press on this one, that’s for sure. There was a feature last week in The Guardian interviewing Joseph and Guido won us a $40,000 USD grant through Start Up Chile.

From a write up in BoingBoing in April comes this quote: “We reject the popular perception that science is only done in million-dollar university, government, or corporate labs; we assert that the right of freedom of inquiry, to do research and pursue understanding under one’s own direction, is as fundamental a right as that of free speech or freedom of religion,” Patterson writes in A Biopunk Manifesto, a biohacker call-to-arms she wrote last year.

“We have no quarrel with Big Science; we merely recall that Small Science has always been just as critical to the development of the body of human knowledge, and we refuse to see it extinguished.”

That’s a “Two Fer” Meredith.  As in fer shure, fer shure……..

Posted in Awards and recognition, Government Funded research, LavaAmp, Molecular Biology, News, Public/Private Companies, Rants | Leave a Comment »

Next Installment of BioBeers and other News that’s Fit to Print

Posted by Jim H on March 8, 2011

I have been a slack blogger since I’ve started tweeting & scouring my RSS feeds, that’s for sure.  Fortunately, you can following my twitterverse in the left hand column of this blog or get up off yer ass and get on twitter yourself?!

So, most importantly, the next installation of BioBeers will be on Friday April 8th at Akonni Biosystems in Downtown Frederick!  wOOt !  For those not familiar with Akonni, they’re been getting a lot of attention for their rapid DNA extraction system and their rapid, low-cost microarray systems.  The street address is 400 Sagner Ave., Suite 300, Frederick, MD 21701.  I hereby proclaim anyone from Frederick County that needs a GPS to find it, right next to McCutcheon’s, is automatically un-invited.  You know who you are.

Please RSVP via email, LinkedIn or MeetUp

This far I have two confirmed sponsors:  Biotech Primer and Chesapeake Insurance/SandySpring Bank.  Still room for more.  Call or email me if you’re interested in sponsoring.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t do a quick recap of interesting news I have failed to blog about the past 5-6 weeks.  Do you see how MedImmune scored $93M in a patent infringement settlement over Synagis, the product produced in Frederick or how BioElectronics is growing too big for their britches?  I just wish I could get one of their patches locally and without a prescription.

Also worth a mention is how NCI-Frederick was named one of the Best Places to work as a PostDoc in America.

And the BIG news, which I should have already blogged about, is long-time Biobeers sponsor and advocate, FiberCell Systems being awarded a MIPS Grant for $263K.  I even get to be quoted in the article.  Johnand I have been working on a seperate project we call the “FiberCell Stem Cell Initiative” for more than two years now.  Although it’s not directly related to the MIPS grant, the grant is for a Large Scale system, I am glad to see FiberCell get a grant to help them keep moving in the right direction.

Posted in Awards and recognition, BioBeer, Business, Expansion, Funding Available, Government Funded research, News, Public/Private Companies, Rants | Leave a Comment »

Detailed Review of Evidence Exonerates Bruce Ivins in Anthrax Attacks

Posted by Jim H on February 15, 2011

As I have been boasting for over two years now and after receiving first hand testimony at a BioBeers event on the day of Bruce Ivins suicide which was a result of the FBI ruining his career and driving him crazy by confiscating his life’s work, the National Academy of Sciences ruled today, in a report that will certainly garner no national media attention, it is inconceivable (or at least not without obvious doubt) that Bruce Ivins committed this crime.  Read the report: scientific review released Tuesday in the 2001 case of deadly anthrax mailings cast doubt on the US government’s conclusion that scientist Bruce Ivins, who killed himself in 2008, was to blame.”

So, who’s betting no one will hear this story on the National Media Circus?

Posted in Rants, Rumors | 3 Comments »

BioBeers Friday, Badgers, News and other Random Stuff

Posted by Jim H on February 14, 2011

As if I haven’t pestered you all anough already BioBeers is this Friday at ImQuest Biosciences Friday February 18th starting at 4:30 PM. I am getting Ribs from RibCity, so please do RSVP so I can get the right amount. RSVP’s trickling in thus far and I am giving you multiple choices. You can RSVP by emailing me, leaving a comment or go on the MeetUp or LinkedIn sites (both require FREE registration). Badger, badger as in “Her hungry fingers tore at my shirt buttons like wild badgers” (a hilarious episode of Prairie Home Companion I listened to on the way back from Fredericksburg VA last week can’t help it that I am a radio junkie). 

Speaking of Badgers, Akonni was in the news this week for signing a licensing agreement with USAMRIID which covers covers nucleic acid sequences, primers, and probes that will serve as the basis for multiplexed molecular tests for Bacillus anthracis, vaccinia/orthopox virus, Yersinia pestis, and Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus. How neat is that?

Speaking of neat stuff, you all may know that I have been working on an inexpensive, hand held thermocycler (LavaAmp).  Well, so compatriots of ours, Tito Janokoswski and crew with pearl biotech, have released a DIY $500 thermocycler.  It’s based on the standard tube format PCR in aluminum block, so I don’t consider this a threat at all to our low resource, low power, portable device, but cool news nonetheless out of the DIYBio guys.  They also have the Open Gel Box, which I contributed to.  Keep it up!

So back to FredCoBio and stuff happening here BioElectronics is poised for huge growth.  I know I haven’t blogged about them in a while, but their patch works and it’s not expensive and it’s really the only thing out there.  I think it’s awesome!!

Posted in Academia, Awards and recognition, BioBeer, bizzare, Business, Events, Funny, General, Government Funded research, LavaAmp, Molecular Biology, Public/Private Companies, Rants | 1 Comment »

News, News Site announcement, Next Biobeers

Posted by Jim H on November 30, 2010

Some of you may know that I have been busy doing contract work at MedImmune for the past 14 months or so at the Frederick facility.  Well that contract came to a close, but I was picked up by another contractor, Raland Technologies,  to work on a different project for MedImmune at their Philadelphia facilities. So, sadly, I won’t be in Frederick as much as I’d like to, but you’ll still hear from me. I am the first official Biotech Ambassador for the Frederick Chamber of Commerce, after all.  And even though Raland runs their Maryland operations out of Montgomery County, they also have a major presence in my home town Rochester, NY.    Raland made a major announcement just a couple of weeks ago when Raland announced they were awarded  grant through the Qualifying Therapeutic Discovery Program (QTDP) for their extraordinary development efforts with RxFusion™ , a medical device offering an easier and safer home infusion treatment.  I am glad to be a part of their team.

Speaking of major news from Frederick County Biotech, I noted an article in Nature titled “Complex synthesis yields breast-cancer therapy” on my RSS feed yesterday.  This is cool in a number of respects.  First, coincident with the synthesis of this compound, researchers in Frederick at NCI discovered the compound inhibits a protein component of

The drug eribulin was inspired by a compound from the sea sponge Halichondria okadai. Nature: Yasunori Saito

the cytoskeleton, called tubulin, that is needed to support the rapid growth of cancer cells and is the target of several other cancer chemotherapies, including Taxol (paclitaxel).  Second, I spent two weeks in Seattle at the University of Washington round about 1991 working in the lab of future Nobel Laureate Eddy Krebs isolating Okadaic acid (a prolific and potent protein phosphorylator) from this very same species of sea sponge.  And what a stinking *effen* mess it was.  Let me tell you, if you drag a few kilos of fresh halichondria from deep off the floor of the Pacific, mix it with 20 L or so of Chloroform in a jumbo Warning blender, then extract with 20 L Methanol (all of this in 1991 was done in buckets, on the floor, without any special lab gear like safety glasses or lab coats or Kevlar) while trying not to contaminate my lab partner Joel’s  working on this new product he called “Lipofectamine” (which was indeed a multi million dollar product and I think continues to be to this day) because this was going to be the first million dollar product for the newly formed Cell Biology group of Life Technologies.  Those were the days.

But I digress in my fond recollections of past glory.  What I really, really want to do is to let you know the next Biobeers is almost certainly happening Friday December 17th at Lab Recyclers warehouse on Metropolitan Court (right next to FITCI).  And I really, really need everyone to switch over to the new MeetUp site and register.  Go here now:

MeetUp costs me about $10 per month, but it’s much better as compared to LinkedIn (which I will continue to maintain, just not set up events and calendar items through that site) for posting news and information and events.  I’m trying this as a platform to try to connect us more better than we are today.  I’ve started populating the site with the various and sundry seminars happening at Ft Detrick which are freaking free and open to the public!!  I’m still working on getting the MeetUp site to link to Ft Detrick web site, but it’s all good.

I’ll have the BioBeers posted on both LinkedIn and MeetUp for the next couple of events, but will force y’all over to MeetUp eventually.  Besides, my text file mailing list is getting way too long.

Posted in Awards and recognition, BioBeer, Biochemistry, Business, Funding Available, Government Funded research, Jobs, News, Public/Private Companies, Rants | Leave a Comment »

The all new Fredcobio coming

Posted by Jim H on November 9, 2010

It has been a pretty good year in Fredcobio, I am glad to say, and the end of the year is ramping up to be amazing.    Many of you know that I have been working a contract with MedImmune assisting in the validation of the new Frederick Manufacturing Center.  That contract ended suddenly 9although it was expected) last week, so now I am back wheeling and dealing and looking at what I am going to do next.

I’ve been neglecting my two start-ups and building on my recent, newly elected status as the Grand Poobah of Biotech in Frederick first official Biotech Ambassador of the Frederick Chamber of Commerce (which I announced at the last Biobeers).  As such, we’ve had a couple of very preliminary meetings with interested parties from the Chamber, OED, FITCI,  the City of Frederick and a few other interested partners and I think there are a lot of good things we can do together.  Most of these ideas, these delusions of grandeur are just that:  ideas.  We need to transform our ideas into action and start getting some stuff done.

What do I mean by that?  First of all, everyone wants more information about things like funding and where to get it and how much is available, but we also need to start talking more with each other.  There are over 50 biotech companies or quasi-government (even “real government”) agencies in Frederick County and we don’t even know what we all do for a living.  I’m talking about better networking and business and commerce between just the local companies.  Well, that’s a start.  What we really need to do is communicate with all of the people at NCI and the various and sun-dried agencies behind the barbed wire fence that is Ft Detrick and find out what they’re doing. Speaking of which, a couple of very newsworth things have popped up on my radar screen over the past couple of days.

One of them is an excellent resource I’ll bet no one is even paying attention to off base, and we should be: Free Lectures at Ft Detrick by various agencies.  You can find the whole calendar here:

I used to try to post them, but got tired of doing that and I don’t even think anyone was watching.  But as a “for example”, there are at least three different lecture series going on now, the one called  CCR Grand Rounds is hosting a lecture Tuesday 11/23 by Frederick R. Appelbaum, M.D. who is the Director, Clinical Research Division, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center entitled “The Grand Challenges of Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation.” How cool does that sound? And did I mention it’s free? Well, not exactly free. I bet some of our tax money is being used somehow.  All of the details are here:

Ansd another thing I thought was interesting, passed along by Frank at SAIC-Frederick is this list of qualifying “Therapeutic Discovery Project Grants” for the State of Maryland from  The list is pretty long, but I think you’ll recognize for names familiar to Fredcobio such as ImQuest, Akonni, BioElectronics and BioAssay Works.  Over $48MM in grants awarded to Maryland over the past 2 years, just on this “qualifying” delineation.    My memory tells me more than $1.5BB is being spent at Ft Detrick alone this year (a lot of bricks and mortar as well as research).

I almost forgot to mention the next BioBeers date is set:  Friday December 10th.  I’m going to be improving the blog and likely moving our LinkedIn and Google groups over to a MeetUp platform in the coming weeks. So stay tuned, Fredcobio campers.

Posted in Academia, Awards and recognition, BioBeer, Business, Funding Available, General, Government Funded research, Jobs, News, Public/Private Companies, Rants, Rumors, Stem Cells | 1 Comment »

BioBeers November ’09

Posted by Jim H on November 22, 2009

What a great turn-out last week for BioBeers!  TalentWrx Professional Staffing, Tyler-Donegan and ImQuest (the Official Chicken wing sponsor of BioBeers).  It was a record for attendance with 123 people (and probably more since everyone wasn’t drinking beer).

I only took a few pictures.  Click on the picture below to open the Web Album on Picasa:

I am also glad to announce that I know the next sponsor is going to be the Battelle National Biodefense Institute (BNBI), the group running the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center (NBACC).  And don’t listen to the the trolls (instead subscribe to the BPSDB blog), there are jobs and plenty of them coming soon at NBACC and most don’t require wearing a bunny suit every day! They have a number up already on their Careers site and they want to use BioBeers as a recruiting tool. So stay tuned, as I am working with them now to set a date in mid-January.


Posted in BioBeer, BPSDB, Public/Private Companies, Rants | Leave a Comment »

A lot going on in Fredcobio

Posted by Jim H on November 11, 2009

It’s been a busy in Fredcobio.  SIAC-Frederick signs a deal with Sporian for Remote HIV detection

SAIC-Frederick, Sporian Microsystems Collaborate On Device For HIV Screening in Remote Areas

FREDERICK, Md., Nov. 4, 2009 – SAIC-Frederick, Inc., a contractor to the National Cancer Institute, has entered into a three-way research collaboration with Sporian Microsystems Inc. of Lafayette, Colo., and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) centering on a hand-held device for HIV testing that could potentially be used to improve screening in remote areas.

The collaboration is part of the National Cancer Institute’s Advanced Technology Partnerships Initiative, which aims to speed up the translation of basic research into technologies and treatments for patients with cancer and AIDS. SAIC-Frederick, as prime contractor at the National Cancer Institute at Frederick, is facilitating ATPI partnerships for the government.

HIV/AIDS continues to have a disproportionate impact on populations in low socioeconomic and rural areas. Therefore, SAIC-Frederick, Sporian, and the FDA will focus on developing a hand-held device to address the prevailing need for a sensitive, point-of-care (POC) assay that can detect evolving strains of HIV early in the course of infection in resource-limited settings. POC technologies that facilitate early diagnosis often lead to improved treatment and facilitate epidemiological surveillance and prevention of diseases that are of particular importance in these areas.

The proposed diagnostic assay is especially suitable for those areas that lack the refrigeration facilities, stable electrical power, highly trained personnel, and clinical laboratory infrastructure required by many current tests and devices.

“For optimal use in health disparity settings, it is also important for POC diagnostic systems to be rapid, simple to use and cost-effective, but not sacrifice diagnostic accuracy,” said Dr. Michael Usrey of Sporian. “The objective of this partnership is to combine the assay expertise of SAIC and FDA with Sporian’s optoelectronics interrogation, signal processing, algorithms and packaging to produce an effective, low-cost POC device.”

About Sporian Microsystems

Sporian Microsystems, Inc. is an aggressive sensors and packaging company. Sporian develops, markets, manufactures, and sells novel sensors, multiple sensor-suites, sensor-subsystems and sensor data-loggers. These systems deliver several key features, including ruggedness, small size, low power consumption and low cost. Sporian’s patented BioOverseer® sensor architecture provides specific and sensitive serum pathogen detection in a portable point-of-care (POC) package. For more information, call 303-516-9075 x19 or visit Sporian’s website at

There are more opportunities for contract work at the Fort.  An RFP posted for  S10-072 RFP Package issued 11-6-09.  I know someone out there could do this one.

Today, it was announced that Qiagen Acquired SABiosciences for $90M.  Wow.  I hope to see a few SAB people at Biobeers on Friday.  We can cry in our beer together.

Which reminds me, BioBeers is this Friday at 4:30 PM at the Flying Dog Brewery on Wedgwood Blvd.  Be there or be square.  Our sponsors this time are the Tyler Companies and Talent Works Scientific Staffing.

Do please try to RSVP.  We need to give our Friends at Flying Dog a heads up for how many people to expect and I want to have enough chow.  As always, ImQuest, official wing sponsor of BioBeers, will bring some wings.  We’ll get some sandwiches from Frisco’s, too.

Expecting a full house again.  If anyone has a last minute scientific presentation to give , please let me know.



Posted in BioBeer, Business, Funding Available, Government Funded research, presentations, Public/Private Companies, Rants | Leave a Comment »

LavaAmp Launched Coast to Coast

Posted by Jim H on November 1, 2009

One reason I have been lame in the blogging department is that I have been working on the LavaAmp™ project.  After SciFoo camp last year, I was asked by Joseph Jackson and Guido Nuñez-Mujica if I  could help them licences this device from Texas A&M.

Guido is from Venezuela and is most interested in infectious disease testng in 3rd world, remote applications.  This is a talk Guido gave at Google shortly before SciFoo camp:

After nearly a year of negotiating with the TAMU tech transfer office (some day I’ll blog about University Tech Transfer offices stifling Innovation and commercialization) in the past 6 weeks we recruited Rob Carlson and Rik Wehbring from Biodesic and a the engineering prototype is built.

A more technical description from Robs blog post:

“The LavaAmp is based on the convective PCR thermocycler demonstrated by Agrawal et al, which has been licensed from Texas A&M University to Gahaga.  Under contract from Gahaga, Biodesic reduced the material costs and power consumption of the device.  We started by switching from the aluminum block heaters in the original device (expensive) to thin film heaters printed on plastic.  A photo of the engineering prototype is below (inset shows a cell phone for scale).  PCR reagents, as in the original demonstration, are contained in a PFTE loop slid over the heater core.  Only one loop is shown for demonstration purposes, though clearly the capacity is much larger.”

So we’re off and running.  Joseph is out at BilPil in San Diego this weekend with the device and hoping to get a little mention in at iGEM Jamboree in Boston, although it’s hard to be in two places at once.

A bit more from Synthesis:  “The existing prototype has three independently controllable heating zones that can reach 100C.  The device can be powered either by a USB connection or an AC adapter (or batteries, if desired).  The USB connection is primarily used for power, but is also used to program the temperature setpoints for each zone.  The design is intended to accommodate additional measurement capability such as real-time fluorescence monitoring.

We searched hard for the right materials to form the heaters and thin film conductive inks are a definite win.  They heat very quickly and have almost zero thermal mass.  The prototype, for example, uses approximately 2W whereas the battery-operated device in the original publication used around 6W.

What we have produced is an engineering prototype to demonstrate materials and controls — the form factor will certainly be different in production.  It may look something like a soda can, though I think we could probably fit the whole thing inside a 100ml centrifuge tube.”

And Attila over at PIMM also beat me to the blog punch.

I need to put together the press release and finish plans for BioBeers on Friday,  put more marketing material in our Business Plan and write up a new proposal for amniotic tissue skin grafts this morning.  Gaining momentum…..

Posted in LavaAmp, Molecular Biology, News, Public/Private Companies, Rants, Scifoo | Leave a Comment »


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