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Exteriors of Biotech Greatness,
Firstfield Road,
Gaithersburg, Maryland 20878
Jim Worthey, 2008 May 19

Near my house in Gaithersburg is the building on Firstfield Road where MedImmune Corporation began as a small startup. After about 20 years in business and about 10 years of profitability, MedImmune was bought up in 2007 by AstraZeneca Corporation. It has occurred to me that a number of more or less successful companies got their start on Firstfield Road, and it may be a "lucky" street where new success stories can still happen. If Firstfield Road companies go public, an investor might want to check them out. All of Gaithersburg may be a pretty lucky place, but let's start with Firstfield Road.

Here is my house:

11 Rye Court

Now begin walking eastward along my street:

Going east from the house

At the end of the street, turn left (northward) towards a footpath:

Turn north towards footpath

Follow the footpath:
on the footpath

Proceed across the parking lot and out a driveway:
Approaching Firstfield Road

The cross street is Quince Orchard Boulevard, but we'll go more or less straight across, and that's Firstfield Road. On the right side, many of the reddish buildings were formerly used by IBM. Some of those reddish buildings face Firstfield Road, while others are set farther back and actually face Quince Orchard Road. Many of the tenants in the reddish buildings are now startups. The more yellowish buildings on the left (west) side have housed many startups, along with some more prosaic tenants. Proceeding a little farther, the mailboxes in the next picture are associated with the Post Office, off to the left, and we see a couple of the reddish buildings on the right:

mailboxes, red buildings

Here is 22 Firstfield Road:
22 Firstfield long shot

Zooming in on the sign reveals the tenants, MAXCYTE; AnGes, Inc.; Glocom, Inc.:
Sign at 22 Firstfield: MaxCyte, AnGes, GloCom

Across the street next to the Post Office is 21 Firstfield. It's vacant now, but once held Institute for In Vitro Sciences, and a voice-over-internet company called Telogy Networks. Telogy moved to larger quarters in Germantown, Maryland, and is now a division of Texas Instruments. It went from Venture Capital to buyout, and was never a public company. Next door to Telogy, back in the early 90s, was Wilcoxon Research, who make vibration sensors; they moved away in the 90s and were later bought out. See www.wilcoxon.com . Oh, well, it's the biotechs that are most interesting. Here's 21 Firstfield Road:
21 Firstfield Road

The tenant at 20 Firstfield Road is Iomai Corporation, which just agreed to a buyout:
20 Firstfield, Iomai

Zooming in gives a clearer view of the white sign:
Iomai, white sign

Taking a different vantage point reveals the company's blue logo:
Iomai blue sign
The company's website describes their vaccine business and the news of the buyout by Intercell AG of Austria: http://www.iomai.com . The buyout was announced on the evening of 2008 May 12. Shareholders will receive USD 6.60 per share of Iomai's common stock. The stock had closed at $2.92 on May 12.

Back on the west side is 19 Firstfield Road. I've altered an oval area to make the address more readable:
19 Firstfield, enhanced

A sign names the current tenants, CVPath Institute; CardioVascular Analytics; and Synergy America, Inc. - SynAm::
19 Firstfield sign

A web search for stale information will confirm that number 19 was home to MedImmune in the early 1990s, and also to a company called Genetic Therapy, Incorporated. MedImmune's share price in, say 1993-1994, was in the range of 11 to 4 or so. The stock eventually split 6-for-1 and then was bought out at $58 per share, so each share bought for $11 in 1993 returned $348 in 2007. The stock commanded an even higher price during the bubble market, but early investors who held on got a nice return. Genetic Therapy was bought for $21 per share in 1995 by Sandoz. Sandoz later merged with Ciba-Geigy to become Novartis. Investors in Genetic Therapy Incorporated did not make big money, but some must have enjoyed a profit in the buyout.

As it expanded, MedImmune moved a couple miles away to West Watkins Mill Road, still a Gaithersburg address. Still later, they built a new complex of larger buildings on Great Seneca Highway near Quince Orchard Road, not far from 19 Firstfield Road. The location on West Watkins Mill Road put MedImmune in proximity to GenVec. GenVec remains in the money-losing startup phase, but is busy and approaching great success, we hope: http://www.genvec.com . MedImmune founder Wayne Hockmeyer has severed his ties to that company, but is a director of GenVec.

On my walk, I saw some other buildings which are vacant or have unknown tenants. Computer nerds may remember the Hayes modem company. In the bad old days of dialup internet, modems used the Hayes command set. The Hayes company itself could not compete on little commodity modems, but limped along doing something before they completely folded up. In their declining days they occupied an attractive building on Quince Orchard Boulevard at the corner of Firstfield. That building has some low-profile tenant today, but it was curious that the iconic Hayes Modem company was our neighbor for a couple years.

Maybe in the future I can walk or drive a little farther and  photograph more exteriors of biotech greatness. More current and former tenants may also turn up with addresses right on Firstfield Road.

News media: photos are available for your standard freelance fee, and in fact I can go out and repeat some photos at a different time of day if you'd like. Please contact jim (at) jimworthey.com or call 301-977-3551 if you'd like the full-size files.

Page last revised 2008 May 19, 02:04 .