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Connolly Leverages Mtech Expertise with UM Ventures

Connolly Leverages Mtech Expertise with UM Ventures

Pictured: Martha Connolly
Pictured: Martha Connolly

University of Maryland Ventures (UM Ventures) announced that Dr. Martha J. Connolly was named director of bioentrepreneurship, a new program supported by the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech) and the A. James Clark School of Engineering, designed to enhance collaboration between the University of Maryland, College Park (UMD) and the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) as part of the MPowering the State initiative.

"UM Ventures creates an integrated innovation ecosystem that includes entrepreneurial support resources," said James Hughes, Chief Economic Development Officer and Vice President at UMB. "Experts like Martha help turn novel ideas into sustainable businesses, and I'm pleased to have her as part of our enterprise." 

Connolly joins the UM Ventures team whose goal is to foster entrepreneurship among faculty and students. She will lead the first-ever course in entrepreneurship on the UMB campus starting this month. Students from the schools of medicine, nursing, pharmacy, law, social work, dentistry and the UMB graduate school are eligible. Connolly is also working closely with 16 teams of engineering students from College Park who are paired with UMB clinical faculty to define problems in healthcare, then developing products to improve patient health and clinical outcomes. Increasingly, students look at careers beyond the traditional academic research path and these courses will prepare them for careers in private industry.

"Martha Connolly is a highly regarded and proven professional in technology-based economic development in the state of Maryland," said University System of Maryland Chancellor William E. "Brit" Kirwan. "As one of the state's first biotechnology advocates, she helped lay the foundation for the state's now-thriving bioscience economy." 

Previously, Dr. Connolly served as director of the Maryland Industrial Partnerships (MIPS) program, a position she has held since 2003. MIPS is a grant program that funds and connects Maryland companies with University System of Maryland faculty to develop commercially promising technology products.

Connolly will continue to oversee Mtech's Biotechnology Research and Education Program (BREP), which supports the state's biotechnology industry by offering bioprocessing and biopharmaceutical facilities and services, as well as training and consulting for Maryland companies.

As head of MIPS, where nearly 40 percent of the funding is awarded to bioscience-related projects, Dr. Connolly connected faculty with companies such as MedImmune, CSA Medical, WellDoc, PharmAthene, GenVec, Innovative Biosensors, 20/20 Gene Systems, Alba Therapeutics, A&G Pharmaceutical and Gliknik to develop new products.

"Dr. Martha Connolly and the MIPS program were instrumental in developing and expanding my research program in collaboration with CSA Medical Inc.," said Dr. Bruce Greenwald, professor of medicine, division of gastroenterology and hepatology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. "Through MIPS funding, we completed two investigator-initiated trials using liquid nitrogen spray cryotherapy for the treatment of cancer and precancerous conditions in the esophagus. Having worked with Martha on these two projects, I can say she brings a strong vision for commercializing technology and extensive experience working with academicians and industry in realizing that vision. The university system is fortunate to have her in this position."

Charlene Quinn, associate professor in the University of Maryland School of Medicine, worked with Baltimore-based WellDoc through MIPS to evaluate the company's flagship product, DiabetesManager (now BlueStar), which helps doctors and patients with type 2 diabetes work together by providing for the capture, storage and real-time transmission of blood glucose data and other diabetes self-management information in a highly secure environment.

 "Dr. Connolly's support was critical in the successful development and implementation of our research program in mobile health at a time when this was a new space for scientific inquiry," said Dr. Quinn. "Her knowledge of opportunities in health technology and her business acumen led to several ongoing collaborations for our research."

Dr. Connolly's tenure at MIPS also included:

  • Nearly doubling the program's funding pre-recession, enabling almost twice as many companies to take advantage of faculty expertise to develop their products;
  • Defining and tracking metrics to evaluate the program, including:

    • MIPS-supported technologies generating $24.6 billion in cumulative sales over the past 25 years;
    • MIPS lifetime spending of $37.0 million over 26 years resulted in $884.2 million in additional grant, debt, equity, and venture capital funding into Maryland;
    • More than 5,600 jobs created; and
    • A return on the state's investment of 40:1 to tax coffers.

  • Leading development of the custom-built MIPStrack online application system;
  • Revamping the entire review system for MIPS projects, each of which entails three independent external technical reviewers, working pro bono, as well as economic reviewers;
  • Revising the intellectual property policy for MIPS projects to make the program more attractive for participating companies;
  • Overseeing additional Mtech outreach programs, including the Biotechnology Research and Education Program, and the University of Maryland Manufacturing Assistance Program;
  • Spearheading the commercialization plan for the University System of Maryland in 2007; and
  • Developing and teaching (for six years) a 400-level course titled Entrepreneurship in Chemical and Life Sciences. This spring, she will teach a new graduate-level entrepreneurship course at UMB, CIPP 980 Entrepreneurship in Life Sciences.

Dr. Connolly has served as a leader in the Maryland bioscience industry for more than 25 years. She was the first biotechnology advocate hired at the state level when she joined the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED) in 1997 to foster the state's fledgling bioscience industry.

During her time at DBED, Dr. Connolly helped grow the Maryland bioscience community from 300 to 450 businesses. She also put Maryland on the map in the international bioscience community as the place where the human genome was sequenced.

Dr. Connolly went on to direct business development activities at EntreMed Inc., a publicly traded biopharmaceutical company, and co-founded the startup technology development/commercialization firm Clairus Technologies Inc.

She was the first woman to graduate from The Johns Hopkins University's biomedical engineering doctoral program and was among the first class of co-eds at the Stevens Institute of Technology.

As a former faculty member and director of an independent research laboratory at the University of Maryland, Baltimore for 11 years, Dr. Connolly worked on funded research from both the National Institutes of Health and the American Lung Association in the area of cardiovascular systems physiology and bioengineering. She also authored 37 full-length, peer-reviewed publications in those areas.

 In 2007, the Daily Record named Dr. Connolly one of Maryland’s 50 Most Influential People. In 2010, she received the President’s Award from the Greater Baltimore Committee’s Bioscience Alliance. In 2013, she was elected a fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering.

"Dr. Connolly is experienced and talented. She is a go-getter," said Dr. Ginette Serrero, co-founder and CEO of A&G Pharmaceutical, a company that worked with Dr. Kate Tkaczuk, professor of medicine at the University of Maryland Medical Center, on a clinical study of the company's biomarker for breast cancer, called GP88. "She is the best person to connect the many dots that span both universities, the state and regional entrepreneurship ecosystems, and commercial landscape, whether it is for an idea born in an academic lab or a product developed by a company. This is what the University of Maryland needs."

January 8, 2014


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