Business Relief Wizard for COVID-19 Assistance Launches in Partnership with Maryland Tech Council Coalition
The Maryland Tech Council (MTC) has rapidly responded to the urgent needs of the region and the organization’s 200 life science companies and 90 tech organizations in the midst of the coronavirus crisis.
COVID-19 initially knocked life science and tech companies on their collective heels, but Maryland has quickly come together to collaborate, pool resources and innovate in an effort to mitigate the economic impact of COVID-19 while also racing to develop testing, conduct critical research and develop new technologies that can end the crisis.
The MTC’s CEO Marty Rosendale and his team have played a big role in the state’s evolving response to the coronavirus pandemic. With a strong, robust regional network and deep technical expertise close at hand, the MTC went to work looking for ways to help. First, the MTC built an industry collaborative of life science companies and support organizations. And then the organization took early steps to collaborate with its members and other community leaders in the development of an online resource — The Maryland Business Relief Wizard — that could help companies better navigate the COVID-19 relief funding process through programs such as the Federal CARES Act.
In March, MTC organized and Rosendale led the Industry Collaboration conference call that brought together 34 executives from 20 Maryland companies to discuss how they could work together to fight COVID-19. This was the first meeting of its sort that has since grown to 30 Maryland companies, all working together to find a way forward through this crisis.
The industry collaboration to fight COVID-19 includes large corporations like Pfizer, U.S. Pharmacopoeia (USP) and Lockheed Martin, as well as midsize and smaller, emerging Maryland companies.
“When all this began I spent a lot of time talking to members and hearing about how they were going to pivot to address the COVID-19 challenge. It became clear to me that the desire to collaborate was there…but everyone was moving so fast that there wasn’t as much collaboration as there could be. There was this very strong intent to collaborate and we just needed to take that intent and put it into action,” stated Rosendale.
“We had a great first call. We wanted everyone to get to know everyone else. And then we talked about all the COVID-19 projects that were going on in the state and what they could offer in collaboration and what they needed. After that first call, we made more connections and reached out beyond the initial members to include more companies,” he added.
One of the first COVID-19 obstacles the MTC is helping Maryland companies overcome is access to coronavirus relief funding. The MTC Technology board was hearing from members that navigating the stimulus application process was extremely confusing and difficult. Board members and MTC partners stepped up and began working on an online solution to solve this pain point for Maryland companies seeking financial relief during these trying times.
And thus the Maryland Business Relief Wizard was born straight out of the MTC boardroom.
The online tool, designed through a collaborative effort and coded by Baltimore software company Mindgrub, launched on Wednesday April 8th with the help of many other partners, including BTS Software Solutions, the Howard County Office of Economic Development, the Howard County Chamber of Commerce, the Maryland Department of Commerce, the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, the law firm Offit Kurman and the accounting firm Katz Abosch. Even tech giant IBM was in the mix.
Remarkably, the wizard took only two weeks from concept to deployment due to the strident efforts of all involved. Rosendale stated that within two hours of the Maryland Business Relief Funding Wizard’s launch, about 300 users had engaged with the tool.
The Relief Wizard isn’t the only outcome to have been generated by MTC member efforts thus far.
Rosendale noted several initial success stories that emerged from the first Industry Collaboration meeting. Qiagen was looking for transportation solutions and the MTC was able to connect the company to Lockheed, who had offered the use of its fleet of jets. In addition, ATCC and USP, both of which offer standards in positive and negative diagnostics controls, are offering support to Maryland companies. On the tech side, the group connected the Naval Services Warfare Center, which had 100 3D printers and some idle manufacturing space, to other groups using 3D printing to build face shields for frontline healthcare workers. Smaller scale connections were also made, including Zalgen offering to share its lab space and equipment with an independent researcher seeking to bring a serology testing product to market.
“The MTC’s role in this is: Who can we connect? How do we connect collaborators that need products and services with the collaborators that have those products and services? The attitude of collaboration in the state has been off the charts and it has been so great and so good to be a part of the efforts of many executives who are willing to pivot their business to solve an international pandemic. It has been great to be a part of that,” stated Rosendale.
Rosendale cited a few trends that emerged from the Industry Collaboration’s ongoing dialog. He noted that the BioHealth Capital Region (BHCR) has a strong foundation for diagnostic testing, for example, including a host of CLIA certified labs, but a shortage of PCR reagents and test kits have been a big challenge to ramping up testing capacity.
On the therapeutics and vaccine development front, Rosendale highlighted that manufacturing capacity and the speed of distribution for any future FDA approved COVID-19 therapeutic and/or vaccine will be critical. That’s why companies are collaborating to build this manufacturing and distribution capacity. Recent partnerships like that between Novavax and Emergent Biosolutions are a prime example of this ongoing effort.
Rosendale and MTC are actively engaged in creating new partnerships and are planning the second Industry Collaboration meeting where the group will plan next steps in the battle against COVID-19.
The MTC’s mission is to support its members through education, advocacy, cost savings and networking. The creation of the COVID-19 industry collaboration, the rapid deployment of the Maryland Business Relief Wizard and other MTC initiatives like its “Coffee with a CEO”, Venture Mentoring Service (VMS) program and Rosendale’s free Capital M live video cast, make the MTC an integral part of the region’s fight against COVID-19 and a key cog in supporting the life science and tech business ecosystem.