A Genetic Map: Biotechs Flock to Rockville
By Julia Boorstin

(FORTUNE Magazine) – In the past few years Rockville, Md., a quiet suburb of Washington, D.C., has become one of the biggest hubs of biotech research, especially in the cutting-edge field of genomics. Why Rockville? The National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, and Johns Hopkins--the top-rated medical school for the past ten years--are short drives away, which ensures a steady supply of scientists. Also, Montgomery County provides tax breaks for biotech companies and has created the Shady Grove Life Sciences Park, a 300-acre area zoned for biotech, research, and medical offices. Grandfather of genomics Craig Venter--the CEO of Celera and founder of two other major biotech outfits--has one more theory. Proximity to the Chesapeake allows for a quick sail at lunch.

THE GENOMICS FUND 555 Quince Orchard Road, Gaithersburg The Genomics Fund is the only mutual fund specializing in genomics companies; it has about 22 stocks in its portfolio. Since its launch last March, the fund is down 2%, vs. a 29% dip in the Nasdaq.

HUMAN GENOME SCIENCES 9410 Key West Avenue, Rockville Human Genome Sciences has two products that are close to FDA approval. One grows skin to repair wounds; another shields healthy cells during chemotherapy.

MEDIMMUNE 35 West Watkins Mill Road, Gaithersburg MedImmune has six drugs on the market, including ones to fight cancer and AIDS. A vaccine for strep and pneumonia is in the final stages of development.

CELERA 45 West Gude Drive, Rockville Celera is the first company to map the human genome. CEO Venter developed technology capable of decoding a single gene in about 15 seconds; that same process used to take ten years.

GENE LOGIC 708 Quince Orchard Road, Gaithersburg Gene Logic makes 3-D computer models, so that scientists performing gene research can study a graphic image rather than a jumbled sequence of chemical codes.

THE FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION 5600 Fishers Lane, Rockville With the FDA nearby, companies can easily monitor the drug-approval process. The agency also has divisions that guide firms through the early stages of drug development.

THE INSTITUTE OF GENOMIC RESEARCH 9712 Medical Center Drive, Rockville After a feud with NIH, the Institute of Genomic Research severed its ties to the agency in 1997. TIGR performs research and serves as a clearinghouse for genomics information--its database is available to other companies in the field.

FBR EMERGING TECHNOLOGY PARTNERS 6701 Democracy Boulevard, Bethesda Launched this spring, FBR is the first local genomics VC fund. Backed by the Arlington, Va., bank Friedman Billings Ramsey, the fund raised $40 million and has already invested in three startups, with plans to back six more.

THE NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH 9000 Rockville Pike, Bethesda The NIH is home to 17,000 scientists and about 3,000 postdoctoral researchers, most of whom move on to private-sector jobs. Venter got his start here.