5 Questions with Tammi Thomas, Vice President, Marketing & Communications at TEDCO

“5 Questions With……” is a weekly BioBuzz series where we reach out to interesting people in the BioHealth Capital Region to share a little about themselves, their work, and maybe something completely unrelated. This edition features 5 Questions with Tammi Thomas, Vice President, Marketing & Communications at TEDCO.

Tammi Thomas leads the development of TEDCO’s marketing and communications strategy while contributing to the strategic operations and vision of the organization. Her results-oriented approach, proven-track record of building lasting relationships, and driving core business objectives through targeted marketing strategies are instrumental as she stewards the organization through exciting growth to expand support for technology-based businesses that thrive in Maryland and beyond.

Tammi brings more than 25 years in marketing with senior-level experience developing strategy, managing partnerships, and facilitating initiatives and events in the technology, government, and higher education sectors. Before joining TEDCO, Tammi held the titles of Chief of Staff to the President and Director of University Relations and Marketing, both at Bowie State University, one of the oldest Historically Black Universities in Maryland. Bowie State is well-respected for its advancements in computing innovations. Her C-level experience in the high-tech industry also includes serving as the Vice President of Strategic Management for Data Solutions and Technology Inc., a full-service provider of technology solutions, and as the Director of Business Development and Marketing at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s Research Park and Business Incubator.

Tammi is a highly regarded expert in the industry and taught marketing and communications courses at Bowie State and the University of Baltimore as an adjunct professor. She is also a graduate of Leadership Maryland’s Class of 2018, completing the eight-month hands-on learning program focused on the State’s most vital social, economic and environmental issues.
Tammi earned a BS in Marketing from Alabama State University, and an MBA in International Marketing from University of Baltimore.

1. What was your first job/role in Business Development? Tell us about it. (How you ended up there. About the role and company)

My first job/role in business development began twenty years ago at UMBC’s Research Park and Business Incubator, now known as bwtech@UMBC Research & Technology Park, where I was the Director of Business Development and Marketing.  In this role, my primary responsibilities were to attract technology and biotechnology businesses to locate at UMBC, a Top Tier 1 research university, and to help the incubator companies with integrated marketing strategies. A few of my fondest UMBC memories include coordinating the research park’s groundbreaking ceremony, helping to attract and retain companies with tremendous synergy with UMBC, and assisting startups with limited budgets on marketing and business strategies.
With more than 40,000 square feet of wet lab space, UMBC’s business incubator is an incredible resource for life science startups. UMBC’s business incubator and research park are excellent examples of a powerful economic development vehicle, when combined with higher education, producing unimaginable possibilities for innovation and job creation. UMBC President Freeman Hrabowski always gives credit to his predecessor Michael Hooker for having the vision for the research park, and I’m eternally grateful to President Hrabowski for executing that vision into a tremendous, transformational asset for the university and the state of Maryland!

2. Tell us about your current role, your current employer, and how it connects to BioHealth and the BioHealth Capital Region.

I’ve had the opportunity to work at TEDCO for the past four years as Vice President for Marketing and Communications. TEDCO enhances economic development by fostering an inclusive and entrepreneurial innovation ecosystem. We identify, invest in, and help grow life science and technology companies in Maryland. A few examples of past TEDCO portfolio companies are: Harpoon Medical, Protenus, and AsclepiX Therapeutics.

During my tenure at TEDCO, I’ve led the development of TEDCO’s integrated marketing and communications strategy to contribute to the overall growth and mission of the organization. I’ve worked with many innovators, entrepreneurs, researchers, and scientists with the goal of supporting Maryland’s growing innovation ecosystem.

In close collaboration with TEDCO’s program managers, my mission is to drive TEDCO’s marketing and outreach strategy to reach more people throughout the state. And, I’m blessed to work with passionate people who believe in TEDCO’s mission, to include the following exceptional, well-respected colleagues who are thought leaders in life sciences and commercialization: Dr. Arti Santhanam, Dr. Dan Gincel, Dr. Amritha Jaishankar, and recently retired Dr. Linda Saffer.

In regards to the second part of your question, one of TEDCO’s largest connections to the Biohealth community is through it’s annual Entrepreneur Expo.  This award winning one-day event brings together more than 1,000 participants in the region to celebrate and grow Maryland’s vibrant entrepreneurial community.   TEDCO has broadened access to a comprehensive biohealth market database as a free service to biohealth entrepreneurs and provides funding through the Maryland Stem Cell Research Fund, the Maryland Innovation Initiative Fund and the Life Sciences Investment Fund.

3. What are the biggest business gaps you see in this region for both the business community and specifically in BioHealth?

First, I want to acknowledge so much of what makes Maryland a national leader in BioHealth. such as, we[1]:

  1. are 1st in federal obligations for research and development
  2. are 3rd in life sciences, testing and medical labs
  3. 10th in advanced industry employment
  4. have the biotechnology investment incentive tax credit
  5. have 74 federal laboratories
  6. home to NIH, FDA, USDA, and NIST
  7. have more than 2,300 life science companies
  8. are a leader in vaccine development and adult stem cell production

As mentioned by many, before COVID-19, Maryland must aggressively compete in the race for ‘first mover’ advantage in a wide array of transformative life sciences and cyber-related technologies.  Not only are these two of our state’s leading advanced industries, they also have the potential to generate substantial job growth. Since 1975, advanced industries’ average earnings have increased nearly five times as fast as those in the overall economy.[2]

The Metropolitan Policy Center at American University notes in its State and Local Policy Gap Analysis that the region lacks both economic coordination and a compelling unified brand.  The analysis documents that our region is rich in biohealth assets; with coordinated effort, those assets could be leveraged to an exponential degree.  According to the Central Maryland BioHealth Innovation Index; Maryland ranks 6th on a variety of factors that measure the performance of the biohealth industry sector.  While this is impressive and a testament to our biohealth community, there is room for improvement.  For example, Maryland ranks 2nd for the number of SBIR/STTR Funding; but 4th in NIH SBIR/STTR funding and 6th in NIH SBIR/STTR funding per 10,000 residents.  Legislation enacted in 2020, created a program within TEDCO to provide technical assistance to SBIR/STTR applicants will greatly improve those rankings. [3]

4. What are your thoughts on how the business community has reacted to the COVID-19 Pandemics?

I think it’s incredible to see how everyone has seamlessly come together to support one another during this pandemic. It’s certainly posed some new challenges and new uncertainties for us all, but we’ve seen many innovative ways each organization has found to not only stay connected to our entrepreneurs, but to also support them. We’ve been able to see just how strong and resilient Maryland’s innovation ecosystem truly is.

Some examples that standout to me are:

  • Maryland companies stepping up to the challenge, such as:
    • ClearMask – became FDA-approved and raised funding to increase its facemask production
    • Gemstone Biotherapeutics – supported another TEDCO portfolio company, GMP guidance as they switched from a pure materials science company to manufacture N95 filters
    • eMocha Mobile Health – implemented a remote monitoring and engagement system at Baltimore-area hospitals affiliated with JHU and LifeBridge Health.
  • Maryland Department of Commerce – keeping businesses informed about new funding, programs, and support during the pandemic
  • Maryland Tech Council’s Maryland Business Relief Wizard – a tool to connect businesses with the resources and programming they’re eligible for.
  • BioBuzz – brings together the BHCR by keeping the community up-to-date on new biohealth innovations everyday
  • Open Works Baltimore – used their resources to create PPE for local hospitals
  • Maryland Small Business Development Centers – provide invaluable assistance to small business and have been working overtime during this pandemic
  • Economic development organizations created various funds to support businesses struggling through the pandemic.
  • Many organizations moved their events online to encourage more community networking opportunities.
TEDCO - Leading Innovation to Market

5. If you could have any superpower (Flight, Super Strength, Telepathy), what would you choose AND how would you use it?

  If I had been asked this question a while ago, I would certainly provide a different answer.  However, today I would choose the power to ensue empathy throughout the land.  It’s the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. This is incredibly important in any workplace environment and helps us to manage relationships and conflict. However, it’s become even more important as businesses compete to better understand the needs of their clients. In marketing especially, I strive to build connections with our entrepreneurs, and present a sense of understanding and reliability when discussing their new endeavors. In leadership, I look to inspire others, and create a safe environment to mess up, because it’ll allow the team to grow beyond that and create something even more meaningful. Empathetic leaders can certainly enhance the company’s culture and climate, but they can also use this trait to power the business and provide a strong, positive voice in the community.

[1] Sources: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis for per capita income; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; Maryland Department of Commerce

[2] Brookings Institution, America’s Advanced Industries: What Are They, And Why They Matter[3] https://www.biohealthcapital.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/BioHealth-Innovation-Index.pdf

Thank you to Tammi Thomas for participating in the ‘5 Questions with BioBuzz’ series and stay tuned for more interviews with others from across the BioHealth Capital Region and beyond.

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Andy Eckert

Andy has worked with BioBuzz for the last decade to help spread the word of the BioHealth Capital Region even before it was branded with that name. His background includes years at MedImmune supporting the Commercial Operations Organization before becoming a BioHealth Nomad working with various clients in Operations, Communications and Strategic Services.

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