Personal trainers, personal assistants, personal chefs, what’s next? Personalized medicine, Steve Mandell, engineer, entrepreneur, businessman, lawyer and Chairman of the BIO IT Coalition, tells us. Steve’s a lawyer at Pepper Hamilton in DC, which came together in 2001 with George Mason, the University of Maryland, INOVA, and the Fairfax and Arlington county economic development agencies, among others, to position the DC region front and center in the genetics revolution—and more broadly at the intersection of technology, bio, and business.
Mandell is the host of a radio interview show about the future of business. “When we started it 11 years ago, my producer wife said we’d go through our material in 3 months. Approximately 600 shows later, we’re still going strong, thanks to her."
“As we look to the future, we are going to see more and more personalized medicine, as well as cancer, diabetes and heart disease under tremendous control,” Mandell says. “These advances are being brought about by the Bio IT revolution.” The object of the Coalition is to marshal resources to improve health and predict disease. “People come together to learn about the latest developments, to network and find strategic partners to help build the industry here.” The Coalition’s next annual meeting in April ’08 will discuss the state of health care and medical technology in 2028.
Chairman of the Coalition from the beginning, Mandell was trained as an engineer and started as an entrepreneur at age 19. “In 1966 when Medicare began, many doctors were sole practitioners whose spouses did their billing. The new system created questions about how to do their bills to meet Medicare requirements.” So Steve built a billing service for doctors right out of his home.
Steve in his law library. Already armed with an MBA, he went to SMU law school in the 70s while working at Xerox and becoming a father. He went on to found The Mandell Law Firm in Tysons Corner, which merged with Pepper Hamilton in 2000.
“Biotech is a slow discipline to grow to create critical mass, but it’s a natural and practical one for NoVA and the entire region,” says Mandell. CNBC and Forbes.com both ranked Virginia as the “Top State for Business,” and Mandell recognizes that along with institutions like Bethesda’s NIH and Loudoun’s Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and their spin-offs and the intellectual property they produce, the region is also home to the “growing bio-defense and bio-science campus at GMU, which houses world class scientists doing educational work and for-profit spin-offs.”
Mandell mentions the incredible work being done there by world-class scientists Lance Liotta and Chip Petricoin. Together those scientists formed the Center for Applied Proteomics and Molecular Medicine. The center is focused on bringing personalized medicine to the fore - medicine at the right time, in the right place, for the right person. “This is a major event for the entire Baltimore-Washington region. We have it first—right here.”
Mandell in his office flanked by family pictures. “One of my law professors was peeved at me when I wanted to take a week off to bond with our new baby.” That new baby is now a screenwriter.
Bio IT may not be moving with the crash, boom, bang of the dot-commers, but the pace is anything but glacial. In the near future Mandell believes we are going to see some major hits with the commercial progeny of schools like GMU, UMD and UVA. Theranostics Inc. is a spin-off that uses the science developed by Petricoin and Liotta. PluroGEN Theraputics is a company out of UVA focusing on burn and wound care. “They have successfully treated 2000 burn victims in the UVA hospital and are about to enter phase three of their clinical trials.”
Bio IT is certainly not new to the region, but it was not until 2001, as dot-com fever faded, that people really began looking for a new information technology idea to embrace and build upon. “It began with bioinformatics, thought to be the replacement for high tech people who were not bio scientists and who hoped to build businesses and create a biotech explosion in the northern Virginia area to match the 270 corridor’s already strong foothold.” But Mandell stresses that Bio IT is not an industry but a discipline and “not the stuff that stand-alone businesses can be made of.”
“Since the investment of money and time to market for a biotech product is vastly different from the typical dot-com product, I see this as a big part of the future in this region. But it won’t happen overnight and it won’t be a wave, cresting and breaking, like the dot-com era. It will be a massive storm.” Get out your umbrellas.