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BioHealth Innovation expands tech-transfer team

BioHealth Innovation, Inc. is expanding its efforts to shepherd new technology from the lab to the marketplace by hiring three new resident entrepreneurs.

Two of those will work with the National Institutes of Health, while the third will act as a liaison with Johns Hopkins University and companies in Maryland.

The Rockville-based public-private partnership serves as an intermediary between the research facilities in the region and the private sector, and the entrepreneurs-in-residence scout out emerging technology to identify commercially viable projects.

But rather than just hand off that technology to a private company, the entrepreneurs at BioHealth Innovation (BHI) may take a more active role in the development of a new startup, serving as a temporary executive while the company gets on its feet, said Rich Bendis, BHI’s president and CEO.

“Sometimes there may be great science, but there isn’t great business acumen,” Bendis said, explaining that part of what the entrepreneurs do is market analysis and research.

BHI already has two entrepreneurs in place at NIH, one working in the Office of Technology Transfer and one with the National Heart, Lung & Blood Institute, Bendis said.

Over the past few years,  BHI has helped start four companies from the University System of Maryland and five businesses from NIH, Bendis said.

One of the new hires, Ethel Rubin, will also work with the heart, lung and blood institute; the other, Steve Wolpe, will work to support commercializing research across NIH.

Rubin is a former chief science officer from the Maryland-based companies CSA Medical and BioFortis; Wolpe has served as an adviser to several startups in the U.S., Israel and Russia, according to BHI.

Over the next quarter, BHI is hoping to place two more entrepreneurs-in-residence with NIH, Bendis said.

With 27 research institutes and more than 6,000 scientists in Maryland doing $3 billion in research, there’s a significant need for that research to be scouted and vetted to see what’s ready to be taken to market, he said.

BHI also has an entrepreneur-in-residence with the University System of Maryland, and the third new hire, Albine Martin, will work with Johns Hopkins University, where she currently serves as a mentor-in-residence at Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures, the university’s tech-transfer organization.

Those mentors work with faculty members and students that are trying to commercialize their work, drawing on their own professional experience to offer advice and guidance, said Christy Wyskiel, head of Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures and a senior adviser to Johns Hopkins University President Ronald J. Daniels.

Martin, who has 20 years of product commercialization experience with several Maryland companies specializing in biotechnology, diagnostics and life sciences, has been key to that effort over the past few months, Wyskiel said.

Martin said her expanded role at Hopkins would help make a broader set of resources and connections available to the university’s faculty and students through her entrepreneur-in-residence counterparts at the other institutions.

The creation of entities like BHI in Maryland is exciting because it fostered new links and connections across the state’s growing biotech ecosystem, Martin said.

“I think [BHI] is really the first of its kind,” she said.