MARYLAND

Montgomery County biotech incentive: Additional investments help biotech research, success

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An incentive in Montgomery County is helping to boost the appeal of the area's biotech industry.

The program — the first of its kind in the country — offers money to investors on top of state tax credits,  which helps local companies to become more successful.

Companies like Montgomery County-based Sequella, which researches and promotes treatments for infectious diseases, have made great progress thanks to additional investments from the incentive.

"Last year we raised $2.4 million through the tax credit program, and that allowed us to do a phase II trial on H. pylori, which causes ulcers," said Marty Zug, Sequella's chief financial officer.

"The magic of this program is that it's an investor-driven program, it's a market-driven program — the investors choose the winners and losers," Zug said.

The state has a separate tax credit program, and Montgomery County received the total number of biotech investments at the county level. That information was used to divide the $500,000 approved by county leaders for use in fiscal year 2012. Another $500,000 will be available in 2013. All the supplemental payments will go to investors.

"It's like two for one because they get the state tax credit, which is literally a credit against their taxes, but to get ours up and running faster, we just said we'll take it ... based on the total percentage of the base and give them a supplemental check," said Kristina Ellis of the Montgomery County Department of Economic Development.

The additional support has led to $6 million of investments to 10 local companies.

Montgomery County is appealing to start-up biotech companies because of its proximity to some of the major science and health institutes.

"You have the FDA, you have the National Institutes of Health, in addition to having world-class institutions like Hopkins and the University of Maryland," said Zug.

This extra perk Montgomery County is helping Sequella and companies like it to move forward in both research and business.

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