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Fulton Bank, an Important Growth Engine for Regional Life Sciences Companies

In 2019, Fulton Bank launched a new division aimed at supporting life sciences companies that many financial institutions shied away from historically—young, emerging bioscience and tech companies that offer high risk, high reward investment profiles.

This smart, calculated risk has paid off for Fulton Bank and its growing cadre of life sciences and technology companies that have partnered with the bank’s nascent yet highly successful Life Sciences & Technology Group.

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Back in 2019, when Fulton Bank was just forming this new division, Fulton Bank executive Joe Durham knew he needed an experienced executive with deep knowledge of the regional life sciences and tech sector to execute a new financial model targeting pre-revenue, emerging organizations in this space. He knew Bret Schreiber from his role as Senior Director, Office of BioHealth and Life Sciences, with the Maryland Department of Commerce, and hired him to lead the bank’s newest division at the time. 

The Division has rapidly expanded its portfolio of promising tech and life sciences companies in the region. As of early 2022, the division had partnered with approximately 140 companies in this sector. 

Fulton Bank and its Life Sciences & Technology Division has taken a true ecosystem approach to banking that is breathing even more life into the startup life science and technology industries across the region. This approach is not only supporting the founders and early-stage companies that need their services, but it also helps the organizations like Abell Foundation, Baltimore Development Corporation, Johns Hopkins, the University System of Maryland, Montgomery County Development Corporation, and the State to better achieve their missions and grow the ecosystem as a whole.

The new division has been a boon not only to Fulton Bank, but also to its partner companies and the region’s biocluster as a whole, feeding the pipeline of bioscience and tech companies that are the lifeblood of a thriving Maryland, DC, Delaware and Virginia biohub. 

Below is a sampling of promising life sciences companies that have partnered with Fulton Bank and that are emblematic of the health and vibrancy of the BioHealth Capital Region (BHCR).

CarrTech, Frederick, Maryland

The traditional two-needle approach to filtering injectable glass ampoule-based medications is unsafe to health care providers and patients. The process is also time-consuming and costly. 

Glass shards left in injected medications and accidental needle sticks suffered by healthcare professionals are hazards caused by this traditional approach to rendering medications. A single needle stick injury can cost between $500 and $4,000 per stick, causing U.S. hospitals an estimated $5B every year in associated losses. 

Frederick, Maryland’s CarrTech, LLC is seeking to solve these problems by revolutionizing medication preparation. CarrTech, a recent cohort member of the Frederick Innovative Technology Center’s (FITCI) The EDGE Program, was founded by 30-year hospital and retail pharmacy veteran Sue Carr in 2012. 

After seeing the traditional two-needle filtering approach cause problems firsthand, Carr developed The FROG™, an acronym for “Filter Removal of Glass.” It is the only all-in-one package filter and hypodermic needle combination. The FROG is safer, easier, quicker, and greener than the traditional two-needle approach. 

CarrTech’s growth and brand awareness has been accelerating in recent years, including being named the Maryland Tech Council’s Emerging Life Sciences Company of the Year in 2021. Fulton Bank has been a contributor to Carrtech’s success and a great partner to Carr, the company’s CEO.

“Fulton Bank has supported CarrTech and its mission by providing a dedicated personal banker along with a generous credit line available at our disposal. Fulton continues to offer more services and support as CarrTech continues to grow,” shared Carr. 

Early Charm Ventures, Baltimore, Maryland 

One of Fulton’s first customers in the Life Science and Technology space was Early Charm Ventures, a venture studio that teams with entrepreneurial-minded faculty to turn their scientific discoveries into businesses. The venture group builds companies that create sustainable value; they take a hands-on approach, actively managing all aspects of the businesses they invest in. Early Charm has a robust and growing portfolio of about 37 companies across drug design, custom materials, the blue economy, and engineered products. 

SilcsBio and Rasio Therapeutics are two of the life sciences companies that Fulton Bank has helped support through its partnership with Early Charm Ventures.

“I didn’t believe that a traditional bank would ever take on loans to ‘early’ stage life science and technology companies. I’m happy that Fulton proved me wrong,” shared Early Charm’s Managing Director and SilcsBio’s CEO, Ken Malone

“Fulton’s been terrific to work with. They extended Early Charm a line of credit at a critical time enabling us to maintain maximum growth while we closed on new investment. Their financing enabled us to keep expanding at full speed, enabling us to grow our recurring business to the point that it covered our expansion burn,” added Malone.

Alphyn Biologics, Cincinnati, Ohio, and Annapolis, Maryland (multiple global locations)

Another company that Fulton Bank has supported is Alphyn Biologics, Inc., a life science company creating a new class of drugs, Multi-Target Therapeutics™, for more powerful and effective therapies. The company’s mission “…is to improve people’s lives by curing skin diseases that are the most difficult, severe and prevalent and its vision is “…is to become the leading company treating Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema).”

Alphyn has locations in Annapolis, Maryland and Cincinnati, Ohio in the U.S. but has a global presence with offices in Adelaide, South Australia and Vienna, Austria.  

According to the company’s website, “…leveraging its unique, patent-pending AB-101 platform biomaterial to develop improved therapies for diseases, in particular for those with poor or no treatment options.  Alphyn’s AB-101 has over 40 bio-active compounds to target and cure diseases.  AB-101, as a result of its many bioactive compounds, targets multiple diseases, and has multiple ways to attack each disease providing Alphyn a rich and deep product pipeline. AB-101’s first product, EC1 to treat Atopic Dermatitis, solves one of the largest medical challenges to humankind—Atopic Dermatitis, including drug resistant infections. EC1 is actively moving to the Phase 2 clinical trial.”

With an experienced, deep management team and a promising platform that could address major unmet medical needs, Alphyn Biologics was a strong march for Fulton Bank’s life sciences investment strategy. 

To learn more about the company, check out Alyphn’s CEO and Chairman Neal Koller’s interview on the Maryland Tech Council’s Capital M podcast

The LaunchPort, Baltimore, Maryland

Unique business development programs like The Launchport™ provide critical resources to early-stage life science companies striving to make that next leap forward. The Launchport, which is located at the City Garage in Baltimore, Maryland’s Port Covington area, is a Medical Device Venture Center and ISO-13485 Contract Manufacturing operation that gives medtech start-ups and emerging technology developers the ability to co-locate at an experienced, regulated manufacturing center. The nationally unique model operates as a “pilot plant” for medtech companies that have emerged from incubation and are beginning their foray into clinical adoption and commercial deployment. LaunchPort, LLC operates in four business areas, Ventures, Manufacturing, Service & Supply Chain, and Consulting/Programs.

The Launchport is led by life science industry veteran Bob Storey, who formed the venture with his partners in late 2017 and serves as the program’s Managing Partner. Launchport focuses on helping early-stage medtech device companies make the jump from incubator graduation to product development, manufacturing, and beyond. 

“I believe Launchport was the first life sciences client that Fulton had. So we are Customer #1. Bret and I worked on projects together via the Life Sciences Advisory Board when he was at Commerce, and when he decided to go to Fulton to help build that practice, he approached us to pilot some of their new lending processes.  We were doing our banking with Bank of America through our other LLC’s, but were embarking on some site improvements, so Fulton put together some creative payment-deferred convertible lines that we used for that expansion,” stated Storey.

“We shared our thoughts on the unique challenges of start-ups in this space…and Fulton streamlined the decision-making process in dealing with early-stage companies, and subsequently, that familiarity with those needs has made them more nimble and responsive in dealing with these types of companies,” he added.

Ellume USA, Frederick, Maryland and other Global Locations

Ellume is a digital diagnostics company that develops, manufactures, and commercializes high-performance, connected products for healthcare professionals and consumers. Ellume USA just recently opened a state-of-the-art facility in the heart of the Frederick, Maryland life sciences community. The company, which is headquartered in Australia, chose Frederick and Maryland as the right place to expand its diagnostic manufacturing footprint. The company’s 215,000 square foot facility with the capacity to produce 15M at-home COVID-19 tests per month is just the latest example of the growing life sciences hub in Frederick County, Maryland. 

Ellume’s rapid antigen at-home COVID-19 test was the first over-the-counter test of its kind to receive a EUA from the FDA.

Maryland Development Center Studio, Baltimore, Maryland

The Maryland Development Center (MDC) Studio is another important organization critical to the health and growth of Baltimore’s burgeoning medtech sector. The MDC Studio works with and provides support and resources to med device inventors seeking to commercialize products. The MDC Studio helps inventors and med device company founders take their ideas from concept to prototypes that can be showcased to investors and possible customers. Through design and engineering, they translate ideas into working prototypes that can be demonstrated to potential customers and investors. The MDC Studio team helps build a company infrastructure around the investor/founder and their technology. 

NextStep Robotics, Baltimore, Maryland

NextStep Robotics (NextStep), which was founded in 2017, is a therapeutic and robotics device company. The company’s lead product, AMBLE, is a portable ankle robotics technology that helps eliminate foot drop symptoms and can augment the physical therapy process. Foot drop is a painful disability caused by neurological or muscular injury that impacts millions of people. AMBLE is a first-of-its-kind device that is supported by leading-edge software.

The AMBLE technology was licensed out of The University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB). The company has deep Maryland and Baltimore-area roots: CEO, Brad Hennessie, is a graduate of Towson University and the University of Maryland Global Campus and NextStep Robotics just recently announced that it will be occupying 3,600 feet of manufacturing and biometrics lab space at the UM BioPark.

NextStep has more than tripled in size since its inception The next step for AMBLE is a clinical trial for use as a stroke rehabilitation device.

Noble Life Sciences, Woodbine, Maryland

Noble Life Sciences is a preclinical contract research organization (CRO)  owned and operated by scientists with decades of experience in drug, vaccine, and medical device development. In addition to offering GLP and non-GLP services including in-vivo and in-vitro specialized models, Noble’s team of scientists implement effective and efficient approaches to help guide your research and development programs.

Novel Microdevices, Baltimore, Maryland

Novel Microdevices is a woman-owned, woman-led point-of-care infectious disease diagnostics company located within The Launchport accelerator. Novel Microdevices is commercializing Novel Dx, a proprietary and best-in-class Point-of-Care (POC) rapid molecular diagnostics system that is ultra-portable and can be produced for a wide range of high-volume molecular diagnostic assay applications.  The company is focusing on women’s health and under-resourced populations in the $31 billion infectious diseases diagnostics market with tests in development for multiple respiratory and sexually transmitted infections.