M-Square Top Choice for Biotech Cluster

[flickr float=”left” size=”medium”]4119193301[/flickr]

East Campus? Stalled. Purple Line? Still Waiting. Maryland Football? Don’t ask. Here at RTCP we could use a little good news. Well we got some from Washington Business Journal. It looks like M-Square was selected as the top choice in Prince George’s for a new cluster of biotech startups. The proposal calls for two, five story buildings of 105,000 square-feet each right smack next to the metro station.

For years, Prince George’s County has been relegated to throwing farewell parties for its most promising biotech startups as they pack up and move to neighboring Montgomery County for more readily available lab space.

But now, Prince George’s planning consultants have pinpointed three locations for the county’s own biotech complex — what they envision as two to four new buildings filled with high-quality labs and highly paid workers to serve as a magnet for more biotech prospects and the heart of a growing biotech community within their own borders. County economic development leaders say they’re in active talks with at least one developer about bringing such a plan from paper to life.

In a newly issued report, county consultants have ranked publicly owned lots near M Square Research Park as the top recommendation for a biotech center, touting its across-the-street status from a University of Maryland research hot spot and the College Park Metro station.

Part of the draw is to give more established companies that get their start at the University location to expand.

Prince George’s boasts the state’s second-highest concentration of federal agencies and one of its largest research universities, but only about 2 percent of its bioscience companies and 5 percent of its available wet lab space. As a result, the report estimates, most biotech graduates of the University of Maryland’s Technology Advancement Program incubator opt for a permanent home somewhere else.

The College Park incubator’s three most celebrated alums — Digene Corp., Martek Biosciences Corp. and NovaScreen Biosciences Corp. — shifted to Montgomery, Howard and Anne Arundel counties, respectively, before growing into multimillion-dollar enterprises and, in two of the three cases, getting bought for prices that ranged from $22 million to $1.6 billion.

You might notice that one of the buildings is located where the existing tennis bubbles are. I particularly enjoy the following quote from the report on the subject.

Any relocation of the tennis structures would seriously impact the tennis playing community and would need to be agreed with M-NCPPC.

Really? You think? I think that qualifies for the “Duh!” award.

As our very own poster Albert Wavering summarized in his post How Entrepreneurship Can Help Rethink College Park [flickr size=”small” float=”right”]4032216143[/flickr]

Evidence shows that although many companies are started from the University of Maryland, many leave College Park as they become larger and more successful. As companies grow, they leave College Park for cities that are better able to support their company and provide more desirable benefits, such as safe housing and community centers. To compete with these other cities, College Park must provide suitable amenities for start-up companies.

Here is to hoping this report will help to move things forward although lets not lose sight of the real goal of M Square development. A place to eat! 94th Perk? New York Deli?

Read the full 175 page  Biotech-Study report.