Company headquarters: Columbia, Md.
Incubator: Technology Advancement Program at the University of Maryland at College Park
Entered incubator: 1985
Revenue: $184.5 million (FY 2004)
Martek Biosciences might not be a household name, but chances are if you have children, you’ve probably benefited from its products. Martek, a graduate of the Technology Advancement Program at the University of Maryland at College Park, develops and sells products derived from microalgae, including nutritional oils contained in infant formula that aid in the development of newborns’ eyes and central nervous systems.
Ed Sybert, director of the University of Maryland’s Biotechnology Industry Program and former TAP director, first met Henry Linsert Jr., Martek’s chairman and CEO, and other Martek staff when the company applied for admission to the incubator. Sybert says the company came to the program with a number of notable characteristics, including a talented broad-based team with demonstrated skills (the company is a spin-off from Martin Marietta), a unique niche market, and the technology to drive forward within that niche.
Through the incubator, Martek accessed specialized facilities and equipment that served as a pilot development lab for its early products. Those facilities became a scale-up lab for much of Martek’s early work, where company researchers could determine whether a number of individual cells they had grown in the lab were scalable to a larger market. Indeed, they were.
Martek now has license agreements with 13 infant formula manufacturers, representing more than two-thirds of the world’s wholesale infant formula market. Formula containing Martek oils is now available in more than 60 countries worldwide. The company’s other products include nutritional supplements and fluorescent markers for drug discovery and research applications. Martek’s FY 2004 revenue was nearly $185 million, and the firm employs more than 600 workers.
In 2004, Martek initiated the first phase of an expansion of its nutritional oil production facilities. Once all phases of the project are complete, company officials project its production capacity will more than triple.
What was the key to Martek’s successful incubator experience? Sybert believes it’s the company’s willingness to seek help from the incubator and the university. "This company has always been desirous of the university’s help," Sybert says. "They were always pulling toward us — asking for help. We weren’t pushing toward them."
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