- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 9, 2006

Maryland this week started a $500,000 fund for emerging biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. The program will make grants to support promising health care research.

The initiative “is helping our state be No. 1. Whether it is venture capital funds or per capita income, Maryland’s goal should always be becoming No. 1,” Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, said at a press conference Tuesday.

The cost of the program is being equally borne by health care products conglomerate Johnson & Johnson and Maryland’s Technology Development Corp. (TEDCO), a Columbia, Md.,ss technology group that was created by the General Assembly.

Hundreds of companies and researchers planning to start businesses in Maryland will likely be eligible for the funds, said TEDCO Chairman Frank Adams, adding there are no set requirements.

Johnson & Johnson is taking a “wait-and-see approach” on continuing to finance the program after its $250,000 investment is used, said Youseph Yazdi, corporate director for the company’s corporate office of science and technology.

TEDCO also plans to see how successful the program is before investing more to continue it, said interim Executive Director Renee Winksy.

New Brunswick-based Johnson & Johnson picked Maryland, instead of its home state, New Jersey, because of the available research in Maryland and the state government’s support for the biotechnology industry, Mr. Yazdi said.

Mr. Ehrlich last month proposed a $20 million fund for private companies and scientific institutions that do stem-cell research.

It’s the first private sector partnership for TEDCO, which has received bigger grants from several federal agencies.

Healthy cartoon debuts

Silver Spring health communications firm Danya International Inc. this week is pitching its first animated television series, which highlights healthy eating habits, to entertainment executives.

The company is trying to sell a planned 26-episode series to media companies, including the Walt Disney Co., Viacom Inc. subsidiary Nickelodeon and 4Kids Entertainment Inc., at the KidScreen Summit at a three-day conference in New York for the children’s entertainment industry.

The program, called “The Super Nutri-ventures of Jasper and Kiki,” follows the heroics of Jasper, known as NutriBoy, and his sister Kiki, known as NutriGirl. The two battle the villain, Larry “Lumpy” Dumpfelder, who uses greasy fast food and junky snacks to make the residents of Nutropolis lethargic and unhealthy.

“I think it’s going to be extremely interesting to see what happens,” said Danya International President, Chief Executive Officer and Executive Producer Jeff Hoffman. Cable networks that broadcast children’s shows have been pressured for the past few years to stop airing ads that promote junk food to children.

Danya International spent $400,000 to $500,000, which included a $125,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health, to produce a three-minute trailer, episode scripts and future plans for the show, Mr. Hoffman said.

Local club campaign

Sport & Health Clubs, a Vienna, Va., health club company, will offer free workouts and health screenings at its 26 clubs Wednesday as part of a healthy heart campaign.

Sport & Health, which roughly spent $5,000 on the campaign done with the American Heart Association, will hold the event from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Health Care runs Fridays. Call 202/636-4892 or e-mail mhiggins@washingtontimes.com.

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