Members’ Corner: Ernesto Chanona, Ph.D.

Name, Title, Organization

Ernesto Chanona, Ph.D.

Manager, Business and Innovation Development

Maryland Department of Commerce

Explain your background in economic development

I am cancer immunologist by training, but I am eager to learn more about economic development. I was recruited from the National Cancer Institute to join the BioHealth and Life Sciences team due to the technical nature of our industry sector and the subject-matter expertise necessary to understand it. Through my time at MEDA, I plan to learn more about the trade of economic development to best serve our taxpayers.

What are your key priorities within your current position?

Finding Maryland’s strengths in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical sector is a key priority. My market research analysis will help elucidate the areas in which Maryland excels, not only in the types of technologies being developed, but the diseases that are being tackled by the companies in our industry. I am also interested in analyzing the talent pipelines that produce biotechnologists to address the problems these programs face, and to help them be effective at meeting industry demands. Finally, I want to combine the findings from these initiatives into marketing materials that help tell the Maryland BioHealth story to attract companies from out-of-state.

Does one particular project spark your excitement? If so, describe it below.

I created all my projects, so they are all quite exciting to me, but the biohealth market research study, in particular, piques my curiosity. We have often heard that Maryland is #1 in “stem cells” or “gene therapy” but I have yet to find metrics to support these statements. So, investigating Maryland’s true strengths in biotechnology is incredibly exciting, even though it means taking one company at a time, and analyzing their goods and services.

What professional pressures keep you up at night?

I want to make sure that I am serving the Maryland biotechnology industry as best as possible, and so I am eager to learn how to best approach economic development through the scientific lens. My dearth in economic development training can sometimes be an added pressure to my work, but I am currently solving that by participating in MEDA’s learning opportunities.

What attributes are unique to your community?

The biotechnology sector is the emulsion of the biomedical research community and the business world. Often times, one seems very foreign to the other. There is a stark contrast between the two with respect to the technical jargon, the thought processes and priorities, which often pose challenges to scientist entrepreneurs. For example, it is sometimes difficult to obtain the “buy-in” from these professionals without a firm understanding of their technology because intellectual prowess is highly valued by our community. It is through establishing this type of scientific connection that I hope to convince out-of-state companies to come to Maryland.

If you could wave a magic wand, what would you want to work with MEDA on to move Maryland forward?

I would like help in promoting careers in manufacturing. Manufacturing in all sectors, especially biotechnology, has a large deficit of workers in Maryland. The programs available are largely under-subscribed, likely due to a misunderstanding or unawareness of these career paths by the general population. A solid pipeline of manufacturing professionals in the biotechnology space would be a powerful magnet that would attract biotechnology companies from every corner of the globe to Maryland.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with MEDA and your fellow members?

I hope to be a resource and collaborator to anyone interested in the biotechnology sector, and I am looking forward to making new friends with my fellow members.

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