Meet Your 2020 BioBuzz Award Winners

Today, we are excited to announce the winners of our inaugural BioBuzz Awards. The BioBuzz Awards are a celebration of the exciting and groundbreaking work being done by the BioHealth Capital Region (BHCR) life science community and the individuals that make innovation happen across Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

The award categories include:

Nearly 2,000 of you voted to determine the winners of this first annual awards program and it was amazing to see the outpouring of support for the finalists across social media. Your engagement in the awards not only gave recognition to these great companies and people, but it raised the visibility for the Biohealth Capital Region as a whole, showing just how strong this biotech community is.

Congrats to all our winners this year, as well as those that were finalists and nominees. We look forward to the 2021 BioBuzz Awards and are excited to see what’s on the horizon for the BHCR.

Without further adieu, the first annual BioBuzz Award winners are…

Community Impact Leader Award

Award Winner: Judy Costello, Managing Director, Economic Development, BioHealth Innovation, Inc.

Award Sponsor: TEDCO

This award honors a leader in the region who has gone above and beyond their responsibilities to make an impact on the community through intentional collaborations and meaningful contributions of their time, energy, expertise, and mentorship. This person is a servant leader who sees beyond the balance sheet and strives to create a rising tide for all across the BHCR so that we can collectively make a greater impact on public health and patients around the world.

About Judy Costello

Judy Costello is a longtime supporter of the region’s entrepreneur and start-up communities, having previously served as Director of the Maryland Department of Commerce’s Office of BioHealth and Life Sciences for many years. She is also the Vice President of the Maryland Business Innovation Association (MBIA). 

We don’t know how she does it, but Costello is a ubiquitous presence at biotech or entrepreneurial events that take place across the region, earning her the BioBuzz nickname, the “Mayor of the BHCR.” She is a servant leader for the region and a dedicated connector. At BHI, she supports biotech industry growth through initiatives focused on expanding capital, talent, commercialization assistance, and other resources to companies, connecting innovators with resources, and promoting the industry cluster.


The John Holaday BioHealth Leadership Award

Award Winner: Marco Chacon, Ph.D.

Award Sponsor: MaxCyte

In honor of the late John Holaday, Ph.D., renowned scientist, CEO, philanthropist, mentor, and community leader, this award recognizes a regional Biohealth leader who embodies Holaday’s personal credo—“do well by doing good”— and exemplifies a similar unwavering devotion to excellence. Nominees were servant leaders who are carrying on John’s legacy and live each day with a passionate pursuit of excellence and innovation in their own work to make a difference in the lives of others. As CEO and Founder EntreMed and MaxCyte, Holaday had an important role in building the foundation for the Biohealth industry that exists today, and we are honoring that legacy through this award.

About Marco Chacon

Marco Chacón, Ph.D., is an accomplished biotech industry and community leader who came to the United States in 1967 as a 17-year-old foreign exchange student from Costa Rica and put himself through school by performing more than 2,500 autopsies for a group of pathologists. Chacon and his wife started Paragon Bioservices in 1990. Nearly 30 years later, Dr. Chacon had grown one of the most successful biotech companies in the region before it was acquired in 2019 for $1.2 billion to become Catalent Biologics. Dr. Chacón now serves as the Chairman of the Board for The Discovery Labs and The Center for Breakthrough Medicines and the Founder & President of IRAZÚ Bio-Holdings LLC.

Education, mentorship, loyalty, and service have been cornerstones of Dr. Chacon’s leadership principles throughout his career. He is an inspirational leader and visionary who has always led by example and believed that the possibilities for success in the United States are the best in the world —if one is willing to work hard and be persistent. Another of the core principles that helped him build Paragon is that no man or company is an island. 

After their successful Paragon exit, the Chacóns sought to give back. They founded the Alicia and Yaya Foundation, which supports science, education, children, and the less fortunate through programs such as the Alicia and Yaya Global Fellowship Program to enhance global learning experiences, support innovation in global health, and foster relations between UMB and institutions in Costa Rica. The foundation also supported the Graduate School Student Emergency Fund, the final phase of construction of UMB’s new Community Engagement Center, and a new cohort of UMB CURE Scholars from sixth grade to high school graduation and beyond.


BioBuzz Media Award

Award Winner: BioTalk Podcast

Award Sponsor: McBee Moore and Vanik IP, LLC

This award honors a media campaign that most aligns with the BioBuzz mission—‘to create exceptional experiences that better connect people and employers and foster a stronger regional ecosystem.’ At its core, this award recognizes the media campaigns or platforms that have successfully engaged, informed, and connected people while reflecting favorably on the BHCR. Eligible nominations included social media, podcasts, video series, blog series, event or webinar series, and other advertising, marketing, and public relations campaigns. Nominees were selected based on the strategic approach, quality, and results achieved.

About BioTalk

The BioTalk Podcast, launched in 2017, is hosted by BioHealth Innovation (BHI) President & CEO Rich Bendis and produced by Andy Eckert. It is the first and only podcast that is focused on the BHCR and it puts a spotlight on the people, companies, and initiatives happening across the BHCR to raise awareness locally and showcase to the world why this is one of the top regional biotech clusters in the U.S. The podcast has recorded over 70 episodes featuring local executives and industry leaders as guests, including BHCR Forum and Investment Conference participants. Prominent guests include Sally Mossman, VP, Vaccines R&D, and Head Discovery Performance Unit at GSK, Emergent BioSolutions President and CEO, Bob Kramer, and MaxCyte Founder, President, and CEO Doug Doerfler.  

Bendis, who is an entrepreneur, corporate executive, venture capitalist, investment banker, innovation and technology-based economic development leader, international speaker, and consultant in the technology and BioHealth industries, dives deep with his guests to explore industry trends and BHCR hot and relevant topics.


Workforce Program of the Year

Award Winner: Translational Life Science Technology Program (UMBC / USG & MC)

Award Sponsor: Frederick County/City Economic Development

This award recognizes the program or organization that has made a measurable contribution to enhancing the biotech workforce within the region. Talent is the single most important, and limiting, variable to the success of a company and of a regional economy. Nominees were recognized for their outstanding contributions and innovative approach to attracting, training, or growing the biotech workforce within the region.

About TSLT

To meet the growing demand for skilled life sciences workers in Maryland with real industry experience, UMBC partnered with USG and MC to offer the TLST program. The TLST track leads to a bachelor of science degree from UMBC. Led by Dr. Annica Wayman, Associate Dean for Shady Grove Affairs, the program combines the theory of a traditional life science degree with hands-on, real-world applications of the process for translating scientific discoveries into life-saving solutions. Students in the program develop an understanding of such specialties as cell biology, lab instrumentation, bioinformatics, biostatistics, epidemiology, biochemical engineering and applying that knowledge to the design and development of diagnostics, therapeutics, vaccines, and other biotechnology products. Since real-world experience is stressed in the program, the program has been doing a great job ensuring that students also gain access to valuable internships at local biotech companies.


COVID-19 Impact Award

Winner: Emergent Biosolutions

Award Sponsor: Roberts Oxygen

This has been a year like no other. Society has been completely turned upside down and our lives have been forever changed. This award honors those life science companies who have responded to develop a product, project, or release this year that has, or is expected to, ease the effects of COVID-19. Nominees were considered based on the impact they have or will have on COVID-19 and our public health.

About Emergent

Emergent BioSolutions CAIDM Facility in Baltimore, MD was originally built with a contract with BARDA to rapidly develop and manufacture vaccines in case of a pandemic.  This year, that facility and the Emergent team was called into action. Since the pandemic hit, Emergent has received $628.3M in DHHS/BARDA government contracts related to COVID-19 under “Operation Warp Speed” (OWS).  The funding is for rapidly developing and scaling the production of COVID-19 vaccine candidates. Emergent has five COVID-19 Partnerships, including JNJ and Novavax, to rapidly-produce millions of vaccine doses so they are an integral partner in the OWS effort.

“One of the quotes you regularly hear from the Operation Warp Speed folks is that ‘all roads lead through Bayview’,” states Mike Mauer, Senior Director, Manufacturing. “There’s a lot of pressure, but also a lot of excitement. It’s been awesome and wildly challenging. We’re on the tip of the spear.” 

“This effort requires a lot of capability and infrastructure, but it’s nothing without our people and onboarding new talent” stated Syed T. Husain, Senior Vice President and Head of CDMO.  In order to meet these unprecedented demands, Emergent needed to hire around 300 new employees by the end of 2020 and prepare to transform the operation into a 24/7 production facility in 2021. 

Thanks to the dedication of their many employees, Emergent is on track to hit these goals and continue to play an integral role in COVID-19 Vaccine development and production.


Breakthrough Company of the Year

Award Winner: American Gene Technologies

Award Sponsor: CRB

This award recognizes the entrepreneurs and startup companies that have achieved strong commercialization momentum behind their innovative technology. Startups fuel the innovation engine in the region and reflect the future growth of any ecosystem. Nominees were selected from companies that showed the most promise, the most momentum, and the most commitment to bringing their technology to the patients who need them.

About American Gene Technologies

HIV/AIDs was once a worldwide epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s. It is now largely manageable but still a grave public health concern around the world. Approximately 1.1 million people in the U.S. live with HIV today and are relying on costly medicines that often require daily treatments with adverse side effects that degrade their quality of life.  

For the past twelve years, American Gene Technologies (AGT), which is led by Founder and CEO Jeff Galvin, has been pursuing its gene therapy technology that could one day soon produce a functional cure for HIV. This year was a breakthrough year for that pursuit: In August 2020, the FDA Approved AGT to move forward with the Phase 1 Clinical Trial of their HIV Cure Program. In October 2019, AGT submitted the IND for its HIV Cure Program to the FDA with great excitement from employees and the HIV patient community. 

“Based on our successful commercial-scale product manufacturing runs and features of the product observed in our laboratories, this therapy has a high potential to be effective. I feel confident that AGT103-T will make an important difference in the lives of HIV infected persons,” said Galvin. 

Peer-Reviewed pre-clinical data presented by AGT and NIAID this summer also validates the high potential for their HIV Functional Cure and has many in the industry feeling optimistic about the clinical program.  On the heels of these milestones, AGT also moved its HQ to a brand new 27,000 SF facility in Rockville across from the NCI that will support AGT’s HIV Cure and immuno-oncology lead programs while also providing greater capacity for additional product development. 


Life Science Employer of the Year 

Award Winner: Emergent Biosolutions

Award Sponsor: Maryland Department of Commerce

This award honors the life science employers that are the foundation of a vibrant biotech cluster.  Being a great employer is about building an exceptional workforce, developing an employee-centric culture that keeps employees engaged and empowers them to be ambassadors for your company, as well as fostering a more inclusive and resilient workforce. It’s also about the ability to attract top talent and achieve your needed growth without compromising these elements. Nominees in this category reflected these essential elements and have a talent brand that reflects their vibrant culture of innovation.

About Emergent

Emergent Biosolutions is a global biopharmaceutical company, Maryland’s leading vaccine manufacturer, and one of the key life science anchor organizations of the BCHR. They operate five facilities across Maryland, with more than 800 employees working towards a common goal. Emergent has built a culture that values each employee’s diversity and contributions to achieving its mission to protect and enhance life. 

Their vision of protecting one billion lives by 2030 is one that every employee takes to heart, especially today with their pivotal role in Operation Warp Speed (OWS) that includes five COVID-19 vaccine partnership programs. Emergent sought out to hire nearly 300 new employees in 2020 to meet their OWS goals. They were uncompromising in upholding a good candidate experience and hiring the ‘right’ employees aligned with their culture.  This was evident in the many virtual recruiting events they hosted where their culture and mission were always out front in the discussion.  Emergent leaders make it very clear just how much they value their employees, an element that is woven throughout their culture and much of their communications. If you follow them on social media, you’ll see how many employees are online sharing their love for working at Emergent.

The company offers employees formal programs to support continued learning through on-the-job assignments, training programs, tuition assistance, professional memberships, and professional conference attendance so that they can continue to grow their skills and careers at Emergent. Additionally, community volunteering is a bedrock of their culture, which they formalized in their eGIVE program, which stands for Give, Invest, and Volunteer in our Emergent communities.  

Amanda Ilioff, Supervisor, Manufacturing, shared a sentiment that captures what type of employer Emergent is; “We’re growing everyday and welcoming people from all different backgrounds. We’re moving at Warp Speed, and we’re looking for people to add to our community and family.”


2020 BioBuzz Awards Wrap-up

We had just shy of 2,000 individuals across the region share their support for finalists by casting their vote.

Thank you to all who supported our inaugural effort and again for being such a valuable member of the BioBuzz community and the BioHealth Capital Region. 

Here’s to our continued success!

If you’d like to watch the full version with all winners, enjoy…

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