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University Of Maryland To Lease, Then Build, New Montgomery County Campus

The North Bethesda Metro station

Montgomery County has reached an agreement with the University of Maryland to create a new biotech campus near the North Bethesda Metro station, fulfilling a longstanding desire by County Executive Marc Elrich to bolster the county's higher education system and talent pipeline to support economic growth. 

The new campus, named The University of Maryland 3 - Institute for Health Computing, would bring together leaders from the university system's College Park and Baltimore campuses to study healthcare innovations that utilize artificial intelligence and data from the university's health system.

"If we're going to grow this industry here, we need to do what Virginia does," Elrich said. "We need to weaponize this university system."

The memorandum of understanding signed between Elrich and university leaders Thursday would see the county invest $15M as soon as February to help the university get the institute started, and then $5M over the next five years to assist with leasing and other costs. The investments are pending approval from the county board.

The institute initially plans to lease approximately 20K to 25K SF of space, and eventually open a new building on a WMATA-owned parcel of land next to the Metro station with twice the space, according to a county official.

Elrich said the I-270 corridor in Montgomery County is the only one of the top life sciences centers in the country without a graduate-level research anchor. He said he recognized the need after Montgomery County lost out on Amazon HQ2 to Northern Virginia, and he has been looking for the right opportunity since.

"A lot of times [life sciences firms] are going outside the county to find the talent, it's not being trained here," Elrich said. "We know if we're going to grow our life sciences to step it up to make it more physically visible and more attractive, and in order for that to happen we need to bring in graduate-level research."

The University of Maryland has also stepped up its investment in biotech in recent years to take advantage of its proximity to Montgomery County and federal institutions like the National Institutes of Health.

The University of Maryland medical system has invested millions to modernize its data collection systems in recent years, and it recently received a $30M grant from the Department of Defense to study trauma surgery, said Mark Gladwin, dean of the school of medicine at University of Maryland, Baltimore.

"There will be a catalytic impact on the county," Gladwin said. "I see this becoming the East Coast Silicon Valley of health computing."

Elrich hasn't been shy about his desire to bring a research campus to the county. During a Bisnow webinar in August 2020, Elrich mentioned negotiations on a joint development agreement with WMATA for the area around the then-White Flint Metro station, which has since been renamed North Bethesda. 

At the time, he mentioned his desire to attract not just a university but a suite of businesses that can co-locate near talent. 

"We need a center in Montgomery County that is identifiable. It needs to be on top of a Metro station, it needs to be bigger than a building," Elrich said. 

With the agreement signed Thursday, those plans appear to be coming to fruition.