Martek Is Second Mtech Company Sold for More Than $1 Billion in Three Years
Martek Biosciences, a company that launched leveraging the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech) at the University of Maryland, entered an agreement on December 21 to be acquired by the Dutch company Royal DSM NV for $1.1 billion, the companies jointly announced.
Martek is the second company sold for more than $1 billion in the past three years that made extensive use of Mtech's venture-building and biotechnology programs during its early stages. Digene Corporation was acquired by Qiagen NV for $1.6 billion in 2007.
Martek is a leader in the innovation, development, production and sale of high-value products from microbial sources that promote health and wellness through nutrition. The company's flagship product is life'sDHA, a sustainable and vegetarian source of algal docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) important for brain, heart and eye health throughout life for use in infant formula, pregnancy and nursing products, foods and beverages, dietary supplements and animal feeds.
In addition to Mtech's Technology Advancement Program (TAP) incubator, Martek leveraged Maryland Industrial Partnerships (MIPS) funding during the company's early stages to figure out how to scale-up its microbial processes through Mtech's Bioprocess Scale-Up Facility (BSF), which helps companies take bench-top or lab-produced products and prepare them for mass production.
"When I came to Mtech years ago, we had developed this fermentable algae," said Henry "Pete" Linsert, former chairman and CEO of Martek. "We were getting into the next stage where we said 'will this stuff actually scale-up?' If it doesn't, we thought, if the economics aren't good, if it doesn't make pure products, if the organism doesn't grow, well--we're sunk. We didn't have the equipment; we didn't have the people. Mtech said let's see if we can make this work. And it did!
"Over 55 million babies worldwide have now had infant formula that included Martek's nutritional ingredients," Linsert continued. "Over 99 percent of the infant formula in the United States has it, as well as products in more than 75 countries around the world. Almost every U.S. child under the age of six has had this Martek DHA in their brain. It all started here. It all came from this facility."
Martek is just one example of the success of Mtech's entrepreneurship ecosystem.
Mtech has built a comprehensive entrepreneurship ecosystem for teaching, encouraging, supporting and accelerating innovation. This year alone, the institute offers 23 courses related to entrepreneurship, from 8th-grade and high school summer classes to a pair of living-learning entrepreneurship programs and undergraduate, graduate and executive education classes. Approximately 607 aspiring and current entrepreneurs enrolled in Mtech's courses last year.
Mtech's VentureAccelerator program, which offers intense business startup mentoring for university inventors, has led its companies to seven regional, national and international awards in the past two years.
Five winners of the Mtech-hosted University of Maryland $75K Business Plan Competition, started in 2000, are now multi-million ventures.
Mtech works with an average of 400 companies each year through all of its programs. The institute has had a $25.7 billion impact and helped to create or retain more than 5,300 jobs since its inception in 1983.
"The success of Martek and other Mtech graduates illuminates the path to economic growth and job creation for the state," said University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh. "Nurturing and supporting innovators early on is a smart investment. The university's concentration of technological, business and economic expertise can make the critical difference for Maryland entrepreneurs and innovators seeking to turn a bright idea into a thriving business that can benefit many."
Mtech's programs have served as best-practice models around the country. TAP was the first incubator in Maryland; there are more than 20 now. Many universities have replicated the Hinman CEOs program. Two other state research funding programs were based on MIPS. The National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance patterned its national Invention2Venture technology entrepreneurship workshop series after Mtech's annual University of Maryland Technology Start-Up Boot Camp. The BSF is one of only 17 comparable facilities in the country.
This support for entrepreneurs has translated into concrete economic benefits for Maryland. Both Digene and MedImmune (acquired by AstraZeneca in 2007) have announced plans to expand and add jobs in Maryland.
"Mtech's programs are a great example of why Maryland is a leader in technology innovation," says Governor Martin O'Malley. "The State of Maryland is committed to providing support for the entrepreneurship ecosystem that makes this kind of continued, sustainable success possible."
December 21, 2010